Monday, April 16, 2007


What Matt says here. The injustice suffered by the Duke Lacrosse players is one that is possible to suffer if you are upper or middle class white, but one that you are very unlikely to suffer. But it seems to me that this is part and parcel with the similar view that has been shaping our foreign policy for years. A large part of the population (largely overlapping the group Matt is talking about) believe that the United States is barely able to survive against a great force of enemies that is almost overwhelming us at every turn. That the United States is constantly being abused and mistreated by the world and that we rarely ever get anything we want, we rarely get our way. People who believe that Newt Gingrich's view that the United States today is very much like Washington at Valley Forge is just about right.

The fact is that citizens of the United States, and in particular middle-class or more prosperous white male ones, live it a state of such awesome security as has scarcely been imaginable to any other humans in the history of mankind. Our security is not absolute, not perfect, but it is unparalleled and great. Yet a large fraction of our populace is in a constant lather that this extraordinary state of security is not enough, and must be augmented at whatever cost to other people (generally people whose state of security is less than that of those who are complaining.) To someone of my outlook (and apparently to Matt's as well) this is absurd.

The expectation of absolute security is impossible. It cannot be realized and we each need to recognize that we might face harm or ruin through no fault of our own. We need to make the system as fair and just as possible and we need to fix problems that are uncovered. But we also need to be able to face the possibility of personal harm with courage. For one thing, the ability to face danger with courage is one of the most powerful tools a people can have for overcoming enemies. In other words, a willingness to face danger decreases the need to do so. A paradox I know, but the nature of the world nonetheless. Or from another perspective, if we display to the world that we can only function if we are guaranteed absolute security, then we look weak, very weak.

It is also the case that to improve the security of any one group to absolute security we would have to reduce the security of some other group. Indeed that is what we do. As Matt points out the kind of mistreatment that the Duke Lacrosse player's faced is faced regularly by poorer and minority folks all the time. But such disparities are unjust and serve to erode confidence in our legal system and thus reduce the security it can provide. In other words such shifting of security to a favored group serves to provide a short term increase (or perhaps only ever the illusion of an increase) in security, but in the long term weakens us all.

We, as a nation, particularly those of us in a position of comfort and relative safety, need to get away from listening to the Victor Davis Hanson's of the world, recognize our high degree of security, embrace courage, and work to make others more secure and worry far less about our own safety.

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