LITERARY NOOK

It’s Not Against the Law???

“It’s not against the law,” he crowed
“So I’ve got every right!”
The stalking and intrusion
almost pushed his prey to fight.

“It’s not against the law,” said he
to justify his deed.
“It’s how I make a living, and
well, I’ve got mouths to feed.”

“It’s not against the law”
was the sole reason that he gave.
But laws are made by men,
the same who shackle and enslave.

It’s not against the law. Agreed.
Of that there’s no denial.
But rights and words of law my friend
are not what’s now on trial.

Without a moral compass
to divine your right from wrong.
The death of common decency
won’t be too far along.

It’s not against the law I rail
but lack of soul within.
For how long can we wait on men
’til empathy sets in?

There’s a video on YouTube of photographers who were stalking Ben Affleck as the actor was taking his children (ages 2 and 6) for a day out. Ben confronts one of the paparazzi and asks him to back off to allow him to enjoy his family day. I felt it was a sad commentary on society that the rationale the photographer felt most justified in giving to the actor—that he felt excused his behavior—was “Hey, it’s not against the law.”

Wow! If I’d been there, I would have asked the photographer: Yes, but what about the effect your behavior has on others? Can you empathize with how your behavior makes them feel? What of the cumulative effect actions like yours will have on the community and its quality of life if everyone dispenses with common decency in favor of simply what’s legally permissible? Is this how you would wish to be treated?

Furthermore, are you compromising your own ethics just for a paycheck? Is this the only way you can make a living—by preying upon and stalking others? What of the negative points on the universal karmic ledger you are racking up with your actions? You may not believe in karmic justice, but many traditions and belief systems will tell you “what goes around comes around.”

There’s so much more to assessing whether a person is justified in his/her behavior than merely whether the laws are on that person’s side. These are the same laws written and enforced historically (here in the U.S.) by men who killed indigenous populations, owned slaves, subjugated women, imprisoned others who didn’t look like them, and terrorized anyone of “alternative” orientation.

You can’t hide behind mere “legality” in deciding whether something should be acceptable to you or the society. Hopefully, people will realize that laws are not the arbiters of personal ethics and (in many cases) not even reflective of societal morality. Laws are written by people with their own flaws, biases, prejudices and all sorts of “isms” that affect their viewpoints. You have the ability and authority—and perhaps the moral obligation—to come to a conclusion about what is “right” or “wrong” for you and the society despite what “the law” says about it. The willingness and courage to do just that is precisely how society evolves.

Walt Goodridge is a Saipan resident and author of over two dozen books, including In Search of a Better Belief System and Turn Your Passion Into Profit. www.liferhymes.com.

Walt Goodridge Author

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