Sometimes S… Happens: The Trayvon Martin Shooting and the Zimmerman Verdict

Leave a comment

Criminal trials concern the guilt or innocence of a person who has broken state or federal law. The defendant is considered to be innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution’s responsibility is to convince the jury through the evidence at hand that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A verdict of “not-guilty” does not imply innocence; it means that the jury did not find there was evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to convict the defendant.

This is basic law that the liberals who claim that the George Zimmerman verdict was about racism miss. The issue is not the race of the defendant or of Tra

George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman (Photo credit: ChrisWaldeck)

yvon. Martin. The issue is not whether the killing of Mr. Martin is a tragedy–obviously it is a tragedy. A young man’s life was taken–that is always a tragedy whether it occurs in China, England, the United States–anywhere. Two paths crossed that led to disaster and pain for the family of the deceased. Mr. Zimmerman, who does not seem to be a sociopath, has a conscience–and he will have to live with what he did the rest of his life. The issue in the trial was whether Zimmerman met the criteria for Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law.” The defense failed to show this, and thus the only responsible verdict for the jury to reach is “not-guilty.” In a different state with different laws Mr. Zimmerman may have been justly charged. Given Florida’s law, the trial of George Zimmerman became a Soviet-style show trial that thankfully did not lead to a miscarriage of justice.

Personally I find Mr. Zimmerman’s actions before the shooting overly-aggressive and reckless. He kept following Mr. Martin when the police told him to stop. He left his car, thus making the situation more volatile. I think he realizes now that his actions were wrong–but if it is true, as multiple witnesses said, that Mr. Martin (who was not the saint the media portrayed him to be) began to pummel Mr. Zimmerman so that Mr. Zimmerman believed his life to be in danger, Zimmerman’s firing the fatal shot was not legally wrong.

The mainstream media’s race-baiting, and in one network, an edited audio track, are unethical actions that only stir dangerous passions. Mr. Sharpton’s usual agitation came into play–and his stirring up the pot of hatred arguably led to the brutal murder of an Orthodox Jewish man in New York a number of years ago. I would not have thought any differently about the case if it had been a white man that Mr. Zimmerman killed. The left is truly racist–in its labeling of Mr. Zimmerman as a “white Hispanic,” and in its continual exploitation of African Americans for its own agenda.

The left is obsessed with race–they see it everywhere, in every incident involving an African American. The American left treats African-Americans like children. Instead of allowing self-improvement, liberals supported a nanny state that only made African Americans more dependent. Liberals support abortion which, as a percentage of race, kills more of the African-American unborn than in any other group. Some wealthy liberals enjoy their gated communities while the poor blacks they have exploited to gain more power suffer and die under incentive-stifling liberal programs. By stirring up African Americans in cases such as the Martin case, liberals fuel the racial divisions that help keep them in power. Liberal academics get a good feeling of superiority in supporting “social justice” (i.e., socialism and the automatic assumption of guilt of anyone in a Zimmerman-like case).

Mr. Obama’s behavior has been particularly poor. His taking a side in a legal case was unethical. People complained when Mr. Nixon declared Charles Manson guilty–now liberals prefer to support Mr. Obama’s irresponsible actions. If the rumor is true that justice department officials engaged in anti-Zimmerman protests, most likely under at least tacit White House approval, the Administration has engaged in obstruction of justice.

Now there is a cry among liberals to try Mr. Zimmerman under federal civil rights laws. That may well happen–and then the result of the show trial might be a subversion of justice.

Sometimes s… happens. As a former EMT, I know how easy it is to be on a bad call–many little things add up to disaster. Police officers tell me the same thing. The Zimmerman shooting of Mr. Martin is similar–too many bad things happened, bad decisions on both sides, that led to a horrific tragedy. The Martin family can take action under civil law if they wish, but a federal criminal trial would mean double jeopardy (and while I understand why the laws were passed, it is cases like this that are politicized that reveal the injustice of those laws).

Mr. Zimmerman may have had character flaws that led him to a tragic decision to keep pursuing  a young man in his neighborhood. But his decisions, as bad as they were, were not violations of Florida law. Thus, the jury did the just and honest thing. Bless them for not yielding to public and media pressure.

