At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

A Tale of Two Cops and the Many Brinsleys Who Murdered Them

posted by Jack Kerwick

“He was an amazing man.  He was the best father and husband and friend.”

This is how a friend described Rafael Ramos, one of the two NYPD officers who was ambushed and murdered by Eric Garner and Michael Brown supporter, Ismaiiyl Brinsley.

Ramos was sitting in a patrol car with his partner, Wenjian Liu, when Brinsley snuck up and blasted both in their heads.  The double-murder was premeditated: Hours earlier, Brinsley made the following announcement on Instagram: “I’m putting wings on pigs today.  They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs.”

Shortly afterwards, the cop-killer turned the gun on himself.  Unfortunately, though, his miserable existence ended too late, as his victims were already gone.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton summed up the grisly event: “They were, quite simply, assassinated—targeted for their uniform.”

Ramos was a married man with two children, a 13 year-old and a child in college. He was an active member of his church and spent his spare time counseling married couples.  Not long ago, Ramos—who joined the force in 2012—was a school safety officer.

Officer Liu had been on the force for seven years and had gotten married but two months ago.

At Christmas, two good men, community and family men who, for pay a fraction of that of the Al Sharptons, Barack Obamas, and Eric Holders of the world, regularly risked their lives by entering America’s war-zones—like the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood where they were slain—have been taken by one of the hordes of demons who very recently were calling for “dead cops” in the streets of New York.

Their families and communities, their children, have been devastated.

Yet it isn’t just on the hands of Brinsley that their blood is to be found.

The same media that for decades has labored tirelessly to promote a fiction of perpetual white oppression and black victimhood and that, most recently, elevated thugs Michael Brown and Eric Garner to the stature of heroes—whether sacrificial lambs or freedom fighters—are implicated in the murder of these two police officers.

Like Pontius Pilate who deluded himself into thinking that he could “wash his hands” of his part in Jesus’ death, so too do Barack Obama, Al Sharpton, Eric Holder, Bill DiBlasio, and every other politician, “civil rights activist,” and commentator who did their part to fuel the inferno of anti-police rhetoric think that they can now wash their hands of their responsibility for the murders of Officers Ramos and Liu.

They lie.

Obama is especially contemptible, for he could’ve been using his unique position to demand—repeatedly, loudly, unequivocally demand—that the hordes of black rioters and thugs in streets in cities around the country renounce all violence or else. 

He didn’t even come close to doing anything at all like this.  Far from it: Like the good (or bad) “community organizer” that he has always been, Obama exacerbated racial tensions by reinforcing the patent nonsense that white “racism” remains alive and well and police prey on blacks.

It’s a lie and Obama—among the most privileged human beings to have ever walked the planet—knows it.

Neither Obama nor any of the pro-Brown/Garner crowd in Washington, academia, or the media ever once decried the criminals—not “demonstrators” or “protestors,” but criminals—who targeted the property and person of innocents with bloodthirsty violence.  Never did they denounce the legions of thugs shouting for the blood of “cops.”

Now, however, Brinsley’s accomplices and enablers are waxing indignant over his murderous violence.  All too predictably, the media are trying to depict Brinsley as a “mentally ill” person with a “troubled” past, an anomaly.

But the (thankfully) late Ismaiiyl Brinsley was no more or less ill or troubled than the Brinsleys in the precincts of politics, academia, and the media who encouraged him. The only difference between the former and the latter is that while those who regard police as “racists” or “armed enforcers” of “the State” talk the talk, Brinsley actually walked the walk.

And two good men are now gone and their families devastated.

Natural Law, Positive Law, Rights and Duties

posted by Jack Kerwick

In the wake of the Eric Garner case, some libertarians have urged us to revisit the topic of natural law, a “higher” moral law that supplies an objective standard of justice for “positive law,” the law(s) posited (or made) by human beings.

Garner, it’s been argued, had a “natural right” to dispose of his property (his loose cigarettes) as long as he observed the “axiom” of “non-aggression,” the principle forbidding people from violating the rights of others.  Since, allegedly, Garner “aggressed” against nobody, he was guilty of no wrong doing.

Some thoughts:

(1)As far as the lifespan of natural law theory goes, it has only been recently that natural law has been identified with a doctrine of “natural rights.” That’s correct: Though belief in natural law extends back millennia to antiquity, it wasn’t until about 600 years or so ago, during the late medieval era, that the idiom of “natural rights” sprang up on the scene.  Prior to this, natural law theorists from the Greeks and Romans to Jews, Christians, and Muslims (and beyond) viewed natural law as prescribing duties, not rights.

