13 September 2011

Krama? Justice? I think we have a problem here.

"I think Americans understand justice." Governor Rick Perry responding to a request that he explain the applause received during the Republican debate (7 August 2010) at the mere mention of the 234 executions he has authorized as governor.
"Vengeance is mine" Duet 32:35; Romans 12:19; and Hebrews10:30

What is Justice? What is an appropriate way to seek justice?

The issue is an old one, Plato spent a good deal of time and thought putting discussions of the question into comments he attributed to Socrates. (Like the Gospel of John, the attributions are somewhat dubious.) The conversation has been ongoing since before Plato wrote. Jesus offered a very different view, drawing on Torah for it. I think those who now claim to follow Jesus get his view wrong more often than not.

The Eastern view called,"karma" also has a long history. Most often in the West that history is one of misunderstanding. I took this from a study guide.
The third universal truth explained by the Buddha is that there is continuous changes due to the law of cause and effect. This is the same law of cause and effect found in every modern science textbook. In this way, science and Buddhism are alike.

The law of cause and effect is known as karma. Nothing ever happens to us unless we deserves it. We receive exactly what we earn, whether it is good or bad. We are the way we are now due to the things we have done in the past. Our thoughts and actions determine the kind of life we can have. If we do good things, in the future good things will happen to us. If we do bad things, in the future bad things will happen to us. Every moment we create new karma by what we say, do, and think. If we understand this, we do not need to fear karma. It becomes our friend. It teaches us to create a bright future.
The Buddha said,

"The kind of seed sown
will produce that kind of fruit.
Those who do good will reap good results.
Those who do evil will reap evil results.
If you carefully plant a good seed,
You will joyfully gather good fruit."
SF State University Web Site

You can search the Gospels, Paul, Torah, and the sayings of the Buddha for years: you will never find a point where the State or the individual is called on to be the hand of vengeance. None of the prophets call for vengeance: in fact they reserve it to God as does Torah. The Buddha says our conduct, our willingness to be merciful, determines our future, he does not tell us to enforce that determination on anyone.

So I think the governor is wrong, or at least wrong about a lot of Americans. They are his supporters who cheer when it is suggested that among 234 deaths, some might be questionable decisions. They are the mob with pitchforks, howling for vengeance that is not theirs but God's. They are about to kill another man in the South whose guilt is in doubt.

Violence breeds violence. There are now study data that show that the "bloods and crips" of the Los Angelos ghettos do not even know why they fight, why the kill each other. They do it because they do. The violence, the lust for vengeance is so deeply embedded in their lives they do not know where it came or or why they nourish it with each other's deaths. That is the vision Governor Perry and his cheering supporters offer us. And that is why he is wrong about their understanding justice.

Justice requires that those who violate others be segregated out of society, shown the "error of their ways" as the old phrase has it, and taught a new way. It requires that they be shown the path to repentance, not that they be compelled to repent. It requires that a society that has not protected the innocent both compensate victims and work harder on protection.

Protection may well mean "life without parole" laws where someone has demonstrated that they are a consistent danger. It does not, I think, mean the outrageous laws in many States that make "sexual predators" effectively outlaws.

Sorry Governor, your playing to the mob is not about justice it is about pandering.



John said...

It made me very sad to hear the people cheer when Governor Perry seemed proud that Texas had executed so many. And he and many there are supposed to be Christians??? I think that anyone would be sad when a child of God had to be put to death, for whatever reason.


JimB said...


A good many self identified Christians think that God would agree with them if he had all the facts. Sad indeed!


The Peeping Tom of Your Blog said...

In re the laws of cause and effect that you referenced:

If I rub Buddha's belly and he blows fire at me, that it would be karma?

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