Posts Tagged ‘justice’

Reflections on Martin Luther King, Jr., and on heroism

January 15, 2012

 

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It’s been a holiday in all fifty states only since 2000, when Utah finally adopted it. MLK was a hero, and the holiday dedicated to him is a good time to reflect on his life and on the meaning—and especially the limits—of being a hero.

If we venerate some of our Presidents for their accomplishments, then we surely should venerate King. He arguably did more to make America a better nation than anyone since Lincoln. He dreamt that “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

America is not that nation yet—not quite—but we’ve progressed awfully close to it since King’s 1963 speech at the Lincoln Memorial. And the progress has been largely inspired by King. His insistence on non-violence sealed the commitment of African-Americans to it, and his description of what justice meant captured the conscience and then the heart of much of white America.

Yet when his birthday was first proposed as a national holiday in 1979—just eleven years after his death—it was so controversial that it failed to win a majority vote in the House of Representatives, and it took another twenty-one years for the fiftieth state to recognize it. Many reasons have been cited for the resistance, but surely a major reason (more…)

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Two ethicists consider Gov. Rick Perry, the audience at the Republican debate, and the death penalty

September 13, 2011


Jack Marshall raises an interesting ethics issue here, as he does so often in his Ethics Alarms. This time it’s the conflict between empathy and justice. He explains how the Golden Rule can get us into some uncomfortable ethical conflicts. He writes,

‘Empathy is considered an ethical virtue for good reason: it is at the core of the Golden Rule. A person without empathy is less likely to put himself or herself in the other person’s place. The criminal justice process, however, is not a good fit for the Golden Rule. In the place of a guilty criminal, I would still probably want to be pardoned, set free, and given a second—or third, or fourth—chance to be law-abiding.”

Marshall defends Gov. Rick Perry’s answer at last Wednesday’s Republican debate to moderator Brian Williams’s question whether Perry was troubled by the idea that there might have been some innocents among the 234 people executed while Perry was Governor. After the audience cheered the grisly tally, Perry answered:

“No, sir. I’ve never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place of which — when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, (more…)