Who May Pass Judgment?

In the last week, several disparate items have focused me on the same general question about who is qualified to make decisions for or about others. In other words, who is really qualified to pass judgment on anyone else?

First, there was a minor political firestorm between Senator Barbara Boxer and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The gist of it was that Boxer suggested Rice was not fit to make decisions about military actions when she had no husband or child to lose in combat.

Second, there was a local incident where a veteran was charged with disrupting a commercial airline flight. Part of the Tribune's coverage included publishing a web comment that only a war veteran could judge another veteran. (As usual, when I tried to find what I found in print online, but I failed).

Finally, there was a report that State Representative Windy Boy wanted a documentary edited to remove a negative portrayal of a member of his tribe. Essentially, he argued that the one bad person would make the world judge his whole Reservation and people as "a tribe that has no culture." He seemed to be saying that the public is not fit to judge his people, or at least so uninformed and unenlightened that we could not consider that a single person is not indicative of a whole people. Even when portrayed because he was a drug addict, not because of his people.

To sum up, (1) the Secretary of State cannot make decisions/judgments that affect the armed services because she will not personally lose a spouse, child, or grandchild; (2) the Federal Court system cannot judge a former soldier unless he who judges has been in the same circumstance; and (3) the public has no right to know about the ill effects of meth use because we might judge the group from which the user came.

That would lead me to believe that (1) a non-veteran could not be President and Commander in Chief of the armed forces; (2) a criminal defendant's jury of peers would have to be people who had the same family, background, criminal history, etc, of the accused; and (3) the press could not report anything negative about a person because the public might get a bad impression of that person's cultural background.

Applying that reasoning to day to day life, a doctor could not diagnose her patient without having suffered the same disease, a priest could not counsel on heaven without having died, and I could not even tell the bag boy at the grocery store not to put my eggs under the canned goods because I was never a bag boy.


My outlandish examples are no less reasonable than those presented in the real world examples. We are supposed to be living in an enlightened age. Working toward a world where people are people. No longer tied to judgments based on race, religion, sexual orientation or any other label we might use. Rather, judged on what they say and do. There is no reason that an intelligent, educated individual cannot make rational decisions based on facts, experiences, and data taken from the nearly infinite collection of knowledge accumulated by the human race.

That means a single black woman, who has an incredible mind and resume, can in fact be trusted to consider pros and cons of her decisions, even if they do not affect her directly. An intelligent, thoughtful Federal Magistrate can be trusted to apply the law fairly to everyone, taking into account each person's circumstances, even without having lived them. And the public does not need to have the truth censored to avoid potentially tarnishing the image of a people because of of its members was a criminal who beat and stole from others to feed his addiction.

I do not claim that everyone has a valid opinion. Or that we can all properly sit in judgment over absolutely everyone else in every situation(even though we all have the right to our own opinions, no matter how poorly founded). But we need to use common sense when listening to some of these folks. The arguments are tied to gender, life experience (especially military experience) or race, so we are preconditioned these days to give deference. We do not dare risk appearing to be a sexist or racist or any other "-ist." But the "how dare you question me" approach should raise a big red flag. Quite often, those are the most suspect arguments.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The thread the Tribune ran in print can be found in its entirety on the paper's forum: http://forums.greatfallstribune.com/viewtopic.php?t=2080