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George Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder. Most pundits and indeed most of the main-stream press agree, it seems, that race was not an issue in the trial. Yet, curiously, so many have fixed upon race in the context of the case.

Many explain this puzzling situation as being caused by those for whom “racism” is an industry. This explanation is not far from the truth, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.  It is not racism or, rather, the need to maintain racism (or charges of racism) as a cause, a cause celebre,  in a post-racial nation, that is the driving force, both for the shameful indictment and the equally shameful cries of racism regarding the verdict. Why? There is something else, something worse, going on.

I began to suspect something else (and worse) was going on because, simply, there were too many people upset with the case for it to be merely a problem of racism, especially since  the facts of the case just don’t support a finding of racism whatsoever. Then there was that weird, inexplicable, fetishism going on about the so-called ‘stand your ground’ doctrine, which is totally inapplicable to the case. There had to be, it seemed to me, something that was causing people angst.

And then it struck me.

People, many people, don’t like … self-defense. These persons don’t like the norm expressed by the privilege of self-defense, and they don’t like the essentially religious (dare I say Christian?) mores expressed by it.

While the basic idea of self-defense appears to have been around even from Hammurabi’s day (sec. 206 – although in primitive form), our notion of it was developed in the eleventh century by, of course, Christian theologians. It has to do with human acts: you are responsible, to varying degrees, for your acts; this comes out of the notion that God loves us and that therefore our acts have both meaning and a type of logic behind them.

“Moral acts are either good or bad. An action is morally good when the object, circumstances, and purpose of what is done are all good. An act is morally bad when either the object, circumstances, or purpose of an act are bad.” (John A Hardon, The Q and A Catholic Cathechism, sec. 504).

It can easily be seen how this kind of thinking leads to a concept of self-defense, and indeed to a concept wherein the purpose of an act defines it.

It also can easily be seen how this kind of thinking is not outcomes-based. Indeed, it is deeply individual. It is intention or motive-based.

The Enlightenment’s emphasis on individualism is, in reality, a development of those same ideas. It goes without saying that our American system is based on Enlightenment values.

Yet for many these are, increasingly, anathema.

In a way of thinking, if one wishes to depart from this world into another, a fantasy land, where, as in Communism, the worth of rules and decisions were all to be based on outcome and never principle, well, yes, such a set of mores as that which developed the American experiment are indeed anathema.

So is Christianity, by necessity. But that shall remain an aside for now.

This explains why many hate the idea of self-defense. It is an idea built on other ideas, and all of them are, well, beyond-the-pale for those who reject the fundamental principles upon which our society, especially American society, has been based.

Here I can pause and tell a story. A diplomat serving in Western Europe told me about her son. She  has a ten year old who was struck by another child at school. My friend’s son struck back — and was punished for it. The teacher wrote a note to my friend explaining that she had instructed the child to run away if attacked and that this was school policy. The teacher added that it was permissible to lift up one’s arms to block a blow …

Just a little aside. I know of no martial art wherein there are no offensive moves, only defensive. It doesn’t work.

Well, the law doesn’t stop at the doorstep of the school. Every human being has the right to self defense. But that school doesn’t tolerate it. And it does sound a lot like what many wish the USA to become: a nation of peasants, not citizens. A citizen has a right (technically, it’s a privilege) to protect himself. Peasants and zeks  do not; at best they can call the overlords. If they survive. (Note that the adjudication in such a scenario would not be on the basis of justice, but on the basis of convenience.)

Yet the same attitude as at the Western European school exists in many American schools as well. A typical one is here. Of course, this is wrong for a plenitude of reasons. The first reason: safety. The second: we need to instill a sense of fairness in children, not the reverse.

But it does illustrate much the same underlying motive as seen in the reaction to the Zimmerman acquittal.

Self-defense is difficult, as are many worthwhile things. It is easier, lazier, to punish everyone involved. In Soviet times, there could have been no neighborhood watches. Even the police were considered too risky as an institution and were militarized, formally.

As a result, years after independence, I go for a walk on a Sunday morning in one of the main Lithuanian cities. I see blood, not a giant amount, but considerable, on a wall. I walk on over to the police precinct and inform the man on duty. He was polite enough, but he said … no locals would ever walk in to tell the police a fact like that. Me, I felt it was my civic duty.

So the result of relegating defense to the authorities is not only dangerous to one personally, but it has the effect of changing one’s relation to the state, from its master to a dependent. Needless to say, however, some people are in favor of such a thing. It is in accord with their deepest sympathies.

(And there is something to be said for their position: after all, even Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor received a kiss – from Jesus, no less.)

It is not, however, in accord with American principles.

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One Comment

  1. I would love to see the argument presented via the mainstream media!!!
    Thank you!


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