Where there is justice, there is peace

BY Bill Reagan

The last several weeks have been hard.

A massacre in Orlando. Police officers ambushed in Dallas and Baton Rouge. Young black men killed by white police officers. These but the latest in a multiyear string of killing from Connecticut to California.

The country is boiling in anger.

Should we be surprised?

The United States has known great violence over our history. The Civil War killed hundreds of thousands — a fight over the right to hold human beings in bondage. Black people faced another century of legalized discrimination.

Lives that didn’t matter much.

The Twentieth Century was by far the deadliest century of human history. There were two horrific world wars, pogroms in Armenia, the Soviet Union and Cambodia. The Holocaust. Rwanda.

Our century isn’t off to a very good start.Wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan. Terrorist attacks in France and Turkey. It is time for some humility. We think human beings are basically good, but we do horrible things to one another. We are all capable of great evil. Any objective view of human history confirms that great evil is the norm. Religious people call it sin. Scientists call it survival of the fittest — kill or be killed.

This human capacity for evil will not change. What can change is the rules we live by together and the disciplines of personal character. The rule of law restrains the worst of human behavior. We work hard on that in the United States. Our laws are not completely just, but they are better than they were.

The disciplines of personal character are another matter. You can punish a law breaker. You can’t make anyone have good character, and good character is the real solution. Only by the development of personal character can a truly just society be attained. Disciplines such as education, citizenship, service, stewardship and compromise are the foundations of justice. Where there is justice, there is peace.

Bill Reagan is executive director of Loaves & Fishes of the Rio Grande Valley.