My day began as it had for over three weeks by riding my exercise bike while watching news of the sniper. As I slowly started my workout, I fumbled through the channels until I heard the TV blurt out, "Breaking News: two arrested in the sniper case."
As I got up to speed on my stationary bike, I got up to speed on the capture of the two snipers that had happened while they were asleep. As the newscaster recycled the story over again, they showed the car in which the alleged snipers were themselves sleeping before their arrest. Then the announcer said something that got my attention. The authorities were waiting for a search warrant so that they could look for evidence in the car.
Wow! The police were waiting for a search warrant! After all the frustration and concern during these days of terror, the authorities hadn't overreacted in their excitement and done something that would have jeopardized their case against the two suspects. The alleged killers were being accorded due process. I guess that is the law and needs to be done to protect all of our freedoms as a people.
While I continued to peddle along, I thought about the comparisons between the justice system in the States and that of the Taliban in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. The right wing of Islam is critical of the culture and values of the West and in particular those of the United States. They are concerned with our influence in the global village, which is partially inhabited by Muslims. The Islamist leaders are self-appointed protectors of the Muslim masses from 21st century modernity.
I wondered what due process was followed when people were executed in Kabul's soccer field. As their brains were bifurcated by a bullet, what were the legal niceties that the Taliban observed?
I had just passed the twenty-minute mark when I started to ride off into pondering this clash between modernity and medievalism. I thought about Jefferson's assertion that, "We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Are there really universal givens or are they merely a liberal American intellectual construct? I have always assumed Jefferson to be correct, even though he did waffle on the application of these truths when it came to blacks and women. At least, he saw that divine assumption and pushed for it. Since 1776, we have honed that statement to include all people-not just educated, white males.
I also assumed that there was some sort of process that all humankind strove for in their groping for the glowing light of liberty. But bin Laden, et al have challenged that assumption. Their contention is that good old days are that which humankind ought to strive. In their frenzy rush back to the past, they have gotten their turbines all in a knot...enough to blow-up over 3000-innocent people on their way to their medieval Weltanschauung.
How does one argue with the assertion that they know best what their people need and want? How does one convince them that women are equal to males and that all peoples have rights that are accorded them because they are human beings-if for no other reason? Merely the assertion of my belief isn't going to convince them nor will they convince me that they are correct by asserting their belief. We are two cultures in a cultural standoff seemingly without any way to determine who is correct.
I was now approaching thirty-minutes, the sweat was beading on my brow, and my pulse rate had long since reached the 80% mark of my heart's capacity. Yet, I wondered how our two groups could resolve our differences short of cultural and physical genocide. How can this stalemate between modernity and medievalism be resolved?
I was now pushing the forty-minute mark when I finally had an idea. I recalled as I viewed for the 20th time the alleged sniper car waiting for a search warrant to be searched. Lincoln had a unique solution to a similar argument over slavery nearly a century and a half ago. Both sides in that clash of cultures and value system quoted Scripture and the Constitution to buttress their argument, which got them in a stalemate. Lincoln said that he would yield to the slavery proponents if first those who thought slavery was a good idea would first be a slave. If one, who wanted to own slaves, wasn't willing, first to be a slave, then slavery is wrong. I wonder whether the Taliban, bin Laden, and the others would become slaves to those who they wish to master.