Essay / Misc.

Musings from a Guest

Chris Leigh, 2005.

Before beginning, I offer my apologies—I am hardly capable when it comes to blogs. I feel too much as if I am talking to myself, and though I have seen others write about really interesting things, without some response I have had a difficult time entering into the blogosphere. So, please forgive me if I am not up to the standard high quality for this blog.

My wife Sheri and I watch a lot of movies. I grew up in a household where movies weren’t merely entertainment—they were visual stories—we talked about them just as we talked about books. So, now that I am starting my own family, movies is one our favorite mediums for stories that we talk about. One of the themes that my wife and I often heatedly discuss is the idea of vigilante-ism. My wife takes the position that mercy and forgiveness must be our response to wrongs done against us. And generally, I agree—it certainly seems that defending myself is not one of the things I am commanded to do. Quite the opposite really.

But then, I return, what about defending others? Using movies as an example…movies like The Punisher, Man on Fire, National Treasure, Daredevil, Batman, etc—the heroes of the films are fighting the forces of evil outside the sanction of the powers that be—whether it is because those powers are incapable of acting effectively, or because they are corrupt and part of the problem. What then? More importantly—when would it be permissable for me, a individual, to act on the behalf of those who cannot act and for whom no one else is acting? Does having the ability to act carry with it the responsibility to do so?

It certainly seems that it would be better to steal the Declaration of Independence for the purpose of keeping it safe than to allow someone else to steal and destroy it. In the movie, National Treasure, the hero excuses his actions by recalling the decision the Founding Fathers had to make themselves. Having tried unsuccessfully to find justice with their rulers, the Founding Fathers engaged in open rebellion to establish a nation that would protect those who were otherwise unprotected. Gentlemen of property and education used those same means to become rogues and traitors—but without Washington and Jefferson, we would never have broken free from Britain. Then again—Washington gave his all to establish this nation and recreate our understanding of justice, only to relinquish his power after only eight years of leading the nation.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons America has actually been successful—the leaders of the rebellion subjected themselves to the system they established—and rule by vigilantes can never last. Few would make the argument that it is unfortunate that they succeeded—so does this shed light on the question my wife and I argue about? In the end, while I can try and judge when a vigilante was needed or not, I am unable to say if there could ever be a circumstance where the world would be better off with my sense of justice being implemented through my own strength.Of course, I am no superhero.

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