Jewish World Review Sept. 21, 2004 / 6 Tishrei 5765
The Left thinks legally, the Right thinks morally
To understand the worldwide ideological battle especially the one between America and Western Europe and within America itself one must understand the vast differences between leftist and rightist worldviews and between secular and religious (specifically Judeo-Christian) values.
One of the most important of these differences is their attitudes toward law. Generally speaking, the Left and the secularists venerate, if not worship, law. They put their faith in law both national and international. Law is the supreme good. For most on the Left, "Is it legal?" is usually the question that determines whether an action is right or wrong.
Take the war in Iraq. The chief leftist argument against the war before it began, not later when no weapons of mass destruction were found was that without U.N. sanction, attacking Iraq violated international law.
Whatever their feelings about George W. Bush or about attacking Iraq, for most of those on the Left, the rightness or wrongness of toppling Saddam Hussein's regime was determined by its legality (i.e., whether it was authorized by the U.N. Security Council). On the other hand, for those who supported attacking Iraq, whether the war was deemed legal played no role in their assessment of its rightness or wrongness. To those who supported removing Saddam Hussein by force, if the United Nations did not authorize it, it was a reflection on the morality of the United Nations, not the morality of the war.
International law thus provides a clear example of the Left-Right divide. To the Left, an international action is right if nations such as China, Russia, France and Syria vote for it, and wrong if they vote against it. To the Right and to the religious, an action is good (or bad) irrespective of the votes of the world's nations. They judge it by a code of morality higher than international law.
To cite one other contemporary example, the Left throughout the world opposed Israel's 1981 air strike razing Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor, thereby destroying his ability to manufacture nuclear weapons. Among major American newspapers, only the conservative Wall Street Journal supported the strike along with various religious Jewish and Christian groups. From The New York Times to Le Monde to your local university, there was outrage that Israel had acted against international law. It meant nothing to their judgment of Israel's action that the leading mass murderer of the time had his nuclear weapons facility destroyed with the loss of but one life. All that mattered was that it was illegal.
To the Left, legality matters most, while to the Right, legality matters far less than morality. To the Right and to the religious, the law, when it is doing its job, is only a vehicle to morality, never a moral end in itself. Even the Left has to acknowledge this. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Ala., bus in 1955, she violated the law. Therefore, anyone who thinks she did the right thing is acknowledging that law must be subservient to morality. Why, then, must the overthrowing of Saddam Hussein be subject to international law as determined by Communist China, neo-KGB Russia, amoral France and the thugs who rule Syria?
The answer is to be found in the Left's substitution of legal for moral.
And why is the Left so enamored of law?
First, the Left, which is largely secular, regards morality not as absolute, but as relative. This inevitably leads to moral confusion, and no one likes to be morally confused. So instead of moral absolutes, the Left holds legal absolutes. "Legal" for the Left is what "moral" is for the Right. The religious have a belief in G-d-based moral law, and the Left believes in man-made law as the moral law.
Second, whereas they cannot change G-d's laws, those on the Left can and do make many of society's laws. In fact, the Left is intoxicated with law-making. It gives them the power to mold society just as Judeo-Christian values did in the past. Unless one understands that leftist ideals function as a religion, one cannot understand the Left.
Laws are the Left's vehicles to earthly salvation. Virtually all human problems have a legal solution.
Some men harass women? Pass laws banning virtually every flirtatious action a man might engage in vis a vis a woman. Flood legislatures with laws preventing the creation of a "hostile work environment." Whereas the religious world has always worked to teach men how to act toward women, the secular world, lacking these religious values, passes laws to control men.
In fact, since it lacks the self-control apparatus that is a major part of religion, the Left passes more and more laws to control people. That is why there is a direct link between the decline in Judeo-Christian religion and the increase in governmental laws controlling human behavior.
Of course, the more laws that are passed, the less liberty society enjoys. But to the Left, which elevates any number of values above liberty e.g., compassion, equality, fairness this presents little problem.
All this helps to explain the Left's preoccupation with controlling courts; passing laws; producing, enriching and empowering lawyers; filing lawsuits; and naming judges. Laws and the makers of laws will produce heaven on earth.
And that's one reason the Left hates the America represented by George W. Bush. This country under this president says morality is higher than man-made law. To the Left, that, not Saddam Hussein's torture and rape rooms, must be fought.
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JWR contributor Dennis Prager hosts a national daily radio show based in Los Angeles. He the author of, most recently, "Happiness is a Serious Problem". Click here to comment on this column.
ARCHIVES © 2004, Creators Syndicate