The events of the past week have been nerve-racking or breathtaking depending upon your perspective.
The two cases in point that this writer is referencing are first and foremost the Mr. and Mrs. Ray and Janay Palmer-Rice domestic violence incident that gripped our nation; this event was a tragic and catastrophic event.
The second nationwide occurrence revolved around the President of the United States delivering a passionate speech with regards to the future actions that the United States of America (USA) would take with regards to pursuing, frustrating, and defeating the Islamic States of Iraq and Syria – commonly referred to as ISIS.
Due to constraints on time and space the events concerning our President and ISIS will have to wait until next week’s column.
As this journalist pondered both events with sympathy and sorrow, he found himself asking himself the following question: “How Do We Know?”
Yes, “how do we know?”
By this the question of the moment is refined to ask, “How do we know that what Ray Rice did to his wife was wrong or right?”
This is not a theoretical or abstract question.
Please stay with this writer a little longer before you decide to in the words of the late Harvard professor Timothy Leary to either “tune in or tune out” – “fade in or fade out” with regards to the points being expressed.
The question “how do we know?” is meant to provoke us into an ongoing conversation with regards to how do we determine the proper “ethical” and “moral” responses to the choices that we as humans make.
Is this enterprise even possible?
Too often in our culture we hear pundits, news reporters and journalists, teachers – and people on social media proclaim that there are no such thing as moral absolutes. The saying in our common vernacular is that “what I do or say is okay as long as it does not adversely or negatively affect you.” In other words, we proclaim, “Live and Let Live!”
Now one of the consequences – blessing or curse if you prefer – to being somewhat trained in the disciplines of Political Science, Philosophy (logic), and Theology is that one is taught to always go one or two steps deeper to question the fundamental premises for the arguments that are put forth by individuals.
The question that this writer would ask is this – “how do you know that your actions do not hurt, harm, or hamper the emotional, physical, or spiritual state of the people around you?” In short, with regards to the Ray and Janay Palmer-Rice episode why are we as a nation outraged regarding what transpired?
Are we upset simply because Ray Rice is a professional football player of tremendous size and strength and therefore he should never strike a woman?
Are we upset because of the way that we saw Janay Rice fall to the ground with incredible speed and force (as a father of a daughter this man found himself getting sick to his stomach as he watched and re-watched Janay knocked unconscious. Still even worse was that fact that there was no apparent remorse on Ray Rice’s face in the elevator)?
Question: Why do we /I feel such outrage?
Perhaps some people may say that she – Janay Palmer-Rice – should not have argued or stayed with such a violent man.
(Please forgive the sports analogy but Monday morning quarterbacking and second guessing of human choices is always relatively easy. Domestic violence never admits of easy answers).
The late and great Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky had one of his characters proclaim the following sentence in his classic novel “Crime and Punishment”: “IF THERE IS NO GOD THEN THERE ARE NO RULES!”
This is an interesting proposition by Dostoyevsky.
What does he mean by this?
Our Judeo-Christian heritage (1607 to the 1930s) teaches us in the book of Genesis the following mysterious truth about the relationship between a man and a woman; let us pick up on the scene in The Garden of Eden as Adam is fellowshipping with The Creator of the Universe (Genesis 2.20-25).
20 The man gave names to all the tame animals, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be a helper suited to the man.
21 So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.
22 The LORD God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman. When he brought her to the man, 23 the man said:
“This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
This one shall be called ‘woman,’
for out of man this one has been taken.”
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.
25 The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame” (The New American Bible – Revised Edition NABRE).
Traditionally, it was understood that GOD as The Father of Mankind presented His Daughter to Adam with the understanding that Adam would protect, provide, and nourish the Spiritual, Mental, and Physical well-being of the Woman being entrusted to him.
The noted Psychiatrist Dr. M. Scott Peck wrote in his seminal work The Road Less Traveled that his definition of “love” is “the willingness to extend oneself for the purpose of nourishing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”
Adam was expected to extend himself for both his and Eve’s benefit.
If non-theistic evolutionary history is true (Natural Selection) then this story is simply a myth that has no bearing on how men and women should relate to each other.
If certain aspects of Feminist-Theology are true, then this mythical event is simply a power play by men to keep women under subjection.
You see if all ethical choices are relative and if the only thing that we should concern ourselves with is “whether or not the personal actions of a person adversely affect someone else” then my friends, we have NO RIGHT TO CONDEMN THE ACTIONS OF RAY RICE and say that THEY ARE WRONG!
If there is not a “Transcendent” or “Objective” point of reality that determines the validity of the moral / ethical choices that we make, then what we are left with is nothing less than emotional and moral sentiments which are not binding upon ourselves or upon anyone else in society.
Why? Because then might makes right or what the majority says or does becomes the governing standard.
Morality is then determined on the basis what 50% plus 1 of our nation’s people may feel at a given moment – classic Utilitarianism.
Yes, Fyodor Dostoevsky clearly had it right when he wrote that “if there is No GOD then there are no rules!”
As uncomfortable as this may make us feel, we actually owe an incalculable debt of gratitude to the Rice family for making us Stop, Pause, Commiserate, and Reflect upon what type of people (USA) that we are and what type of people we wish to be.
Dear reader of this column: what do you think?
Your responses are most welcome.
Next week we will ponder the second nerve-racking or breathtaking event that transpired this week concerning President Obama’s decision to pursue, thwart, and hunt down the terrorist group known as ISIS.