The institutions & traditions that guide our society are not on default. They can live forever or they can evaporate. The difference between the two depends on us. Not politicians, business, or our ancestors. Us. If we fail to preserve the distinct factors which make us free, we will one day find that the life we know is gone. And if that be so, we’ll have no excuse at all to whine. We will have failed and those who came before us will damn us for our recklessness and stupidity.
Pick three or four key phrases that guide our liberty and I hope one of them would be:
“The accused are innocent until proven guilty.”
This key tenant of our legal system has been around for nearly two thousand years. It’s explicitly or implicitly written into a large number of constitutions. We’re taught it in schools. We’re made to believe that it’s what separates us from the forces of darkness.
I’m going to let you in on a little (well known) secret folks. It’s a lie. The accused are guilty until proven innocent. Even the most senior members of our tribes are in on it.
Today, Park Geun-hye, a democratically elected president outright accused a ferry crew of actions, “akin to murder”. She wasn’t there. The investigation is ongoing. Nobody has a clue at this point what really happened. But in front of a very large crowd a president decided to play prosecutor, defense attorney, judge, and jury. Case closed.
She then went on to claim that those accused will face charges. Uh, Madam President, how exactly do you expect them to now receive a fair trial since you’ve called them murderers? Well friends, she doesn’t, she doesn’t care. She’s already said she wants them destroyed. She isn’t interested in justice for anybody, not the accused, not the victims.
The entire basis of our judicial system, and that of almost any Western nation, is that everybody is equal before the law. Everybody. Regardless of the charges, the circumstances, who they are as people, what kind of beer they like, whatever. It’s an even playing field. Does this always happen? No, we’re human, but the aspiration is to get as close as possible.
When you have a president blowing off the rules less than a week after the incident at hand, folks, the train has derailed. What I find most shocking (I’m actually not really shocked) is that almost every, single, major news outlet has managed to not understand just how dangerous and pervasive these words are to our culture and values. They report on her words, without understanding their context when it comes to integrity. Don’t blame the media too hard, they just don’t understand, hard reporting is not their thing.
We have a different concept we use to describe heads of state who whether through deceit, irresponsibility, or just plain anger, subvert the justice system for their own personal or professional gain. We call them dictators.
Now a number of you will claim that this is in Park’s blood. Her Father had it in him, the emotion of the last few days just exposes her inner self. I do not agree. This is because whether it’s your own head of state, your mayor, or any other politician or leader? Well friends, I have noticed a growing trend where the guilty are thrown on the block in front of a unruly crowd and cameras as soon as possible in a manner unbecoming our freedom. Don’t believe me? Go watch your news the next time somebody is arrested for an accused financial crime, a murder, a horrific accident, and so on.
What these leaders will claim is they’re battling for justice. No, what they’re battling for is anger. Anger is not justice. Anger perverts justice, poisons it, and lays it hollow and meek. Don’t blame them completely. It’s your fault too. You get angry, you want justice, but you don’t actually seek justice, but a cure for your anger.
The Koreans are angry. They have every right to be. This is a horrific accident. But until the actual facts are known, until the process has a chance to play itself out? Not only will we not see any true justice, we will also demolish any possibility to learn from this disaster so that it may never occur again.
Park is telling the crowd exactly what they want to hear. In this, she has fallen into the same trap of irresponsibility as many other leaders today. The job of a true leader, especially a true democrat, is not to always tell the crowd what they want to hear. In the darkest moments, sometimes the most immortal and moral thing a leader must do is tell the crowd what they don’t want to hear. Her foremost task is to buttress the system that makes her people free. It’s not her right to destroy the values her office is chartered to defend.
The crew deserves their day in court. They will no longer have it.
Your arrested neighbor deserves their day in court. So does the potential drug dealer down by the corner, or the accused child molester picked up by the school.
In the grand scheme of things, anger is irrelevant. What lasts forever is justice. Without justice there is no difference between us and pure darkness, the medieval world we’ve left behind in the name of morality and liberty.
Next time something like this happens, close to your home, realize the destruction that anger wields, and take a moment to pursue a deep breath in the name of freedom. Then, when a leader steals your liberty in the cause of anger & evil? Hold them accountable.
Today, more than any other moment, I am now just like my North Korean counterpart.