God and Judgement

2 Comments

Икона "Страшный суд"

Икона “Страшный суд” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today many people desire a God who is nonjudgmental. This God will not judge anyone for their behavior. Even if He does judge, He always forgives, whether or not a person is repentant. He never condemns any act as intrinsically wrong. If the Bible or church teaching that something is essential for salvation, this God says, “Religion gets in the way of a relationship with me. Be spiritual, not religious.” This God demands no religious duties. This God is easygoing when it comes to moral rules. For this God, Hell is an impossibility. All people will spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

One of the amazing facts about contemporary America is that some people will actually worship a deity like the one described in the above paragraph. This pusillanimous being is as worthy of worship as Santa Claus dropping down a chimney. A God without judgment is no God at all. He can be merciful–and mercy only makes sense in the context of judgement anyway.

If God is our Creator, it is reasonable to suppose that He would reveal Himself to man, not only though natural revelation but also through special revelation. He would have further reason to reveal Himself if human beings are fundamentally flawed. Now human beings are fundamentally flawed–it does not take the mass killings of the twentieth century or the conflicts of the twenty-first to see that this is the case. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn said in his Gulag Archipelago:

“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil.”

God would, if He is the personal God in which Christians believe, provide information essential for deliverance from this flawed state. For Christians, God reveals Himself in Holy Scripture (in Roman Catholic thought, through Holy Tradition as well). Both sources of authority for Christianity reveal a God of both judgement and mercy. God holds people responsible for both their moral and religious lives. Humans all sin–they all do things morally wrong–sometimes not knowing an action is sinful, sometimes being controlled by a force such as lust, and sometimes they plan to perform an action they realize is wrong. All sins are forgivable under the condition of repentance. An obstinate lack of repentance yields the judgment of God, and Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition make is clear that God will allow those who wish to sin to keep to themselves. It is not as much that God withdraws from them–He allows them to withdraw themselves. Since God is the source of all being, goodness, and happiness, their state can only lead to misery. Saying to the sinner, “THY will be done” is a form of judgment, for it says that the sinner cannot live in the presence of God. The attitude of rebellion against God can be fostered by a rebellion against the moral law (which is a subset of the natural law that is available to all people who are able to use their reason). Rebellion against religious limitations, especially against the “scandal of particularity” of Christianity, can also influence someone to stop following God’s revelation to man.

The Church sets theological limits through the Creeds, short statements of belief that summarize the fleshing out of Scripture via Holy Tradition. There are certain beliefs Christians must affirm–if a Christian openly denies these key beliefs (the bodily resurrection of Christ, for instance) and teaches that error, he is liable to be excommunicated. This does not imply he is going to Hell, but the attitude underlying heresy, a pride that refuses to submit to the Church’s teaching, may reflect a character that would not enjoy being in God’s presence.

Holy Scripture and Tradition also make moral demands–no one can keep them perfectly, and they are challenging. “Love your enemies” is almost practically impossible to follow, though some Christians have done so. Avoiding hatred, envy, spite, jealousy, and excessive anger are imperative on the Christian, but no one avoids practicing at least one of these flaws at some point in one’s life. The church states that abortion and active euthanasia as well as physician-assisted suicide are morally wrong–and there is an arrogance to the claim that “I have the right to determine the time and manner of my own death.” Such arrogance is spiritually dangerous. The refusal to follow the Church’s sexual morality can occur due to weakness–or someone may be sexually immoral on purpose yet realize it is wrong. There is spiritual hope for such individuals. But God’s judgment may fall upon those individuals who say that “wrong is right” and “right is wrong” concerning the Church’s sexual ethics. This also reveals an arrogance, a refusal to submit to legitimate authority. Such arrogance may result in God’s judgment in the sense that God may allow those people to do what they will on their own. I am sure He will always be open to receiving them, but they, due to their free will, could decide to eternally reject God. “The doors to Hell are locked on the inside,” said C. S. Lewis.

The Christian God is worthy of worship not only because He is Creator of all things, but also because He is our ultimate judge. He is also a God of mercy–but mercy extends to those open to correction and repentance. Others will refuse to receive such mercy, and God’s judgment is to allow them to live in such a state in their own world–that is, Hell. I personally do not want to worship Santa Claus. God in His glory, justice, and mercy is the only being worthy of worship.

The Injustice of Property Taxes

7 Comments

Tax

Tax (Photo credit: 401K)

A young couple works hard and saves for years to make a downpayment on a house. Luckily, interest rates are low, and they are able to get a 15-year loan at an excellent rate. The house is paid off on time. However, due to the husband being laid off at work and the wife having health problems, the couple gets so far behind on their county taxes that the county seizes their home and sells it at an auction. The family is left homeless.

