We often hear pundits bemoaning the sad state of America. Congress is embroiled in gridlock and nothing is getting done. Let’s put aside, just for the sake of this little missive, that Congress getting nothing done is a very good, rather than a bad, thing. After all, it was our most astute political observer–Mark Twain–who said: “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” Let us also ignore that the very structure of the Constitution foresees, indeed, embraces gridlock. It is an integral part of our system of checks and balances, and if we don’t like it, we can throw the bums out of office. Apparently, we like it. At least, for the moment, the the Republican form.
What remains is the very worthy observation that Americans are indeed a people divided. We can argue that it was Barack Obama that drove us apart. Despite his rhetoric about uniting all Americans and ending gridlock, he has surely and unmistakably done the opposite, and more quickly and devastatingly than any before him. He was not, however, the only president or force involved in our current state of philosophical division. The media bear substantial blame, as do both political parties. And so do we, common Americans, for listening to nitwits, thugs, race hustlers, politicians and con men and for not taking the time to be well-informed. We know vacuous celebrities well, but don’t know the men and women whose philosophies and decisions regulate our very lives.
As Twain made so beautifully clear in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, con men cannot con an honest man.
The Michael Brown case provides a stark example of the division roiling the body politic. So too, but to a much lesser degree, did the Trayvon Martin case. But it is not what you suspect.
We are divided in a variety of ways: race, tribe, nationality, sexual orientation, environmentalism vs. civilization, vegans vs. carnivores, foot fetishists vs. breast fanciers, cat fanciers vs. dog lovers, and in more additional ways that one can count. But what counts most, what divides us most is the chasm separating those that support the rule of law, and those that support social justice.
The banner representing the rule of law is the American flag and all it symbolizes, particularly the Constitution, the written law and the common law, and traditional, conservative values such as individual responsibility, hard work, appreciation for education, equal justice for all, and equality of opportunity.
There is no specific banner representing social justice, though these days, the vapid “O” coat of arms of Barack Obama seems to serve the purposes of those that still consider him a deity. Many other flags serve the same purpose, as does a peculiar revulsion for the American flag and for Americans. These various banners are essentially the anti-constitution. They symbolize contempt for the rule of law, for the written law, for the common law, and for all American traditions, particularly individual responsibility, hard work, respect for education, and equal justice for all. Equality of outcome is one of its highest values, but those values change all the time.
Also important, in understanding the social justice mentality is a relatively unchanging principle: the end justifies the means. Everyone should have their own home? Apply political pressure to the banks and force them to give home loans to people they know can’t pay them back, and eventually throw the economy into chaos. Consequences and reality don’t intrude on good intentions and what social justice practitioners consider a worthy accomplishment.
In truth, the Martin and Brown cases are more different than alike, not only in circumstances, but in the understanding of applicable laws. George Zimmerman was not a police officer acting under color of his office. He was not doing his duty on behalf of the people. His position as a neighborhood watch captain conferred no specific duty or benefit. He was merely acting as a good citizen, reporting a suspicious person in suspicious circumstances. For that, he was ambushed and beaten, and acting fully within Florida self-defense law, he successfully defended his life.
Had Zimmerman not been armed, most Americans would never have heard of George Zimmerman, and local news sources would have ignored the story of a Hispanic man severely beaten and injured by a black man, identity unknown. At best, they would have devoted a column inch or a few seconds of a single newscast to the story, and the national media wouldn’t have touched it with a ten-foot microphone boom.
There was never any evidence that the police investigation was in any way incompetent or compromised. There was never any evidence that the local prosecutor was in any way negligent or biased in not charging Zimmerman. The rule of law worked. Justice was done, and there it would have ended, had not the forces of social justice become involved.
Social justice is not in any way about equal justice. It is not about fair and equal treatment for all men. It is not about due process. It does not, as the rule of law does, require sober consideration and due reflection over time, or the belief that some principles are unchanging, and must not be changed if men are to remain free and if actual justice is to be done. The Constitution is only ink on aging paper. The ideas it embodies and codifies must be born again, must grow, flourish and live in the minds of each generation of Americans, or those principles will crumble to dust and perish, just as the paper upon which those words are written one day will.
