On Being Human…and Crimes Against Humanity

As we glance through the headlines of our busy world and see all of the places where humans are killing, torturing, discriminating against and hating each other, we see that they all have one common factor: Humans acting like humans.

But are they?

Or are they acting more like the animals that humans once were, the animals that we are descended from?

Throughout the centuries and millennia of recorded human history, we as humans have struggled with this reality. We have the capacity to be so much more than just animal-like creatures behaving in the animal-like programmed behavior of instinct. This behavior is in many ways the raison d’etre of religion, of philosophy, of the quest for ‘civilization’ itself. But still to this day, all of these millenia later, we still quite often act as savages, as beasts, we act and especially react in thrall to our lower instincts and motivations. I. Me. Mine. Eye for an Eye. THEY started it.

We see it everywhere, from children playing to great nation-states clashing, nation states bullying or invading smaller nation states….and so often it ends in hurt, or blood. And then come the justifications for the blood. And then the justifications for revenge. And then more blood.

Religion at its best seeks to provide a moral code, ethical and behavioral guidelines, in the attempt to lift us above this savage behavior. Religion at its worst is far to often the cause of the very behavior it proscribes. Thou shalt not kill. Except in the name of Religion.

However, humans have also invented another code for dealing with our lingering state of savagery, with our capacity for animal-like behavior…the legal code.

The quest to rise above savagery, to be more than unthinking animals, is the greatest quest of humankind. There is no higher aspiration. There is nothing more important. It lead to the founding of all of the worlds great religions, and later it led to the rejection of faith-based law and behavior and to the uplifting and embrace of science and logic during the Enlightenment and in all of Western civilization since. Evidence, proof, facts, fairness and justice….The Law. A code that, unlike religious codes, is meant to be beyond excessive interpretation and twisting by those who are charged to administer it. A code based on logic, not faith. A code that applies universally, not just to subjects, or believers, a code that by its very essence states that no man is above it. A code that says that when you behave as a savage you will be punished. A code that is intended to deter animal-like behavior, behavior that is less than human. Intended to punish and thus deter acts that are below the level of civilization we have sought for so long.

It is The Law that has lifted us out of savagery.

It is The Law that makes us civilized, that makes us more than savages. From Hammurabi’s Code to the Magna Carta to the document that founded America, every advance in civilization, every step forward from savagery, has been marked and made possible by a step forward in the Rule of Law. The Constitution of the United States is widely held to be the pinnacle of that advance. Making each citizen equal under The Law and spelling out the specific individual rights of each citizen. Born of the fight against the tyranny of kings and the injustice and savagery that can be done in a kings name, The Constitution, above all of its other functions, guarantees that ALL men and women are equal under the law.

ALL men.

All men enjoy the benefits of freedom that the The Constitution guarantees, and all men are subject to The Laws that it created….lest we slip back into savagery and lawlessness. It is a bargain. It is the fundamental bargain that allows civilization itself to flourish and progress. The bargain that is the Rule of Law allows us to invest in civilization, in advancing humanity, because it guarantees…..justice. And no human will invest themselves in an unjust system. No one will work to advance an unjust system. The Rule of Law allows us to work to better ourselves without fear of being unjustly imprisoned or having that which we have worked for seized unjustly. It allows us to work for the betterment of all mankind, of civilization itself, without the fear of having our work undone by the whims of a king….or a President.

There are those who would take us back to savagery.

The Rule of Law is what stands between us and them to prevent it. The powerful believe they are above the Rule of Law. They believe in fact that their word IS the Rule of Law, because of their power. It is not. They believe that they can kill, invade, torture, steal and lay waste where ever and however they wish. And they have. What can stop them? What can stop their savagery? What can stop them from dragging us all back into the mud of savagery? They are powerful and control armies and police and even ‘secret’ police. Opposing them by force of arms only makes them stronger, only drags us back into the mud of killing and savagery with them.

There is only one force that can oppose them. The force of the mass of citizens, of The People, coming together and insisting that they too be accountable to the Rule of Law. Insisting that these powerful men are also equal under The Law.

Powerful men who put themselves above The Law are ….tyrants.

America was founded to fight tyranny. The weapon with which it has fought tyrants has always been the same, The Rule of Law.