I am sure such situations are repeated time and time again in our society and in many other societies as well. I suggest that such a system is unjust. If a state wishes to have a system of private property, then when a person or persons has worked hard and paid for that property, it should belong to the person who purchased it, period. The property tax system punishes those successful enough to buy property and pay for it on time–if they have a difficult financial time and cannot afford to pay, what they have paid for fairly is seized–that is stolen–by the state. This is highway robbery of the most egregious kind. I believe that the current system of property taxes should be abolished. Perhaps a flat tax with no loopholes might be better–anything other than a system that gives the state power to seize property that was paid for. A lifetime of labor can be erased by one period of difficult circumstances. With more and more people not owning property and envying those who do, it will be practically near-impossible to change the current system. The acquiescence of property owners to such injustice also fuels its continuation. It is time for property owners to take a step beyond trying to reduce property taxes and try to have them abolished altogether.

John Demjanjuk: A Case of Justice Perverted

7 Comments

John Demjanjuk hearing his death sentence. Dem...

Image via Wikipedia

John Demjanjuk died in a home for the elderly in Germany, a country to which he was deported and convicted as a Nazi war criminal. The so-called “Nazi hunters” who sought his conviction were hell bent on gaining a conviction, and apparently it did not matter to them whether Mr. Demjanjuk was guilty or innocent. At first he was thought to be a vicious Nazi prison guard nicknamed “Ivan the Terrible.” When this was proven false, he was accused of being another Nazi concentration camp guard. When this was shown to be false, he was finally convicted of being another Nazi guard. Evidence was fabricated in his case, and in no way was there sufficient evidence for him to be convicted. He may have been a German soldier, but if that makes a person a war criminal, then every German foot soldier should have been tried for war crimes. But just war theory forbids punishment of a foot soldier for following his leader’s orders.

Mr. Demjanuk was labeled a “hater of Jews,” but as Pat Buchanan pointed out, given the evidence of his innocent, “who are the real haters”? (see his fine article, “The Real Haters,” at http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=31454). The real haters are those self-professed Nazi hunters who are willing to do anything to hid the fact of their incompetence in Mr. Demjanjuk’s case, even to the point of pushing Germany to prosecute him for war crimes. To its shame, the United States agreed to Mr. Demjanjuk’s deportation. Although not all Jews supported what was done to Mr. Demjanjuk, those pushing for prosecution had too much poitical influence on the U. S. Government, and a man died far away from his family in the United States (and was stripped of his U. S. citizenship) where he had worked for years as an auto worker. All this to placate the bloodthirstiness of a group of individuals who believe that the fact of the Holocaust gives them free rein to abuse others on a lesser scale. But the horrible evil of the Holocaust does not justify evil actions by anyone, whether Jewish or not, against a man who almost certainly would not have been convicted in a U. S. Court of law. I suppose that, given United States’ policymakers’ voluntary slavery to AIPAC, the Israeli lobby in the U. S., the actions of the U. S. government in yielding to a similar group should not be surprising. The entire case was a travesty of justice, and I pray that Mr. Demjanjuk’s family will find some measure of comfort in this difficult time.

The Possibility of Punishment after Death

3 Comments

Dante and Virgil in Hell

Image via Wikipedia

Joseph Mengele lives a comfortable life in Argentina, even though he tortured Jews in the most hideous ways in his medical “experiments.” He dies quickly in a swimming accident. Controversial jury decisions put people back on the streets who may be murdering psychopaths. A spiteful person full of hatred tells lies that ruin the reputation of a good person, who leaves town and dies a pauper. The spiteful person gets rich and is admired by others in his community. The good suffer, the evil prosper, and so often there is no justice. How can the scales of justice be tipped in favor of justice in a world that fails so much to be just?