The rule of law requires that men forego personal benefit, that they say: “I want this policy or benefit very much, but higher principle does not allow it. For the good of all, I will not suggest or pursue it.” It recognizes that in the law and in social policy, there are some things that the highest law of the land simply does not allow. The rule of law lives only if men voluntarily understand and support its necessity and its purpose, and give up personal, temporary benefits and advantage. This is very much contrary to human nature. That’s why the Founders, who understood human nature very well, wrote the Constitution: to remind us, to give us an owner’s manual of what we dare not do lest we destroy ourselves and plunge the world back into a state of nature where the strong rule and life is nasty, cruel and short.
Adherence to the rule of law also requires vigilance, just as Thomas Jefferson said, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” Those that support the rule of law must always be watching for those that would corrupt it, whether judges, police officers, politicians or bureaucrats, corruption must not be tolerated, for when the people cannot trust that they will receive equal justice under the law, civilization cannot stand.
Of course, some will always imagine themselves put upon. As a police officer, my working definition of justice was: “when you get into a traffic accident and the other guy gets the ticket.”
This was the downfall of George Zimmerman. “What do you mean downfall? He was acquitted!” Indeed he was, but the process is the punishment–a fundamental social justice principle, one of the few that never change. Zimmerman lost his career, his planned future, arguably his emotional balance, his wife, more money than he will ever make, and his freedom to live life as just another American, unrecognized and unmolested. There are still hundreds, perhaps thousands of racist lunatics that would gladly murder him if they could.
Seeing an opportunity to enrich themselves, and to gather power, the forces of social justice gathered all their resources, including the full power of the local and national legacy media, and a corrupt special prosecutor was appointed to prosecute Zimmerman. Not to investigate–they had the same evidence the local prosecutor did; they gathered not a whit of new, relevant evidence–not to do justice, but to prosecute. The media lied, unethically editing Zimmerman’s words, making him appear to be a racist; President Obama embraced Martin as the son he never had; the DOJ leapt into the case and a massive FBI investigation was launched.
The social justice narrative demanded that a little, helpless, Skittle eating and tea drinking black boy was hunted down and brutally murdered by a huge, hulking racist white man. Unfortunately Zimmerman was Hispanic with actual black ancestry, so the media invented a new racial category just for the occasion: the white-Hispanic.
Social justice is not about logic, it is not about careful reflection or belief in unchanging, universal principles, it is about stirring up and maintaining rage and hatred; it is about political advantage, personal enrichment, political power, racial hatred and divisiveness, situational ethics, and whatever policies will advance the social justice narrative of the moment.
And so it was in the Martin case, but things began to fall apart. Zimmerman lucked into highly ethical and competent lawyers. The FBI investigation painted Zimmerman as a racial hero, a man taking the part of genuinely oppressed black people. Several persistent bloggers, including the proprietor of this scruffy little blog, kept the truth before the public. The prosecution tried to rely on social justice principles rather than the law, and despite having two successive judges firmly on their side, so strongly was the law on Zimmerman’s side, social justice lost.
That’s when the riots should have started. That’s when businesses in Sanford, FL should have been looted and burned. But that didn’t happen. Why not?
It certainly wasn’t for any lack of racial hustling. The Scheme Team of lawyers representing Martin’s family made a great deal of money, but the year-long spectacle of the backward trial exposed the social justice narrative for the stinking mass of lies it was. Prosecution witnesses destroyed themselves in a very public manner. The cherubic Martin was revealed to be a big, muscular, drug-using thuggish gangster wanna-be, and a burglar as well. The Skittles and tea he was carrying turned out to be two of the three ingredients for a drug-substitute concoction he often bragged on social media about using.
The trial was a disaster for the prosecution. They actually proved self-defense and ended up urging the jury to ignore the facts and the law, and to decide the case on emotion: a perfect social justice recipe for the dispensation of progressive “justice.” In this case, social justice required Zimmerman’s conviction and execution, and the facts and the law didn’t matter. But this time, they did–at great cost to George Zimmerman–but they eventually did.