Even wars are meant to be waged through and under laws. That is why a single man, a President, is not under the Constitution, supposed to be allowed to declare war. Even in war, the most savage expression of humanity, there are laws….and codes, and Conventions. Through the years, savage men who have taken their country to war and have broken those laws codes and conventions have been tried….and hung….for violating the Code of Civilization, The Rule of Law. America itself has tried and hung these worst of criminals.

And now, The Rule of Law faces a new challenge. Another set of powerful men have set themselves above the Rule of Law. Have attempted to draw us back into savagery. This time, in America itself. A nation founded on and so infused by the idea of the Rule of law that we have been stunned and deeply confused by one of our own powerful men stepping so far outside of the Rule of Law. We are used to looking upward, in our most just and fair country, looking upward to a greater authority, the authorities that we place in office, to administer The Law, to administer justice. But now the highest authority in the land, the President and his officers, are the ones who have stepped above the Rule of law….and we are confused.

We have become accustomed to others, to the authorities, enforcing The Law, enforcing justice. We have become unprepared to react to those same authorities breaking The Law. We seem to have lost sight of the one great truth that allows civilization itself to exist: No man is above The Law.

That founding precept of our nation and of civilization itself is currently under assault. A powerful man, a tyrant, who controls the very mechanisms of The Law has immunized himself from The Law.

And both the authorities in that mechanism under him, and the authorities who are set to succeed him are confused…and fearful…as to how to proceed. It is at this time that we as citizens are required to stand up and exercise the responsibilities that come with the freedoms granted us under the Constitution, under the Rule of Law. It is time for us to guide our leaders. To bolster their courage. To firm their resolve. It is time for citizens, for The people, to demand in no uncertain terms that we are indeed a nation of laws…and not of men, it is time for us to insist that NO man is above the law. It is time for us to keep our part of that great bargain.

Lest that bargain be lost, and lest we are then led by a lawlessness at the highest levels back down the slippery slope of savagery. NOTHING is more important to a free society and to civilization itself than the Rule of Law. It is from this Rule that all else flows. The economy is dependent on the justice provided by the Rule of Law, as we see now. Health care reform can only come through the Rule of Law. The Rule of law will be needed to stop Global Warming, to stop unjust wars, and to ensure equal rights to all citizens. Nothing is more important.

The Rule of law itself is under assault, and how we respond to that assault will define us as a nation and as a civilization. Not how the authorities respond, not how they police themselves, but how WE respond. How we insist and demand that they are policed….just as WE rae.

Please go and sign The Citizens Petition: Special Prosecutor for Bush War Crimes and let your voice be heard…be heard TELLING your government that No Man Is Above The Law.

Please go vote for a Special Prosecutor on Change.gov. More information on supporting the Petition can be found here. And please join the Facebook Group as well!

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  1. If we can keep it.


    • Edger on December 30, 2008 at 21:27

    Couldn’t it?

    We could be simply savage animals with no feelings for anything beyond ourselves.

    You know? Like Nature, red in tooth and claw?

    • robodd on December 30, 2008 at 21:59

    I haven’t seen a dog torture anyone (cats another story tho), or tap their phones or read their email!  

    Seriously, the capacity for evil is purely human.  It is not an animal quality.

  2. It is The Law that has lifted us out of savagery.

    I think Law’s are what we get when human beings no longer live in a cultural format that cultivates an inner connection to good heartedness. Look at Buddhism, for example, all the energy oriented towards cultivating bodhicitta, compassion or kind-heartedness.

    Many indigenous cultures seem to have developed rituals, behaviors and norms that continually orient people toward this inner connections, and provide self-correcting mechanisms if a member of the society goes off course, not punitive but educative and re-integrative. When societies lose the ability to operate on this level of natural organization, laws are instituted to punish ainapropriate behavior.


  3. but the line that comes to mind is:

    When Tao is lost, there is goodness. When goodness is lost, there is kindness. When kindness is lost, there is justice. When justice is lost, there ritual. Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion

    In our country, law seems to me the husk of faith and loyalty.

    Or as Laurie put it (at about 5:02):

    • Turkana on December 31, 2008 at 08:15

    richard iii, act 1, scene 2:


    Villain, thou know’st no law of God nor man:

    No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity.


    But I know none, and therefore am no beast.

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