Monday, January 11, 2010

Just Laws

I didn't have to study any of Martin Luther King's writings in high school until my senior year. When my teacher put in on the syllabus, I was sure it was the same ol' "I Have a Dream" that's been done even more than Elvis impersonations. Ms. August picked Letter From a Birmingham Jail and, to my surprise, I really enjoyed it.  We studied the definition of a just law and examples laid out in the letter. I'm surprised to find myself needing that information today.

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.


Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

The same problems with law that MLK saw are not new in governments around the world. As a young adult, I just thought that those problems would never occur here. We studied the corruption in the national government under President Grant, but that was just a blip on the screen of our history. Civil rights movement was up against the abuse of law but was more of a cultural change than a corruption of our government.

The midnight vote for health-care "reform" was quite creepy to me. It felt dirty, hidden. Then the bribery in the bill started breaking across the Internet news sites. Have you seen them? The general public is so against the bill that the senators had to secure extra goodies for their vote. They needed to be able to tell their constituents that they're been taken care in an extra special way. The senator will wave his seniority flag and proclaim that such needed details wouldn't have happened without his expertise. This keeps the voters lax and fills the election coffers by those that were helped directly.

But there's a darker explanation at work here this time. A lot of time, the pork gifting has absolutely nothing to do with the bill. But in this case, the "reform" in this bill is so bad that senators were securing additional funds for their state to ensure they weren't hurt by the reforms. They don't want the health care bill to apply to them. They don't want the people and hospitals of their states to have to pay. They know it's bad, they know it's bad for hospitals and doctors, but they're going to secure goodies for their state to help alleviate the distress the bill will inflict. The rest of the country can rot as long as their state is taken care of.

And so with this bill, I'm seeing a new low. A bill that applies to thee but not to me. An unjust law that isn't applied to the whole country. A law that some people will pay for, but not others. A law that exempts some hospitals but won't exempt those hospitals that are built later.

I'm not going to be a sissy moderate and settle for order rather than justice. I sure hope other folks in other states don't look the other way. They need to ask themselves if their senator really represents what they think a senator should be. A bribe here or there, a lie here or there, bring home the bacon and I won't ask where you got from kinda guy? When you vote, I hope you're voting for somebody that you'd introduce to your mother. Somebody that you have no qualms about your teenage son spending time with. Somebody who actually represents you, a person you're willing to be associated with.

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