Tagged: law

I Love Conversation

My good friend and I are trying to civilly gain some understanding of each other’s opposed views which have surfaced alongside this whole “March for Our Lives” thing. If you didn’t see, he left a much-welcomed and presumably expensive comment on yesterday’s post.

We belong to the same Toastmaster’s club, having serendipitously met there some six years ago. Tomorrow morning after the meeting we both have time to chat. In order to make the short time we have most fruitful, I wanted to respond to his thoughts here. I also cannot deny that I think our back-and-forth is the best one on the internet at the moment. Enjoy!

To begin, a word of caution. Please, please do not hear my assertions in the tone of, “I am god.” Instead, here me say, “This is how I see it.” We clearly disagree on many things; I am aware of this. Even after your thorough comment though, I am not sure you understand how I see it. My reasons for not being sure include that you didn’t say, “Well, Pete, we’re coming at this from two totally different angles. You’re taking a more philosophical approach, and I’m operating within the practical, legal approach. I’m also not even sure we are addressing the same problem.” Or some such thing. Maybe that’s what you do think. Time will tell.

That said, to be as clear as I can be, for me (and the status quo which I portend to represent) the issue is not gun violence. Moreover, I don’t think stating this makes me incompetent or ignorant or any other unbecoming trait. Nor do I think anything you have written marks you in such a way.

When I write, “I want these shootings to stop too,” I do not have in mind that I would prefer the violence to be committed by some other weaponry. More specifically, I guess I could have said, “I want the instances of unarmed, unprepared, and unsuspecting deaths of any size group of Americans (or any folks standing on American soil) who are attempting to better themselves to stop.”

It’s intriguing to discover that I fight my seminary professors’ views on the Bible for the same reason that I debate you about the second amendment.

While I am happy to see such a thought-out defense of some position on an issue that it would include taking into consideration grammar conventions of the late eighteenth century, I would never go that route. I would never go that route for the foremost reason that grammar conventions are nothing more than completely baseless speculations, unless you can show me that the writers included a legend or key of some sort–in which case the very conventions you highlight are no longer unfounded and speculative conventions but actual fact.

If the Constitution (icapitalizedtheenglishlettercatthebeginningofthewordconstitutiontoindicateimeanamericas), if the Constitution included some sort of definition of terms similar to what you wrote, then I have no way to disagree with what you wrote about the value of capitalization in interpretation. (And perhaps they did, though I have not ever heard of that section). If they did not, then I, and everyone with my point of view, am free to say, “I’m sorry, friend, but people do not live or die because of capital letters, and neither did the founders want us to think they thought so.”

Words matter, not their shape on paper.

Additionally, when I say, “the amendment,” I do not meant to claim that I know what the second amendment means in the sense with which you shared in your self-declared legal opinion. Besides what I wrote in that post, I believe that (philosophically) the law is the act of people giving up their rights in order to be free. With the so-called Bill of Rights, and specifically the second amendment, I believe we have, within the law and as one particular law, some one designated arena which the law is not–that being arms. In other words, I believe that in the act of people giving up their rights in order to be free, the second amendment declares that when it comes to arms, the law has no place. Put another way, I believe that the second amendment (along with the other amendments in the Bill of Rights) declares (both philosophically and actually) that there are some rights which if given up do not beget freedom.

The beautiful part of the Constitution, and by beautiful I mean spectacular, is that it provides for change. And here is the pay dirt.

The founders lived in a pre-hyrdogen bomb world. Yesterday former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens advocated repealing the second amendment in a NY Times op-ed piece which featured an image of a musket juxtaposed against an AR-15. Ultimately the ex-Justice and I see the same reality. But he did not make the not the proper comparison. The proper comparison would have been that of the most destructive weapon of 1791 and the most destructive weapon of 2018. I’m imagining an image of a cannon vs. a mushroom cloud. One reason the second amendment could be repealed these days (and along these lines I think I might be fine with it being repealed) is because guns are melted by hydrogen bombs. Life is, I believe, fundamentally and irrevocably different today. The American people do not stand a chance against some dystopian American tyranny. Who are we fooling?

