This brings us full circle to the key idea: the derivative status of all laws from morals. It should be clear by now that even in the best case scenario, our laws are but a poor replica of heightened morality. Understandably so, because you can’t expect each and every member of a civil society to live up to the highest standards of thought and deed. There are bound to be individual differences, and the nation’s laws must reflect this basic fact; accommodating to the extent possible the element of diversity. In short, they must ensure a relatively peaceful coexistence and resolution of conflict, for the good of the whole, which isn’t to say that significant advances won’t be made because of heightened consciousness. They will, as they already have, and our laws will come to reflect more and more the aspirations of humankind. The injustices of the past will be righted, never to be revisited again. But don’t expect a miracle. It is not going to happen overnight. Meanwhile, take solace in the fact that humanity is on the march. Only a better and brighter future awaits us.
How does this relate to the recent release of the torture memos and the resulting controversy?
I’d like to take a larger view and say that years from now, we shall put it all behind us as an ugly episode in American history because that’s all it will be. The laws will change, and so will our practices, and we shall never again suffer a national disgrace.
I’ll discuss our prospects in a forthcoming article.