July 29th, 2013


on power, responsibility, and standing your ground

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

Lately it seems like everyone and their brother has an opinion on the Zimmerman verdict. I’ve certainly said my share around here and over on FaceBook. So it’s not so surprising Dan and Libby Anne used the Zimmerman trial as a kind of springboard into our next </a>Forward Thinking topic. But we’re not only supposed to talk about the most recent case; rather, they prompted us to take a broader view:

I would like us to abstract away from the particular details of this case and ask bloggers to write about the general question, “What sorts of reasoning and priorities should go into self-defense laws so that they can be as ethical as possible?”

Fair enough. Here’s the problem, though: I’m not sure it’s the self defense law as such that’s the problem, either in the Zimmerman case or more generally. Make no mistake, I have my own problems with that particular law and others like it. I believe The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik has it precisely right when he connects the stand-your-ground laws to the way lethal duels took off in America around the same time they were dying off “There is no invocation of natural law,” he wrote; “the argument isn’t that all men have an inherent right to kill when threatened. The appeal is, rather, to a kind of implicit cultural law: it is not in the American character to retreat. Beneath the surface of the liberal state and the legal rules designed to limit violence and to grant a monopoly on its use to a freely elected government, there is a national character that has to be protected – or, perhaps, invented.

What can I say? Word.

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