What if we stopped viewing society through the lens of right and wrong?
2+2=4 would still be correct.
But getting it incorrectly would not be a matter of moral judgment.
Neither would crime.
What would be the basis of determining whether an act is a crime?
We would still have on our books the prohibition of all actions that cause harm to another person or the other person’s property.
The reason we have these laws is not about morality.
The law defines the conduct by the circumstances.
For example, taking another person’s life is sometimes prohibited and sometimes not.
Killing soldiers from nations or from groups of people our nation has decided to target is legal.
So is killing in self-defense.
As is executing those who have been convicted of heinous crimes.
But if the trier of facts determines that one has taken a life intentionally, then that person has broken the law.
Instead of casting moral judgment upon the “suspect” or “defendant” we could, upon their arrest and charge, take them to an inquiry.
A person with the proper legal and logical background (the inquirer) could ask this person and witnesses who volunteer to come forward what happened.
After hearing the evidence and viewing any appropriate documents and visual aids, the inquirer would decide if the crime was actually committed.
If they decide there was no crime, they allow the suspect to leave.
If they decide there was a crime, they would designate the crime in a general manner (ex: “homicide” instead of “murder,” “assault” rather than “aggravated assault,” etc.)
The results of the inquiry would be forwarded to a group of experts on psychological, social and other disorders.
The suspect would choose one of the experts.
The experts would ask questions of the suspect and others familiar with them and the people harmed by the conduct.
They would then reach a majority consensus as to what problems the suspect had in their background that (a) contributed to their conduct and (b) could be addressed through some type of rehabilitation.
They would also state the length of time, if any, the suspect should be detained and where detained and only do so if the person, from their point of view, would likely harm others or the property of others.
As for constitutional concerns about the right to a jury trial, suspects would be given the choice of this type of process as an alternative to the usual judicial system.
We may not be able to rehabilitate all of those who break the law, but we need to rehabilitate a system that casts blame rather than seeks solutions to one of our society’s biggest problems.
The United States has no solid answers in response to the numerous problems facing us.
Unemployment is still double-digits in many areas. So we wonder about our economic security, without which we can do so little. Two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, fought for no good reason, continue. So we wonder about our nation's future in foreign affairs and about those who volunteer for the armed forces. The government will still not release relevant information pertaining to events such as the JFK Assassination. So we wonder about the honesty of those who lead us.
We are a nation without answers because we do not ask the right questions. Political discussion, to be of use to our society, would revolve around identifying problems like the ones above, asking questions so as to determine their cause and use hypothesis to test for solutions. Instead, our discussion has been about whose fault something is and how it will affect the two main political parties in the next election.
Instead we hear people's feelings about political parties and candidates and outrage over who has done or said what. Two recent news stories, of Dr. Laura using the "N-word" on the radio and the proposed building of a mosque and cultural center near the World Trade Center, have stirred far more emotion than sense in those talking about them. We should respond to fear by calling upon reason. I really believe that we can do better than this and here is what I propose:
For every opinion like "Obama is not a natural-born citizen," we can use the reason of a summary judgment argument to determine if it is worthwhile to continue. In other words, we could stipulate or say for the sake of argument that the statement is true. Then we ask if it matters. Even if Obama is not a natural-born citizen, there is nothing Congress or anyone else can do to remove him from office. So we should drop the subject or put it into the political file for his opponents in 2012.
For every opinion like "The 'terrorists' are going to get us" we can employ facts over fear. We should ask who "they" are. If one responds the "Muslims" or "Radical Islam," we could ask for facts, such as any facts pointing to radical Muslims in regards to 9/11. Keeping accusers honest is imperative to keeping down the threshold of prejudice and bigotry in our society.
For every opinion like "Public employees are fat cats," we can address ad hominem attacks. Such statements stereotype a group of people unfairly and are becoming common after the City of Bell fiasco in which members of the City Council and other city employees arranged for huge salaries and pensions. The fact is that not all public employees are so well off: the average retired public employee receives $20,000 per year as a pension.
Reason tells us that it is wrong to attack those who cannot fight back. Good discussion is fair and affords everyone a chance to respond. Even if one wants all illegal immigrants deported, the scapegoating of this group or anyone without a voice in power destroys this basic tenet.
We need a dialogue, not a monologue. We can ask questions and listen to others to answer. In fact, we must do this or risk further dividing this nation based on emotions, prejudices and biases.
Here are four questions that we as a nation should answer as part of a dialogue:
What is the proper role of our government and how can we apply this role to basic issues? Do we support the equality of opportunity and if not, to whom do we deny it and why? How do we decide when it is time to go to war? What is a reasonable expectation of privacy in this day and age of the Internet and cell phones?
The public should know the basics of law. Simple knowledge of legal rules like the presumption of innocence, that a law is presumed constitutional upon its passage unless a proper court rules otherwise and that the Bill of Rights refers to the government's suppression of rights like free speech and not the private sector's actions.
We can find the answers to what troubles us and make our nation a better place to live. That's my opinion. What is yours?
All too often, those pushing for changes in immigration policy have complained that Congress has not done its job by enacting meaningful reform.But if people just want to say “Deport them all” without offering a solution as to how to keep them from getting here or for identifying them or for adjusting to an economy that no longer includes them, why should Congress listen?
We can do better.We need only remember that a good discussion in not a one-way street.There are reasonable questions we can ask and there are answers to these questions.
First, we should identify the problem(s) we have with illegal immigration.I frequently hear that illegal immigrants use taxpayer money and contribute to overpopulation.Others say that they take jobs that people here legally could have and contribute to a decrease in wages.
Second, we should consider the benefits of illegal immigration.Some say they perform jobs (like picking grapes in triple-digit heat) that no one here legally would do.They also accept less pay for their work than others and in doing so they keep prices of many products down.
We must also ask ourselves whether we have truly identified the entire problem.Discussion of this issue usually focuses upon those who immigrate from south of our border.But studies have shown that about 30 percent of illegal immigrants come from elsewhere.Will our new policy on immigration pay much attention to those from Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, etc.?
At this point, we should weigh the difference that changes in the law or the enforcement of the law would make as compared to the current situation.
For example, if successful enforcement of illegal immigration policies (i.e. few illegal immigrants around) means we pay twice as much for certain grocery items, we pay more at restaurants and wait longer for medical care, will we still support it?
Also, to what extent are we willing to change laws to obtain successful enforcement?If it means building a huge wall between us and Mexico, or allowing state officials to approach people based on the color of their skin to inquire about documentation status or allowing Homeland Security agents to raid businesses without cause, will we still support it?
And we should acknowledge the consequences of keeping the policy the same, or of repeating the 1986 “reform” which had the effect of granting amnesty to millions of people here illegally.That law was supposed to take care of this problem.If we try amnesty again, or even grant immigrants a path to citizenship, how can we be certain we will not continue to grant amnesty?
There are many sides to this debate and it may take time to hammer out a law that addresses the most important concerns. The bottom line to better debate is this: if you have a complaint, provide a solution.Tell us you understand the consequences and are prepared to live with them.By doing so, you will have taken our society a long way toward becoming a fair and just place to live.