20 April 2009

more on torture and law

Margaret More: Father, that man's bad.
Sir Thomas More: There's no law against that.
William Roper: There is: God's law.
Sir Thomas More: Then God can arrest him.
William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

This came up on Sully's blog (it's from A Man for All Seasons in case anyone noted it was familiar). I put it up if only because it should command some adulation from the religious as well (Thomas More is as I understand it, the patron saint of politicians), and to understand that law is a device of man, and that it again protects man from himself as well. Of course, the context of reason might command that a law against divorce is probably baseless or senseless, surely not in and of itself worthy of such defense. But the basic problem was that the law against divorce was at the time only being changed for the personal benefit of the king. And if a king might change a law for no reason other than his own amusement, why not change other laws for the same token? We appoint a process and means to amend our laws and our agreements with one another. And it becomes clear that this was avoided, deliberately, for what appears to be no public purpose and no reason other than it suited the "amusement" of those in power. I do not pretend that Cheney or Bush are amused by the screams and howls of those who were tortured. But there is little evidence that we were all of us protected by such things either, hence it is of less "necessity" and more "amusement" that such things are based. The amusement being a fulfillment of retribution or vengeance carried out against those who may have done us harms.


In short: "I do none harm, I say none harm, I think none harm. And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith I long not to live."
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