The Christian doctrine of punishment after death offers one answer. This is not to deny that other religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, have a doctrine of suffering for sins after death in a bad reincarnated state based on their aggregated good or bad karma–but this is not the Christian doctrine of punishment. I also deny the gruesome literal pictures of hell pushed on people in conservative Protestant and in some Roman Catholic Churches and schools in the past. The notion of a person suffering in a literal fire for eternity does count against the goodness of God. But C. S. Lewis‘ notion that hell is people who choose against God and refuse to come to God because they desire to do their own will rather than God’s. God just lets them be and withdraws His presence. An evil person in hell could theoretically leave at any time, but some people are so desperately wicked that they will tell God to leave them alone rather than live under God’s terms in heaven. But such a life inevitably leads to misery and a personality that gets more fragmented over time. Eventually only shards of a person remain. Living apart from God is the worst punishment of all–and given a twisted enough will this can last forever. Thus, the Christian Church has affirmed the possibility of eternal punishment as well as the possibility that hell may be empty with only Purgatory existing. I hope the latter view is correct; but the former view makes more sense of human freedom and makes more sense of psychopathy and sociopathy. Some individuals are permanently twisted–and if they are such good manipulators, with the help of a manipulative lawyer, that they “beat the system” on earth, they will not be able to beat the justice of God. In the end their existence will be miserable–they will have no one else to manipulate or hurt and will live only with their immense egos eating away at their souls. Finally their egos will eat their identity, never wholly destroying it, but making a person as near to nothingness as possible. Perhaps there will be a kernel of goodness (beyond the metaphysical good of existing) that leads all these individuals to repent and turn away from the self to God. Perhaps John Hick is correct in his universalism. If a bad person is temporarily punished to the point of seeing the error of his ways and repenting, that is a good thing. We don’t know, and hope beyond hope that the worst people will repent while finding comfort that they will receive justice after this life is over, justice that they can only avoid by repentance, faith, and love so that they are open to the grace of God. I trust that God knows better than any of us what is in a person’s heart, and He will ensure that the injustices of this life are remedied in the Eschaton.

Susan Atkins, Justice, and Mercy

2 Comments

Mugshot taken of Susan Atkins, taken 16 Februa...

Image via Wikipedia

The debate over whether to release the dying former Manson family member Susan Atkins from prison is filled with confusion. Partly this may be due to the strong emotions involved; after all, Ms. Atkins did not show mercy to Sharon Tate. But some of the comments I’ve read on various news agencies’ web sites are either emotional rants or reveal a failure to understand the concept of mercy.

Since I cannot influence emotional rants, I will focus on the topic of mercy. Some people will say something like this: “Susan Atkins does not deserve mercy! She participated in the brutal murder of a pregnant woman and shouldn’t receive mercy herself.” Now the right response to such a claim is to state the obvious: “Of course she doesn’t deserve mercy.” Who does? Mercy is, by definition, something undeserved. If mercy were deserved it would no longer be mercy. Now it is true that when someone hurts us, we usually show mercy when that person repents of the wrong and apologizes, as well as takes steps to heal the broken relationship. Even then, justice may ask that we continue to punish the person–and yet most of us don’t continue to punish. We show mercy–not because we don’t believe in justice, but because we do.

In his argument against the “humanitarian theory of punishment,” a view that calls crime a disease and claims that the cure for crime is treatment, C. S. Lewis points out that this theory is not as “humanitarian” as we might believe. If crime is a disease, we can literally do anything to cure that disease–mercy has no place in such a system. But if crime is due to people’s evil moral choices, then they deserve punishment. And if they deserve punishment, there is room for clemency and mercy. It is only because Susan Atkins deserves punishment for her terrible crimes that anyone would bring up the issue of whether to show her mercy by releasing her from prison.

Should she receive mercy? That is a difficult question given the horror of what she did. However, all the evidence supports the view that she has been a changed person, at least since 1977 when she converted to Christianity. Although I cannot see into her mind, it seems to have been a genuine conversion leading to a real change in her life. Whether she is released or remains in prison until she dies will not change the facts of what she did, and I doubt that a desert theory of punishment can even coherently say what she really deserves for her crime. But she doesn’t deserve mercy–that would have to come as a gift from California authorities. And although she doesn’t deserve mercy, there are factors, such as her repentance and changed life, that can and should influence the decision for or against mercy. Although emotions are high in this case, I am surprised by the reaction of many Christians, especially of the conservative variety (among which I count myself, although I am not a Fundamentalist on the Bible)–I have read comments very close to hatred, comments such as “I hope she dies in prison and rots in hell.” I wonder if the founder of Christianity who said that those who show no mercy will receive none would agree with such comments. Although I am not in the position to vote on Ms. Atkins’ fate and although I realize there are many good people who will disagree with me, if I were voting I would take the route of mercy and support Ms. Atkins’ release.

Postscript: Susan Atkins was not released and died peacefully in the prison infirmary. She did some terrible things, no doubt. But I do not doubt that she was sincerely penitent. Requiescat in pace.