Do I think the American founders knew that future battlefields would be able to be melted by the heat equivalent to that of the surface of the sun when I support the Constitution so dogmatically? Do folks who think these weekend marches are pointless think the Constitution should never be changed? No to both questions. But I do think that the Constitution writers showed almost divine philosophical foresight in their writing, and I kindly ask that you re-consider whether these shootings (or, “these instances of unarmed, unprepared, and unsuspecting deaths of any size group of Americans ((or folks on American soil)) who are attempting to better themselves”) can be stopped by anything less than a re-evaluation of whether the overall arms circumstance on planet Earth has changed since the Constitution was written.

If so, amend.

If not, look in a different direction to stop the shootings.

Perhaps towards Christ.

The Amendment

In my last two posts (three if you include the book review) I have done my best to indicate that while I disagree with you, I do hear what you’re saying. I’m now asking, do you hear me?

In a surprising turn of events for me, whereas I initially wanted to effectively smear your claim, I have instead concluded that at the root of your claim, you are calling for the law. This is a very reasonable claim, a very humane claim. But there is a problem with it.

You think these shootings, the school ones especially, evidence that we are living in a state of chaos–in some situation similar to that which is before the law–and you desire to do something about it.

However, the law is already here. We are not in a state of chaos in the United States of America. Several hundred, perhaps even one thousand people have broken the law in the last twenty years in ways that previously seemed unimaginable. This is new, yes, but it is not chaos.

Hear me now. These events do not indicate that we have returned to the state of nature. They do not even indicate that we are in a trajectory towards the return to the state of nature.

Do you hear me? I’m asking you to listen. I listened to you. It’s the least you can do.

The law is not determined by elections. You (meaning literally you, the person reading this, and not meaning the generic “anyone”), you cannot vote the law out or in.

What to do?

The only option you have is to amend the Constitution of the United States of America, and that is a very real option which I do believe we (you and I–folks who disagree) should examine through civil discourse. But I wonder if you even know how it is done? If you do not, then you definitely are in no position to accomplish this possibly desirable task.

I know you don’t want to hear this, but I say this is the only option you have because I believe that every other option is anarchy–a subversive dismantling of the law. And this dismantling is a step in the opposite direction of what you want if you really want to keep certain firearms out of the hands of civilians while in the hands of the warriors.

In pictures from the marches, I saw a sign which said, “America, the world is watching.”

Do you hear them?

If you amend the Constitution, then we follow the footsteps and stand on the shoulders of our founders and teach the watching world the law. If you pass any other legislation–any whatsoever–then we demonstrate that we do not value the law. This, again, is the opposite of what you have said you desire.

And this is the precise point of disagreement.

Do you hear me?

The amendment is the precise point because I am confused by why you think there is any other option. I will listen and read anything you have which you think will help me see your point more clearly. I want the shootings to stop as much as you do.

Do you hear me?

Your turn.

Response to Comment from Friend about the March

(You’ll have to read this morning’s post to catch up. Apologies, but you can do it!)

My friend responded, “Your analysis or logic and certainly the conclusion escapes me. But, then again, in 1999 my two children were attending high school in Littleton, Colorado. Our home was less than fives miles from Columbine. The massacre that took place on April 20th, 1999 at Columbine High School cannot and will not be subject to the cavalier dismissal of your post. The millions of synchronous marchers, worldwide on March 24th are the empirical proof. That is a stronger, better conclusion… one guided by a light of hope… that last Saturday’s “March for our Lives” in Denver, is part of a larger, grander plan; one that this mortal can only guess at.”

My pastor is the man whom, nearly weekly, publicly declares the above conclusion in his prayers (assuming you’re referencing the LORD/battle/army sentence). As a veteran with first-hand battle and army (Air Force) experience, I cringed for the first two years of hearing the man say it. But for some reason I stuck around and gave him the benefit of the doubt. This past year of hearing it brought the payoff (and essentially re-reading the entire Bible). Similar to Aquinas’ thoughts on the law (i.e. counterfeit law), there is only one way that the conclusion makes sense and it involves re-orienting your understanding of reality. No small thing–and only possible with Christ.

I try to keep posts around 300 words, and so I cut out about half of what I initially wrote and hoped the meaning would still be clear. I am responding here because it seems to me that you may not feel confident in stating my point of view accurately, which I humbly submit is near the status quo’s point of view. Do you think you understand our point of view?

In short, assuming we agree that I have faithfully re-stated the claims made last weekend, I think the situation as more similar to calling for the end of cruel and unusual punishment or the end of certain forms of the death penalty than it is similar the Civil Rights movement wherein the African-Americans simply saw no reason why they weren’t allowed to vote. The call today is to restrict rights, not promote them. This is a very unique cry in human history in my reading of human history (unique in one sense, in another sense, it is the most common cry).

