Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Thoughts On... Principles

"Principles only mean something when you stick to them when its inconvenient."
- Author Unknown

Last night, I watched a movie that a friend of mine recommended to me awhile ago called, