Just Is

02 May 2012

Alan Schwarz for the New York Times:

“It’s not the right thing to do, but I did it,” Mr. Strachman said, acknowledging that his actions violated copyright law.

“If I were younger,” he added, “maybe I’d be spending time in the hoosegow.”

Captain Curran misspoke. To him, it is the right thing to do, despite being against the law.

There is often a distinction between what is legal and what is right – our lawmakers do not have an inherent tendency towards being just, particularly in a democracy. Our laws have transitioned from a method by which individual rights are protected to an incredibly complex system that regulates nearly all aspects of society. It may be inevitable that we experience minor losses of justice through the institution that is big government in an effort to prevent even greater injustices.

I confess to not being particularly interested in whether sending pirated movies to active duty soldiers is an issue worthy of our legal system.1 It seems a rather ordinary act of theft and a rather extraordinary act of kindness. It can, without contradiction, be both; being a good human being and being a good citizen can be at odds with each other. Sometimes we are forced to choose between those duties. Captain Curran had no trouble making his choice.

  1. Although I don’t think that it should matter whether the actor involved is a 92-year-old veteran or a twenty-something torrent junkie.