The Catholic ethicist Alasdair MacIntyre informs us that prior to this juncture, there had been “no expression in any ancient or medieval language correctly translated by our expression ‘a right’ [.]”  The notion of “a right,” he continues, “lacks any means of expression in Hebrew, Greek, Latin or Arabic,” whether “classical or medieval,” prior to the fifteenth century.  Nor is there any word or phrase for “a right” to be found in Old English.  And it wasn’t until the late 19thcentury that Japanese had an equivalent of it.

If there really is such a thing as natural (or “human”) rights, no one prior to the fifteenth century knew about them.

Nor could they have known about them: rights-claims are always only meaningful within the context of a system of culturally-specific institutions.  As MacIntyre notes, in the absence of such institutions, “the making of a claim to a right would be like presenting a check for payment in a social order that lacked the institution of money.”

The 19th century Oxford philosopher, T.H. Green, makes a similar point when he writes that without “that complex of institutions” that we call “society,”  “I literally should not have a life to call my own [.]”  Green’s point is that “it is only as members of a society…recognizing common interests and objects” that we become “moralized.”

The “patron saint” of conservatism, Edmund Burke, hammered home this thesis when combating the French revolutionaries and their cries of “the Rights of Man.”  Burke knew full well that it is “the civil social man, and no other”—i.e. flesh and blood, socially embodied beings, not a bunch of abstract, pre-political rights-bearers descending from some mythical “state of nature”—that is the subject matter of law and politics.  “Men cannot enjoy the rights of an uncivil and of a civil state together,” he declared.

Since “civil society” is “the offspring of convention, that convention must be its law.”  What this means is that every “sort of legislative, judicial, or executor power” are the “creatures” of convention.  No social institution “can have” any “being in any other state of things,” Burke says.  It’s not possible, he maintains, for “any man [to] claim, under the conventions of civil society, rights which do not so much as suppose its existence” and which may even be “absolutely repugnant to it [.]”

(2)The problem with the “axiom” of “non-aggression”—what is otherwise known as the “No Harm” principle—is that it is not an axiom at all.  An axiom is a self-evident proposition. That I’m awake and that Earth is more than five minutes old are all self-evident propositions.  But the proposition that the only time that anyone—including government—is justified in using force is when it is necessary to resist force initiated by an aggressor against the person and/or property of another is anything but self-evident.

And because of this, it is can’t be the starting point of an argument; it needs an argument.

The great utilitarian philosopher, John S. Mill, enunciated the non-aggression or No Harm principle when he remarked that “the sole end for which mankind are warranted individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is self-protection [.]”  He is adamant that “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community against his will is to prevent harm to others.”

However, the 19th century conservative theorist James Fitzjames Stephen noted that this principle, if true, would discredit every religious and moral tradition that has ever existed.  “Now, in the innumerable majority of cases,” Stephen remarks, “disapprobation, or the moral sanction, has nothing whatever to do with self-protection.”

In fact, even John Locke—no slight figure in libertarian thought—held that force can and should be applied to individuals even when they are not directly harming anyone.  Roman Catholics and atheists are two notable examples of groups that he exempts from measures designed to foster “toleration.”

(3)Even if we assume that the libertarian argument above vis-à-vis the Garner case works, it most certainly does not follow that Garner wasn’t in the wrong.  Outside of the French radicals of the 18th century, the overwhelming majority of natural law thinkers, including natural rights theorists, have recognized a moral duty—a duty rooted in the natural law—to obey the positive law—even when the latter is unjust.

When a law is intolerably unjust, there is a moral duty—a duty rooted in the natural law—to disobey it.  But even here, the disobedience must be civil, i.e. it mustn’t involve “any degree of public mischief or private injury,” as William Blackstone put it.”  This means the disobedient must be willing to submit to penalties.

St. Paul wrote that since “there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God,” “whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed [.]”

Thomas Aquinas, a “rock star” of the medieval era and among the greatest of Western philosophers generally, said that an unjust law “is not a law, absolutely speaking, but rather a perversion of law”(italics added) [.]  However, a perversion of law,  even when it emanates from a tyrant, still contains “something in the nature of a law,” for “it is an ordinance made by a superior to his subjects, and aims at being obeyed by them [.]”

An unjust law “has the nature, not of law, but of violence,” but it nevertheless “retains some appearance of law” in “being framed by one who is in power [.]”  Thus, even an unjust law “is derived from the eternal law; for all power is from the Lord God” (italics added) [.]

To be clear, natural lawyers have always insisted that there are unjust laws that demand disobedience.  But there are two things to bear in mind here:

First, the law in question, like a law requiring murder, must be wildly offensive to conscience.