I’m not sure how my use of Columbine was seen to fit into the cavalier analogy of the big picture. I fully mean that I can see a future where historians in the future may find themselves describing all these “lone wolf” type mass shootings as early guerrilla warfare type acts of war which led to…

Regarding empirical proof, either more than seven billion four hundred million people worldwide, or more than three hundred twenty million in the United States did not get up from their couch. Empirically, in my mind, single-digit millions are not enough anymore.

On the whole, I still think (but might be wrong) that my analogy is an accurate assessment of the marchers’ claims, if a bit cavalier, in that it admits that the marchers’ are not calling to stop playing the game (which would be calling for an end to violence or the like, Beatles style). My point in getting to the root of the claim is to show that simply desiring things go in their proper place is not something that can be legislated. Instead, that desire is merely the call for the law to come into existence.

But it is possible that I do not understand what the marchers really want.

Pete

Reaction to Saturday’s “March For Our Lives”

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This post is an exercise in the time-honored tradition of trying to state the opposition’s point of view.

As for Saturday’s events, as far as I can determine, two main claims were repeatedly made.

  • We need to end gun violence. (Sir Paul McCartney and Yolanda Renee King)
  • We need to keep weapons of war out of the hands of civilians. (Delaney Tarr and Cameron Kasky)

Regarding ending gun violence: it is not possible for me to imagine how to un-invent something as prevalent as guns, so I’ll not spend time assessing this claim.

Regarding keeping weapons of war out of the hands of civilians: I can imagine that, and so I’ll do my best to get to the heart of their desire.

Certainly the claim needs much more specificity. Surely they don’t mean to include knives (carried and used by warriors to this day), just as they surely do not believe other weapons of war (nuclear bombs) are obtainable by civilians. I also do not believe they intend to keep revolvers or single-shot rifles out of the hands of civilians. Nor do I think they wish to keep pump-action shotguns or the like out of civilians’ hands. In short, I think I feel the pulse of the claim rightly when I say that they desire to keep away from civilians any gun that resembles an AR-15, with its incredibly powerful and quickly replaceable “banana” clip (or the “I-always-thought-that-was-a-handle” thing).

Put another way, at the risk of oversimplifying things to an unfeeling level, the opposition to the status quo wants to make sure the star shape is only placed into the star opening.

This seems sensible, and yet the trouble with this view is that through it the opposition to status quo shows that it has not taken into account two very pertinent facts.

First, make no mistake, these shootings–beginning with Columbine–if not earlier, are acts of war, and to win a war you do not disarm the good guys.

Second, this is not a war against flesh and blood. Until the opposition understands the power of the Gospel, the limitless power of grace, they are fighting for the losing side.

The LORD has never lost a battle and he is captain of every army.

Review of Philosophy of Law and Jurisprudence (Part of The Great Ideas Program [Itself a guided reading of The Great Books of the Western World]) by Mortimer J. Adler and Peter Wolff

“When your old-ass parent is like, ‘I don’t know how to send an iMessage,’ and you’re just like, ‘Give me the fucking phone and let me handle it.’ Sadly, that’s what we have to do with our government; our parents don’t know how to use a fucking democracy, so we have to.” – David Hogg, Survivor of Marjory Stoneman Douglas schooting

Thank you, young man. I want to thank you for two reasons. First, thank you for delighting me. Second, thank you for saving me time.

Regarding delight: ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I love analogies. (Maybe you will understand me better if I write, “I ♥ analogies.” #celebrateilliteracy #icantreedorrite.) I love them because they somehow make communication crystal clear.

Regarding time: because you used an analogy, I do not have to ask clarifying questions to get at the heart of what you want to say. In other words, you have made my duty simpler. So, again, thank you for saving me time.

The analogy you provided is perfectly coherent, and undeniably clear. But do not think for a moment that through it you have demonstrated that you know up from down. I’ll grant that you are an expert at pressing “send”. Against my instincts, I’ll even grant that you are an expert at using a democracy. I will not, however, grant that you can see the truth.

The truth is that democracy is not something that is used, it is something that is built. More clearly, democracy is not the hammer, it is the house.

****

Philosophy of Law and JurisprudenceThe preface to Philosophy of Law and Jurisprudence includes two true accounts of people stranded at sea after shipwrecks. Inevitably decisions must be made as to who should get to live at least a little bit longer. And, yes, cannibalism is sometimes the best option.

