This American tragedy runs too deep for the superficial fix favored by President Biden.
“We’re going to continue to fight for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act so we can — I can sign it into law as quickly as possible,” he said following the conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.
The president’s haste misses the real problem.
There can be no justice without prudence.
I’m not talking here about prudery or some namby-pamby cautiousness.
Prudence, said Aristotle, is the charioteer of the other virtues. Aquinas agreed: “Moral virtue cannot be without prudence because it is a habit of choosing, i.e., making us choose well.”
A society that has lost the will to exercise prudence as a basic human duty is in real trouble.
No amount of justice in policing can compensate for a society that indulges bad choices.
Prudence Enables Justice
Ordinary common-sense prudence was missing in this whole sorry saga of George Floyd’s drug-driven behavior during arrest and the distracted behavior of Derek Chauvin resulting in his murder conviction.
Both actors were at fault in this inane, totally tragic yet totally avoidable disaster.
Neither Floyd nor Chauvin exercised the kind of prudence that is absolutely essential to the maintenance of justice in a civilized society.
Why did both men from such different backgrounds fail to behave prudently?
Because they had never been taught?
Where was the training in prudence that should have been given by their families and their school teachers to Floyd and Chauvin as children? “Don’t ever do drugs, George, never ever cheat.” “Concentrate on the job in hand, Derek, always check, don’t be distracted by the other kids’ shouting at you.”
But today’s children are even worse off: They are being taught that imprudent behavior such as drug addiction and resistance to arrest are admirable.
Why is there no real effort by Hollywood and Netflix and the massive social media to present the true nobility of prudence when under stress? Why are there no accolades for those Americans of whatever color who respond to police attention with quiet dignity and good sense so that rational explanations can be proffered and assessed?
Glamorizing Resistance to Arrest and Villainizing Police
Reporting across the nation has managed to glamorize the role played by Floyd. Reports also embellished the role played by Derek with racism that was never there.
Anyone who has read carefully the 25-page transcript of the arrest will not find a single instance of a racist utterance by Floyd or Chauvin.
Yet President Biden piously intoned “systemic racism … is a stain on our nation’s soul.”
Not so. Racism is on the wane. It’s “systemic immorality” now that stains our nation’s soul. It spreads in escalating violence, drug-taking, lying and stealing, child abuse, epidemic sexual incontinence, vulgarity and marital infidelity that right now shreds families and communities and does enormous harm to children of all racial and social backgrounds.
And yet there is so much that is good in America, so many true stories of the everyday courage and decency of millions of good Americans of all colors and creed who befriend each other and who succeed valiantly each day in nurturing, prospering and protecting their families and their communities.
But the mainstream media, with its insatiable appetite for agitation and novelty, turns a blind eye to what is just plain good.
Irresponsibly, the media have been “celebrating” black resistance to police arrest under the Black Lives Matter narrative that violence, rioting, looting and arson as well as illegal drug-taking and the passing of counterfeit money are all somehow justified by the wrongs that were done to the offenders’ ancestors in terrible injustices long ago.
The raucous BLM incitement to violence and rioting has been idealized and excused by the left-wing media as a legitimate avenue to forcing justice “reform.”
George Floyd Recast as a Hero
Regrettably, it’s not just the media but leading Democratic politicians who despise prudence.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the Congressional Black Caucus on Capitol Hill, “Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice … your name will always be synonymous with justice.”
She later wrote in a tweet, “He did not die in vain. We must make sure other families don’t suffer the same racism, violence & pain, and we must enact the George Floyd #JusticeInPolicing Act.”
But if we listen to Speaker Pelosi, then Floyd did die in vain. Pelosi has recast him as a hero for justice, a role model for resisting arrest while under the influence of self-administered illegal drugs.
And if we listen to President Biden, he too refuses to acknowledge any requirement on citizens to act with prudence, to reform bad behaviors, to live good lives, clean lives, to learn to love one another with respect and faithfulness.
The president turns instead to exaggerating the dangers police officers present to law-abiding Americans:
“In order to deliver real change and reform, we can and we must do more … to ensure that black and brown people or anyone — so they don’t fear the interactions with law enforcement, that they don’t have to wake up knowing that they can lose their very life in the course of just living their life. They don’t have to worry about whether their sons or daughters will come home after a grocery store run or just walking down the street or driving their car or playing in the park or just sleeping at home.”
But if parents and teachers have taught their sons or daughters to stay away from drugs, to refrain from theft and lies and from violent behavior, then it’s unlikely that they will have any reason to fear the interactions with law enforcement.
Indeed, this isn’t really about policing — this is about blaming police for a dysfunctional society where too many adults refuse to model for their children responsible self-control.
The real fix is beyond the president. His far-left loyalties do not allow him to require families and schools to teach children the kind of prudence that ensures they don’t fear interactions with law enforcement.
He won’t even try to get parents and teachers (and BLM and antifa leaders) to teach children to respect the law, to respect their own bodies, to take good care of their own property and to respect the bodies and property of others.
The president makes no effort to address the underlying problems that bedevil inner-city black communities plagued by violence and gang recruitment amid massive family disintegration.
Prudence Is a Duty
The proliferation of cancel culture has messed with American constitutional principles.
Do young Americans steeped in woke values really believe that the Constitution speaks only to rights and not to duties?
Is that what children are being taught in schools? To emphasize their rights and skip their duties?
Yet James Wilson, as one of the framers of the Constitution, taught a generation of law students from the start that “the original equality of mankind consists in an equality of their duties and rights.”
“To each class of rights, a class of duties is correspondent.”
“In his unrelated state, man has a natural right to his property, to his character, to liberty, and to safety. From his peculiar relations … he is entitled to the enjoyment of peculiar rights, and obliged to the performance of peculiar duties.”
Did Floyd and Chauvin ever read these words or have them explained to them at school or at home?
“In these general relations, his rights are, to be free from injury, and to receive the fulfilment of the engagements, which are made to him: his duties are, to do no injury, and to fulfil the engagements, which he has made. On these two pillars principally and respectively rest the criminal and the civil codes of the municipal law. These are the pillars of justice.”
All Americans need to return to the founding values of the Constitution — the natural law principles that we should favor the common good, that we should pursue it with reasonableness, that we must be accountable for the consequences of our actions and that we must not ignore the goodness of any of the basic human values such as honesty, decency and prudence — especially prudence.
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