Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Simple Measures of Resolve: War & Forgiveness

In the following two articles, you will notice I made a change from Good Friday in the first article to the Fourth of July in the second article as the day for my proposed presidential pardons. Though I have no problem with Good Friday being the day for presidential pardons, I can easily see how that might trouble some people. In pondering what might be a better solution, the obvious choice became the Fourth of July — our nation's Independence Day!

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We Owe the Troops an Exit


Steven A. Sylwester
Eugene, Oregon
August 31st, 2010
12:35 pm

War is about killing and destruction — it is evil — and it should never be in any way sanitized or otherwise made to be acceptable. The doings of war should be and should forever remain morally reprehensible, and war should be universally condemned by all civilized people.

That said, war happens anyway. And so we need to create simple measures of our resolve to do the right thing, even in the face of our own participation in evil. If we then fail at those simple measures of resolve, we are probably failing all around in every regard that truly matters, because "the right thing" at that point is no longer perceptible in our thinking or in our actions.

I suggest two simple measures of our resolve to do the right thing:

First, if an Afghan female ever escapes to the sanctuary of a U.S. military camp and there asks for asylum, she should be granted permanent irrevocable asylum without question and without delay, and should then be evacuated to the U.S. without prior approval from the Afghanistan government. Once the female arrives in the U.S., she should be given a new identity, and should be safely sheltered, cared for, and educated in preparation for her new life as an American citizen.

Second, every year on Good Friday, one U.S. combat veteran should be released from prison in every state in the nation with a presidential pardon and with sufficient resources to successfully reintegrate into American society. Yes, I mean let 50 prisoners who once served our nation honorably during combat go free — and do that every year!

Both of my "simple measures of resolve to do the right thing" are simple. Yet I doubt we have the resolve to do either one of them.

Regarding the war in Afghanistan, I assert that: 1) sending U.S. troops into Afghanistan by commercial air is wrong and against The Geneva Conventions because doing so invites terrorism that endangers civilians, 2) it is against the U.S. Constitution to send State National Guard troops to Afghanistan, 3) the U.S. Congress and the State governors are failing to perform their constitutional duties regarding the National Guard, and 4) the war in Afghanistan is constitutionally illegal.

I explain my assertions at:

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Isaiah 45:5-7 (American Standard Version)

I am Jehovah, and there is none else; besides me there is no God. I will gird thee, though thou hast not known me; that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none besides me: I am Jehovah, and there is none else.

I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil. I am Jehovah, that doeth all these things.

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God help us. Amen

Steven A. Sylwester

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Overcriminalization: Attacking a Dangerous Precedent

Posted February 4th, 2011 at 5:00pm in Rule of Law


Steven A. Sylwester, Eugene, Oregon on at said:

Maintaining the presumption of innocence until guilt can be proven is essential to American criminal justice. It helps to remember Blackstone’s formulation: “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” Perspective is everything.

The English jurist William Blackstone, who authored his formulation in his “Commentaries on the Laws of England” (1760s), hearkened back to Abraham’s negotiation with God concerning the fate of Sodom (Genesis 18:22-33). The formulation does not describe forgiveness, nor does it recommend lackadaisical jurisprudence. Rather, it struggles to balance the need for law and order with a plain recognition of the human condition, for as Saint Paul observed: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

I would go one more step — an afterwards step. American criminal justice needs to be tempered by the following Bible story about the woman caught in adultery:

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
(John 8:2-11)

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The most telling words in that story are these: “… those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, …” Yes, the older ones first. One must ask: Are the older ones among us leading the way in 2011? And are the younger ones following? It seems to me a Dubious Achievement Award should be given out as needed in America today, that being a T-shirt emblazoned: I THREW THE FIRST STONE.

I wrote a long comment to “A SALUTE TO OUR VETERANS” by Mike Huckabee at: http://www.huckpac.com/index.cfm?Fuseaction=Blogs.View&Blog_id=3305

The following excerpt from that comment is appropriate here:

And so I offer the following four suggestions on this Veteran’s Day.

1. On the Fourth of July every year, the President of the United States should pardon fifty federal prisoners (one for every State in the Union) who are U.S. military combat veterans, and should grant each of the pardoned veterans the resources necessary to again become productive citizens. Why do it? Contemplate Mark 15:1-15 and then ask yourself this: If the Roman rulers in Jerusalem in Jesus’ time were willing to release one prisoner every year at the Feast, even someone guilty of insurrection and murder such as Barabbas, then why cannot the U.S. president pardon and release select federal prisoners who at an earlier time in their lives served honorably to preserve our nation’s liberty as American troops in combat? Many veterans have suffered their whole lives after leaving the military because of the horrors they endured in combat, and too often that suffering has led to crime and prison. What I propose would force us as a nation to own our responsibility for the aftermath of war, and it would also create hope for many veterans who now deserve a second chance at becoming productive citizens.

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What is justice? I do not know the answer to that question in every case, but I do know I would rather be among the first who “began to go away” than be among the last. A person should know his/her sin, and society must protect itself from those who are dangerous. But much more often than not, the answer to the question “What is justice?” is just one word: forgiveness.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2) Therefore, regarding my proposal to grant presidential pardons every Fourth of July to fifty federal prisoners who are U.S. military combat veterans, let the advisory panel for the president be comprised of peers of the prisoners, that is: former brothers and sisters in arms — decorated U.S. military combat veterans. They will know whom to bless. Trust them.

Steven A. Sylwester