Against this backdrop, the authors present Western Civilization’s history of thought about the “law”. The book isn’t very long at all. Though, I will admit that to the likes of David Hogg and friends, compared to 140 characters, the work may seem unending. To old-ass parents, however, the ability to coherently, if not comprehensively, paint the broad-strokes of the past 2500 years’ discussion of Western thought as related to the law seems a pretty incomparable feat.

Beginning with Aeschylus, we are presented with the law as found in the infamous Greek tragedies as captured in fictions surrounding the Trojan War. In short, revenge is shown for what it is–unending. The only solution to the eternal problem is given in the institution of the court, the law.

Plato, in turn, takes the law and states that it has the purpose of promoting virtue, through persuasion and coercion.

Aristotle answers the new question which arises from Plato’s idea, which is, “What is this thing that men should be persuaded and coerced to be?” In short, after delineating natural law (killing is bad) from man-made law (speeding is bad), Aristotle offers that the man-made law must be for the common good and be properly made.

The Old and New Testaments are treated next, under the question, “Why is there any need for divine law?”

We next return to Aristotle and Plutarch, to include Solon, and see outlined the three functions of the law. The law must be made, enforced, and applied. Here we see the makings of our own three branches of government, the legislative, executive, and judicial.

Aquinas seems to be one of the first to notice that up until his time none of his predecessors really even didactically defined the term in question, that being, the law.

  • Plato, for example gets close but misses when he writes, “…there is one among these cords which every man ought to grasp and never let go, but to pull with it against all the rest; and this is the sacred and golden cord of reason, called by us the common law of the State.”
  • Aristotle, for his part, says, “law has compulsive power, while it is at the same time a rule proceeding from a sort of practical wisdom and reason.”
  • The emperor Justinian wrote, “Whatsoever pleases the sovereign has the force of the law.”

Finally, we read Aquinas’ definition, being, “[law] is nothing other than an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated.”

Aquinas is also the author from which we find the complicated but enlightening idea that an unjust law is an impossibility, instead it is merely a counterfeit law.

Hobbes is the man responsible for creating the notion that the commonwealth, the group, should be thought of as a new being–which he calls the Leviathan. In his system, there are essentially three commands/points. First, right to life is the only inalienable right. Second, to achieve life, one must give up all rights and liberties (with the assumption that all others follow suit) and third, men must perform the covenants that they make. The tricky part of Hobbes is that there is no law without the Leviathan. And the Leviathan cannot be against itself. Put another way, for Hobbes it is irrelevant that I think a law unreasonable.

Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice receives the next chapter’s attention because of the covenant involving one character’s willingness to underwrite his debt with “a pound of flesh.” In other words, Shakespeare brings out that mindless obedience to covenants may not be best.

Montesquieu takes up the law with the phrase, “the Spirit of Laws,” as he promotes the notion Shakespeare observed, that is that there does not seem to be one hard and fast law. Specifically he advocates that the particular and distinct circumstances–especially the climate wherein the particular culture (or Leviathan if you will) exists–must be taken into account as the law is created, enforced, and applied.

Rousseau adds to the discussion by providing the sound reasoning that the law sets men free. Rousseau is also one of the first to argue that the law, as it sets us free, is primarily concerned with protection of property as property is the freedom most easily taken away.

Kant, while approaching the law from the perspective opposite Montesquieu (science), picks up the property notion and explains that to even say that we have a right to property requires a second person. And therein he defends the importance of property ownership as a measure of the law.

Next we view the American Constitution through the eyes of its inadequate predecessor, the Articles of Confederation. This will always be a worthy exercise.

Hegel then exposes the significance of understanding there is most assuredly a difference between the history of laws and the philosophy of law. He wrote, “A particular law may be shown to be wholly grounded in and consistent with the circumstances and existing legally established institutions, and yet it may be wrong and irrational in its essential character.” He is also responsible for spreading the notion that the philosophical task (in this case, answering either, “What is the law?” or “What is right?”) has not begun until the ideas are actualized.

Finally, the book ends with discussion of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. This is due to the final courtroom melodrama which is about as morally difficult as anything yet written and demonstrates that the question, “What is the law?” has not yet been conclusively answered.

Despite our current predicament, this little history lesson may be enough to demonstrate that the American system was very well thought out–not by grieving, angry teenagers but by parents who could tell the difference between hammer and house.

