The BBC and Basic Right and Wrong.


Article“As the impeachment trial underscored, Washington cannot even agree on what constitutes right and wrong.

So much of what has gone awry has been resident in the trial of Donald Trump. The partisan vitriol. The degradation of debate. The use of what were previously rarely used weapons – in this instance impeachment – to escalate America’s ceaseless political war.

This sorry saga has offered yet more proof that, far from being an aberration, the Trump era is a culmination.

The hyper-partisanship of Republicans and Democrats has been evident in the party-line votes to impeach and acquit.

Again, we have witnessed the negative statecraft of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who used parliamentary procedures to bar witnesses from even appearing in the trial – a case, historians may well conclude, of jurors actively obstructing justice.

In their rush to impeach Donald Trump, the Democrats also decided not to fight a lengthy court battle for the right to hear testimony from Bolton and other White House aides.”

So wrote Nick Bryant for the BBC.

At one time the nation really did have a clear notion of basic right and wrong.

declaration-of-independence“The separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Our Declaration of Independence mentions “Natural Law.” From where does Natural Law come?

Statue of liberty showing chains
The Statue of Liberty, showing the broken chains of our release from slavery

The Tzadik/charity/justice that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will go up into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will go down into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.’ That is, the word of faith that we preach).” Romans 10:6-8.

“The separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Saint Paul, of course, quotes Deuteronomy 30:11-19. “This Mitzvah I give you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it. “I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you, life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, Boker Chaim.”

To look for basic right and wrong, we need not look into a book, even the Bible, a book written three thousand years and eight thousand miles away, if you but look. Of the meaning of life, a Rabbi once said in the Jerusalem Post, “I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you, life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, Boker Chaim.”

What does “Life” mean? Deuteronomy and by extension Saint Paul tell us, “The answer lies in your heart. That is why dead baby pictures work so well for the fundamentalists and pictures of starving people work so well for charitable organizations. We know what life is. We have but to put our mental constructs aside and look.

When we look, the answer lies before us. “Life,” “Liberty,” and the “Pursuit of Happiness,” are synonymous terms. Life is striving to become what it already is. Life is striving. Where there is no liberty there is no striving and therefore no life.

This pic says it allBack to the Rabbi. Is the fetus a living thing? Does he or she strive to become what it already is? It strives to become a human being. He or she is clearly a living thing entitled to life.

Of his mother, is the mother a living thing? Does she strive to become who she already is as a human being? She is clearly a living thing entitled to life. What does, “Choose life!” mean for that person? It means helping her to be all the positive things she strives to become.

What of her spouse? Is he a living thing? Does he strive to become what he already is as a human being? He is clearly a living thing entitled to life. What does, “Choose life!” mean for that person? It means helping him to be all the positive things he strives to become.

Of Society, Saint Augustine compares a Republic to a hundred-piece orchestra, a group of a hundred men with a hundred instruments of different pitch, timber, and volume. Their purpose is to create harmony, music for God to hear. That is concord. Quoting Cicero, quoting Scipio, he goes on to say that a society of men “The people he defines as being not every assemblage or mob, but an assemblage associated by a common acknowledgment of law, and by a community of interests.” Saint Augustine City of God, Book 2 Chapter 21. He concludes that where this orchestra does not exist there is no Republic. When there is no concord, there is no people, only a mob.

So we read the end of Nick Bryant’ article, “On Tuesday night, we witnessed American polarisation play out in real-time. During the impeachment trial, it often seemed that the very idea – and ideals – of America was on the stand.  A broken politics, a broken democracy, a broken country.  Is the United States beyond the point of repair? Can the United States long exist in the state it is in? Clearly the answer begins with understanding basic right and wrong. When will we do so?

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