Second, the disobedience should be open and conducted in a manner that is consistent with respect for law as a whole (unless, of course, the whole system is corrupt, in which case revolution may be the only option).  This way, the disobedience distinguishes the disobedient from cowardly criminals while drawing the public to the injustice of the specific law.

The early Christian martyrs, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the “civil rights” activists of the 50’s and 60’s are among the scores of believers in natural law from throughout history who civilly disobeyed unjust laws.

Eric Garner is not to be included in their number—or even mentioned in the same breath.

 

 

 

 

Eric Garner and the Natural Law: What To Do When a Law is Unjust?

posted by Jack Kerwick

Eric Garner, many libertarians seem to think, was innocent as far as the natural law is concerned.

“Natural law” is an ethical tradition with an illustrious pedigree stretching back millennia.  From this perspective, natural law is a transcendent moral order that provides the standard of justice for “positive law,” i.e. human legislation: If a human law contradicts the natural law, it is unjust.

The law forbidding the sale of loose cigarettes that Garner violated (repeatedly) is unjust, for it violated Garner’s “natural right to dispose of his own property (‘loosies’) at will,” as one libertarian writer put it.

Let’s assume for the moment that the above argument is correct and that the law forbidding the sale of untaxed cigarettes violates the natural law.  So what?  One of two implications follows from this assumption:  (1) Garner acted rightly, for there is no moral duty to comply with an unjust law; or (2) Garner acted wrongly in breaking the law, for even though it is unjust, there is a moral duty to comply with, or at least not resist, laws enacted by recognized authorities (like legislators).

Neither line of reasoning bodes well for Garner’s natural law supporters.

The problem with the argument in (2) should be self-evident: If Garner had a duty to refrain from breaking the law, though it was unjust, then he acted not only illegally, but immorally. In resisting arrest, then, he was in the wrong.  Why, though, would a libertarian and Garner supporter possibly want to make this argument, when it is so clearly harmful to their case?  The injustice of the law forbidding the sale of untaxed cigarettes is a reason to abolish the law.  It is irrelevant to the Garner case.

The argument in (1), however, is also flawed in that the conclusion—Garner acted justly—does not follow from the premise—there is no moral or natural duty to comply with an unjust law.  Few and far between are those natural law thinkers who would contend otherwise, and the number of history’s great natural law theorists who would contend otherwise is approximately zero.

Socrates, for example, refused to disobey even the law under which he was unjustly convicted and sentenced to death. He implicitly contracted to abide by a system of law from which he reaped a lifetime’s worth of benefits, Socrates argued.  It would be immoral to disobey this law, just because he now is harmed by it.

A good person and citizen, he told his friend, must “do what is his city and country order him” to do or else strive to “change their view of what is just [.]”

In his magisterial, Commentaries on the Laws of England, William Blackstone writes that “in relation to those laws which…forbid only such things as are not mala in se (wrong in themselves), but mala prohibita (crimes, because forbidden)”—like peddling untaxed “loosies,” say—our moral obligation is to either comply with the law or, “in case of our breach of those laws,” submit to the penalty. Whichever course of action a person chooses, “his conscience will be clear [.]”

Blackstone further notes that if everyone went about breaking those laws that they disliked—“if every such law were [viewed as] a snare for the conscience of the subject”—then “the multitude of penal laws in a state would not only be looked upon as impolitic, but would also be [seen as] a very wicked thing [.]”

He further adds that “disobedience to the law” is “an offence against conscience” only if it “involves…any degree of public mischief or private injury [.]”

Thomas Aquinas, a “rock star” of the medieval era and among the greatest of Western philosophers generally, said is that an unjust law “is not a law, absolutely speaking, but rather a perversion of law” (italics added) [.]  However, a perversion of law,  even when it emanates from a tyrant, still contains “something in the nature of a law,” for “it is an ordinance made by a superior to his subjects, and aims at being obeyed by them [.]”

An unjust law “has the nature, not of law, but of violence,” but it nevertheless “retains some appearance of law” in “being framed by one who is in power [.]”  Thus, even an unjust law “is derived from the eternal law; for all power is from the Lord God” (italics added) [.]

To be clear, natural lawyers have always insisted that there are unjust laws that demand disobedience.  But there are two things to bear in mind here:

First, the law in question, like a law requiring murder, must be wildly offensive to conscience.

Second, the disobedience should be open and conducted in a manner that is consistent with respect for law as a whole.  This way, the disobedience distinguishes the disobedient from cowardly criminals while drawing the public to the injustice of the specific law.

The early Christian martyrs, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the “civil rights” activists of the 50’s and 60’s are among the scores of believers in natural law from throughout history who civilly disobeyed unjust laws.

