June 20, 2007
June 12, 2007
I've recently received some curious emails from people expressing a reluctance to aid another citizen in need. The pith of the argument seems to be that when the situation demands recourse to law enforcement or rescue services, a prudent person should make himself scarce rather than get involved. No one in his right mind wants to be a witness stuck in the middle of an official investigation. Who wants to take a chance on being found culpable for damages after a good faith effort on behalf of another citizen? After all, the world's best lawyer is the one who doesn't know I exist. Each of these is a fair and reasonable attitude if one considers only his own self-interest. Philosophers and economists have all acknowledged that self-interest is vital to the well-being of an individual. But the idea does not exempt a citizen from duty. The obligations of a citizen to the entire polity, and the reciprocal duties by his fellow citizens to him, provide the foundation for civil society. At times we are called to act, despite self-interest, because our obligation to the community demands it.
The duty of a citizen to provide for the collective defense of his community is enshrined in the United States Constitution. More commonly, we call it the Second Amendment. Notice that my reading of this amendment infers an obligation that walks hand-in-hand with the right of individual citizens to possess a firearm. Look closely at the wording: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." The word "militia" defines a body of ordinary citizens with an obligation to provide for the common defense. The wording does not abrogate individual rights, but your right to own a firearm is predicated on your duty to defend the community. You may not be part of a standing militia when circumstances require you to react against armed aggression or ordinary criminality, but that does not absolve you of your obligation to respond. You must act because that is the duty of a free citizen. Sometimes the use of deadly force is not just an imperative, it is the morally obligatory course of action. In the case of a criminal killer, the only sure way to stop more killing is to kill or incapacitate the perpetrator by any means possible. Those with the training and wherewithal are obliged to stop the assault at the point of attack. And the character of the victim is of no consideration because it's society as a whole that has come under attack. So why all the second thoughts about consequences? The question is rhetorical.
It's a sad day when citizens stand in fear of what lawyers might do. The legal profession is full of prostitutes who regularly obstruct justice for financial gain. Their rhetorical skill will turn white to black, and black to white in front of people carefully screened because they lack the requisite discrimination and judgment to sit on a jury. Justice has become a travesty. But does it make you any less right if you lose the case to clever sophistry before a jury of morons? The founding fathers pledged everything they had for freedom, including their sacred honor. They swore to create a new nation based on inalienable principles, or hang as traitors. Now that, my brothers, is a pledge worthy of emulation. Should we adopt some lesser attitude? Not if we hold honor as a sacred virtue.
Men of worth must step forward and do always what is morally right. It's not enough to profess the truth; we are sometimes obliged to act in the common defense of our community to defend that which we hold dear. Stand forth and deliver the service you know is right. Give aid when the situation demands it, and damn the consequences. The obligations of citizenship include duty, sacrifice, and courage. See you to it, brothers and sisters, and carry on in confidence.