****

But you already knew that, Mr. Hogg, didn’t you?

Not On Star Wars

Vanity Fair‘s current over-Thor-in-a-flattering-red-t-shirt’s-right-shoulder headline, “Can a man of God end a 21st-century SLAVE TRADE?”* caught my attention while checking out of the grocery store today. I haven’t bought a magazine in forever, and yet after just putzing around watching a bit of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid last night, I confess that I do not have the fortitude to quit reading cold turkey. (Sidebar: I’d never seen that movie, but it seems to me that besides J.K. Rowling owing her success to her J.R.R. Tolkien ripoff name, she also wasn’t very creative after all with Lord Voldemort. Lord Baltimore. Lord Voldemort. Just sayin’. End Sidebar.)

When I was in the Air Force, because of both the protect-the-weak aspect of the work and the worldwide deployment, in my last few years there was recurring training on human trafficking. We were to be vigilant on duty and off duty–if you get my drift. Aren’t euphemisms great? Instead of sex-slave, we say human trafficking. Wouldn’t want to offend the P.C. gods. Anyhow, sex-slaves are one thing, but two years into my re-indoctrination into the civilian world, I found myself teaching remedial math at a local inner-city (read: black and Hispanic) high school. Out of the blue I gathered that something fishy is going on. On the bulletin board outside my classroom hung all these student projects that were calling for the end of slavery. “WTF?!” was all I could not say out loud. Thirteen year old kids who couldn’t fill out a multiplication table were being encouraged to affirm that not enough was being done to end slavery? I was speechless. Add to this that students wrote sentences that were allowed to make it to the wall like, “This took me back 150 years.”

In any case, I just finished up learning about the origins of Friars and Monks and the like, so when I opened up the magazine and saw that the “man of God” was a Friar who photographed well, I began to read. Then the it was my turn, so I let my training take over and made the command decision to add the magazine to my cart. My question, “What the hell is going on with slavery? I thought that that abomination was eradicated once and for all from the planet. Am I really that out of touch?”

I think I mentioned previously that one concept that we discussed last semester was formal curriculum versus hidden curriculum. Churches are notorious for lacking due diligence to match these two up, and if Friar Xavier Plassat can be trusted, Brazil is guilty of the same charge. Slavery (formal) is illegal, yes. But “conditions analogous to slavery” (hidden) are still present.

Mom, Dad: don’t worry. I haven’t purchased a plane ticket.

Here’s my problem with the word slavery being thrown around today. It’s sensational nature precedes and overpowers it’s descriptive nature. That’s my judgement. America is so sensitive and guilty over its unconscionable past that, me as evidence, using the word slavery sells magazines (and online ads…). And social programs. And makes young white teachers sleep easy at night because they find themselves standing nobly amidst an atrocity, much like Lincoln and the Blue. I shamefully admit that “slavery” interests me more than “human trafficking.” But it’s an abuse of a journalist’s responsibility just the same.

For any cranky readers, please calm down and realize that I haven’t opined one way or another on the reported situation in Brazil. I will now. It’s horrific. The horror is not the conditions (though they are horrible) but that money has such an effect on people that impoverished, uneducated men and women hop on buses that are taking them who knows where, for who knows how long, and that other calculating men and women send out those buses to be able to “improve” their standard of living.

My take? I work in the heart of downtown Denver. The homeless are unmissable. One day I got a call that video security noticed a person laying outside the back door and he/she looked unresponsive. I made my way to the back door and opened it, hoping for the best. I saw matted grey hair and a lot of layers of black clothing. I said, “Excuse me, sir. But I think you are going to have to move from this spot.” His head turned, and she said, barked rather, “Of course, I have to fucking move.” (For a more accurate account of her demeanor, think back to the Princess Bride “Booooooo” scene.)

I do not possess the mental capacity to discern all the nuances of that exchange. What does it matter what I think about slavery in Brazil? I think Brazilians need to stop slavery. I’m not the one turning a blind eye to it. Are you? How about you? Are you turning a blind eye to slavery?

That homeless woman though? Some dad, some mom, some brother, some sister, some child, someone was the first to turn a blind eye on her. It surely wasn’t me. And least that’s what I tell myself so I can sleep at night.

*Langewiesche, William. “Slaves Without Chains.” Vanity Fair Holiday 2015/2016: 94+.