Eric Garner is not to be included in their number—or even mentioned in the same breath.

 

 

More on the Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision

posted by Jack Kerwick

In this column, I recently argued in favor of a grand jury’s refusal to indict Officer Dan Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner.  To my dismay (and, frankly, shock), a great many “conservatives” and “libertarians,” I’ve had the great misfortune to discover, disagree vehemently with the grand juror’s decision.  Some have gone so far as to describe Garner’s death as murder.

Bear in mind, the critics’ knowledge of this case extends no further than a 15 second or so video of the fatal arrest and the fact that Garner was illegally selling cigarettes.  That’s it.  It is coupled by their belief—one that I share, by the way—that this offense of Garner’s should not be a criminal offense at all.  Thus, the police, so goes the reasoning, never should’ve placed him under arrest in the first place

The police, though, are not authorized to be selective with respect to the laws that they enforce: Officers of the law are obligated to enforce the laws—whether they personally believe that the laws are just or unjust, good or bad.

New information has surfaced since my last article on this subject that sharpens that much more the contrast between the critics’ state of knowledge regarding this whole situation with that of the grand jury.

For months, twenty-three strangers, black, white, and Hispanic, poured over 60 items of evidence.  These included four videos—i.e. significantly more footage than that on which the pontificators in the media and elsewhere have been feeding; medical records; autopsy photographs; photos from the scene of the alleged crime; and information on NYPD policies, procedures, and officer training.

Also among the evidence was testimony on the part of 50 witnesses.  No fewer than 22 of these witnesses were civilians. The remainder consists of police officers, EMTs, and doctors.

The grand jury also received instruction in the “relevant principles of law” concerning an officer’s right to use force.

Officer Pantaleo explained that he did not apply a “chokehold” to Garner.  Rather, he applied a move that he learned in the police academy, a move designed to “tip the person [being arrested or restrained] so that they lose their balance and go to the ground.”  Though he heard Garner say that he couldn’t breathe, Pantaleo testified that given the former’s ability to speak, he didn’t think that that was actually the case.  Nevertheless, he immediately released him and called the EMTs.

Pantaleo also added that he was fully aware that he was being videoed—but he didn’t mind.  And he didn’t mind because he “knew” that he wasn’t “committing” any “misconduct.”

The grand jurors were in a position to evaluate Pantaleo’s account.  They found that it was truthful.

The critics don’t like the outcome.  But they have no argument.  And how could they?  To claim that the activity for which Garner was initially confronted by police never should have been a crime is wholly irrelevant to whether Officer Pantaleo acted lawfully or not in using force to bring Garner down, and even less relevant to the question of whether Pantaleo murdered Garner.

To argue—not emote, but argue—that the grand jury made the wrong decision, the aggrieved must challenge both the evidence that the jurors’ drew upon for their conclusion, as well as the reasoning that lead them from the one to the other.

As of yet, no one, as far as I’m aware, has attempted either course.

 

Previous Posts

Muslim-on-Christian Persecution Around the World
Since at least the time of the outset of the Iraq War—and quite possibly well before then—there has been much debate among those to the right over why Islamic militants have set their sights upon America and the West. George W. Bush expressed the consensus among most Republican politicians an

posted 9:29:57pm Jan. 23, 2015 | read full post »

The American Sniper: A Symbol for All Ideologues
With all of the talk of Chris Kyle, the subject of Clint Eastwood’s latest blockbuster film, American Sniper, a politically naïve spectator could be forgiven for thinking that it really is Chris Kyle of whom people are talking. But he would be mistaken all of the same. The person Chris Kyle

posted 10:43:02am Jan. 23, 2015 | read full post »

The Charlie Hebdo Attack and American Political Correctness
The attack on Charlie Hebdo has had the predictable effect of uniting Western politicians and media personalities from across the political spectrum in an orgy of self-aggrandizement—which is to say an orgy of self-delusion. First, Charlie Hebdo is hardly the beacon of liberty that it is being

posted 9:35:39am Jan. 12, 2015 | read full post »

More American, and "Conservative," Hypocrisy on France
“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye” (Mt. 7:5). Listening to the American media coverage—particularly the coverage of those in the “alternative media”—of the latest outburst of Islamic mas

posted 10:59:33am Jan. 09, 2015 | read full post »

A Challenge to the Partisan Consensus: Charlie Hebdo Attack NOT Terrorism
The latest event in France has elicited an array of responses from politicians and commentators here in America.  For now, I’d like to focus on the single judgment that everyone from across the political spectrum seems to share: Whether “conservatives” or “liberals,” Republicans or Dem

posted 4:01:33pm Jan. 08, 2015 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.