Sunday, December 7, 2014

Almost In Passing

I've been trying to think my way through all this Mike Brown / Eric Garner stuff; crashing around in my head looking for some boiled-down guiding principle to apply that might help me sort it out.

And then: The law must be a shield, not a sword.

For a good 2,000 - 10,000 generations, The Law was used and abused as a way to rationalize Might-Makes-Right.  As long as I had some reasonable expectation of being able to take you in a fist fight, I could jack your shit; and fuck you if you don't like it cuz fuck you, that's why. All the big guys did it cuz that's just what a big guy could do.  And it worked - Egypt, Assyria, Greece, Rome, Britain, etc etc etc - you get the idea.

Unfortunately, saying it that way makes it sound like we'd have to look way far back to find good examples, and that makes me think we're feeling a little too comfortable about ignoring the need to examine our motives and our reasoning, and our willingness to shrug it all off like a buncha fuckin' Eloi.

But gosh, it seems we don't have to look back very far to find some examples of people doing some pretty fucked up things because they had the juice to make the law do whatever they wanted it to do in order to pad their bank accounts or act out their domination fantasies or whatever their issues were at the time.
--slavery in America was lawful; and so was Jim Crow after that.
-- the genocide committed by Nazi Germany was mostly lawful under German law, and according to most written international law in effect at the time.
-- apartheid in South Africa was established by law.
-- Saddam Hussein claimed at his trial in Baghdad in 2006 that his order mandating the execution of 148 persons in response to an attempted assassination of him was lawful.
-- the Israeli military justified their heavy use of cluster bombs during the 2006 war by stating that “[a]ll the weapons and munitions used by the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] are legal under international law and their use conforms with international standards” (Shadid 2006, A01).
-- the 2003 US invasion and occupation of Iraq was lawful according to American interpretation of law.
The law has to be a shield.  It has to be there to protect us from overbearing, over-reaching, evermore ambitious and power-craving despots.  When the law instead protects the police (eg) from being held to the same standards of justice as apply to everybody else, then the law has become a sword against the people, and it will be changed by the people one way or another.  It has to be changed because it's become a contradiction.  And while contradictions exist, they can't prevail.
(all you 'conserva-tarians' might recognize that one from the Sacred Texts of Our Lady Ayn of Rand)

For my own self, I kinda like The American Exceptionalism way, and I'll keep trying to do it that way.  But if it has to be changed the old-fashioned way, then I'll be sadly watching from the bench, unsurprised.

I just really hope we can get back to being that exception.

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