And now the Mike Brown case is the focus of social justice. The facts, as they are currently known, show this case is very much like the Martin case in one way: both are utterly unremarkable. In the Brown case, a felon attacked a police officer and it cost him his life. This is not a terribly common occurrence–thank God–but it is far from rare. In most similar cases, it is a story carried only once on the local news, and never comes to the attention of a national audience.
To date, social justice has demanded the usual: conviction regardless of the evidence, reorganization of an entire police agency based on racial statistical disparity calculations, burning, looting, personal power seeking and enrichment, death threats, an FBI investigation and idiotic, racial commentary by Eric Holder. The Brown family have even engaged in violence against themselves over money for the sale of Mike Brown trinkets. President Obama has yet to embrace Brown, but that’s probably only because video of him robbing a convenience store surfaced immediately. The media were able to suppress visual evidence of Trayvon Martin’s thuggery until after Mr. Obama pined for the son he never had. Even for one as shameless as Mr. Obama, that might be a relationship bridge too far.
As America awaits a grand jury verdict, the distinction between the social justice and rule of law sides could not be starker. As my analysis of the law has demonstrated, Darren Wilson was acting under color of law, and when attacked by Michael Brown–and probably Dorian Johnson–who tried to get his handgun, and who left him beaten and shaken, Wilson had a duty to try to apprehend them as they fled. Under the law, he–unlike a common citizen–was empowered to use whatever force was necessary to capture them, particularly since in attacking Wilson they committed a major felony. As in the case of George Zimmerman, this is not just a straightforward case of self-defense.
Darren Wilson was an on-duty police officer, an officer in uniform driving a marked police vehicle, lawfully stopping two suspects in a robbery. Even if he did not know they were suspects in a robbery, they were committing a misdemeanor by walking down the middle of the road. Everything Wilson did was not only allowed by law, but mandated by his duty obligations.
If these assumptions, based on the information available in the public sphere and my police experience, are accurate, the rule of law demands a no bill, and also demands that the matter be dropped. Wilson should be allowed to return to his life. The nation has far, far more serious issues to engage its collective attention.
Social justice, however, demands indictment, conviction and blood. There will be no peace for Wilson, no resolution. It demands rioting and looting and arson and hatred regardless of the verdict. All of those seeking social truth and justice didn’t spend all that money to get to Ferguson just to chat about the weather. If there is a no bill, social justice demands a special prosecutor and a prosecution even if there is, as in the case of George Zimmerman, no evidence to prove an offense, but voluminous evidence to prove the opposite. It demands Darren Wilson be punished by the process. It demands the federal government punish everybody it can for as long as it can. Above all, it demands the maximum political advantage be wrung from everyone and everything involved for as long as possible.
We appear close to learning to which part of the divide the pendulum will swing. The rule of law would welcome peace and return to the normal ebb and flow of life, where people of all races simply live and work together, making daily lives for themselves and their families. Social justice requires they be at each other’s throats.
On one side, we have the forces of civilization, of liberty and law and logic and humanity. On the others, we have the forces of rage and hatred, of personal advantage and gain, of political power and utopian idealism. It must be so because we think it should be that way, because it’s fair. It doesn’t matter that Mike Brown, high on pot, robbed a store, assaulted a police officer and tried to get his gun–tried to kill him–what matters is that Mike Brown was black and the officer that shot him was white and therefore social justice requires the dredging up of every past and present injustice, racial hatred and bit of mistrust, every cruel intention and evil urge embodied in Eric Holder’s racist claim of the cowardice of Americans for not embracing social justice just as he does, for not ignoring the Constitution and the rule of law, just as he does.
The evidence reviewed by the grand jury doesn’t matter. For the proponents of social justice, it is the narrative that matters, not the evidence. Evidence, fact, logic, careful deliberation all get in the way of social justice. They calm the storm, diminish rage and make people tire of being angry all the time. They make it hard to hate.
That’s what’s at stake in Ferguson, Missouri. That’s the divide, the rupture between Americans. Those that embrace the rule of law embrace civility and peace, and embrace all those that wish to do the same. I don’t wish to give the Brown case more importance than it deserves, but in these dark days, it may serve to more clearly illuminate what truly divides us, and perhaps, the way back to the rule of law and justice for all.
Ultimately, it’s inside all of us. Paper merely records and reflects it. It lives or dies with each generation.