Should PLSO make a “Justice Statement?”
Short answer: Yes and No
During the June Board meeting, on the advisement of some members, your Chair brought up the idea of supporting a “Justice Statement.” The motion did not make it to the floor and failed. Before casting dispersions, no matter where you stand, it is more complicated than it appears at first glance. With the help of Edmond Burke in discussing issues surrounding the American War for Independence and the French Revolution, I hope to put into context the answer to our question “should PLSO make a Justice Statement.”
Our nation was founded upon the idea of liberty and equal justice under the law. Although we have had dark moments in history, together we have pursued these ideals through a Civil War, where over 600,000 men died, and a Civil Rights movement that led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Our Country is not perfect, but our imperfection is not a reason to destroy our institution and those monuments that represent our past without civil discourse. The War of Independence and the Constitutional Convention were not a destruction of society, but a defense of our common morals, customs and manners, and toward a more perfect union.
Our national and state constitutions are social contracts that are a reciprocal exchange between men, our institutions and government. It limits freedom by putting checks and balances on the character of man, so we can live securely in liberty. Yet, when there is ignorance or a loss of faith in our social contract—in some untethered idea of freedom—fear over our loss of life, liberty and property becomes the basis of “mob rule,” where we see the worst in human character, as was the case in the French Revolution. (see Edmond Burke’s “Reflections On The Revolution In France”).
Mob rule comes from the belief that freedom is unrestrained and that the general character of the people, our public and private institutions, including government, are unmoored from morality and virtue. In a direct democracy, that may be true, and when the people become ignorant of history and the tenants and principles given to us by our Founders, we swing to some abstract notion of an utopian society and the ideology of sophisters. But this idea is not our society. Ours is a Constitutional Republic with checks and balances.
As a matter of principle, every PLSO member agrees that injustice and racism have no place in society. Justice platitudes are good, but in context with the abstractions of current events, it confuses a “movement” with moral character. There are two competing beliefs and solutions about where society is and where it should go. On the one hand, there are those that want to “throw the baby out with the bath water,” and there are those that do not. The former demands a remaking of society (French Revolution), the later would ask that we work together to improve the current system (American Independence). Therefore, the challenge in making a justice statement at this time isn’t that we don’t believe in justice and equality, it is the appearance of promoting one ideology over another.
Should PLSO support a Justice Statement? Yes, we should. In the context of civility and the rule of law, a positive statement “we believe in justice, equality and liberty for all,” could be made. However, in the context of chaos, it is nearly impossible for our membership to support a single statement. There are strong feelings on both sides of this issue, but it is my opinion that the Board made the right decision at this time in our history.