anniversary of 9-11-01, a day that is burned in my mind, a day that has
brought about so much change in our beloved country, and around the world,
I have been reflecting.
There are so
many things about the United States that reflect the Zoroastrian
principles that I love -- the freedom to choose, the quest for truth and
what is right, the rule of law (that no one is above the law) which
reminds me of asha. The idea that we are all equal in the eyes of the law.
The friendliness and generosity of neighbor helping neighbor. All very
Zarathushtrian. All very American.
I miss the
freedom from security concerns that we so enjoyed in the pre-9-11 days.
Will we ever get back to them? I wonder. Thinking about it made me
realize that our "enemies" (the terrorists and fanatics) have changed us
by their actions, without our consent. How do we deal with that in a way
that does not allow them to define us. Because if we allow them to define
us, they will have won.
To me, the
rule of law is very dear. In the Middle Ages, in Europe, Kings could do
whatever they wanted. They could do no "wrong" from a legal point of
view. What they said and did, was the law, however unjust, and folks had
no say about it.
the Magna Carta. A document which the Barons in England made the King
sign, which gave them certain basic rights, like the Writ of Habeas
Corpus, whereby the Courts could require the King to produce someone he
was holding in prison, so that the Courts could determine by what right
the person was being imprisoned. Thus was established a break from the
old way of thinking that the King was the law and could do what he wanted.
In about the
16th century, the people of England got the idea that they should be able
to elect representatives who would have some authority to pass laws,
mostly the right to tax, at that time - requiring a sharing of power
between the king and a parliament of elected representatives.
In the reign
of King James I, in England, a famous lawyer and counselor had the
courage to articulate what the Magna Carta and the concept of an elected
parliament had started -- the principle that the King was not above the
And in 1776
and the years following, the American Revolution took a chance on a great
experiment -- a constitutional form of government that was elected by the
people. Not many folks are aware of it, but the Constitution gives the
government specified limited powers, and reserves all other powers to the
people. It also put in place a system of checks and balances, allocating
governmental power between the Executive (President), the Legislature and
the Judiciary -- each an independent branch of government – and the
nation adopted a Bill of Rights as an amendment to the Constitution, which
guaranteed certain basic freedoms to individuals which could not be taken
away by majority rule.
of laws is not perfect, (what human endeavor is!) but the United States
Constitution, and the Constitutions of the various states in the United
States, established the principle that we are a nation of laws. That no
person is above the law. And no person is outside the protection of the
Germany, Jews were declared to be outside the protection of the law. They
could not enforce leases. They could not enforce contracts. They could
not enforce personal rights or property rights. They had no legal standing
in the Courts. The Courts were closed to them. At first, the German
Courts tried to maintain some degree of independence, and apply the law
equally, but when the Gestapo started to "correct" the Court's decisions
it had a very demoralizing effect on the Courts, until finally, in a case
decided in 1936, the Reichsgericht, the highest German Court, (whose
judges well may have been stacked by Hitler), refused to recognize the
Jews living in Germany as "persons" in the legal sense. It held that only
Aryans i.e. persons of German origin, and persons who by law were declared
equal to them, could enjoy all legal rights and privileges. (See Fraenkel,
The Dual State (1941), page 39, and pages 93 -- 96).
I hope that
we do not allow the terrorists to change the fact that we are a nation of
laws. That no one is above the law and that no one is beyond the
protection of the law. We need to balance legitimate and necessary
security interests in our fight against terrorism, with a commitment to
preserve and protect the rule of law. For if we don't, the terrorists
will surely have won.
But it isn't
enough to protect and preserve the rule of law here in the United States.
If we are ever to defeat terrorism, we need to think about how we can
shrink their recruiting base. There is only one way in which I can think
of doing that. With asha and vohu mano -- backed up with a lot of
Every act of
injustice that we subsidize is the best recruiting device that the
terrorists have. We need to find ways to stop subsidizing injustice, and
adopt policies that give people in the Middle East a chance to live good
lives -- raise children, earn livings, own homes, own businesses, enjoy
recreations, have some say in the rules that govern their lives, give
them an interest in preserving what they have, instead of blowing things
up because they have nothing to lose.
think of a single major religion that does not have a fanatic element --
except Buddhism. Fanatics will always be with us. But at least we can use
our minds and hearts to shrink their influence amongst average people.
How do we do that if not by changing minds? by delivering what is wrong
into the hands of what is right (as Zarathushtra said)? by promoting
"what fits" (asha) with good thinking, good words and good actions?
that we cherish are not free. Each generation has it's own challenges.
Each generation has to win these values over and over, create them, and
re-create them, with our (lawful) choices in thoughts, words and actions.
Even the failure to choose is a choice.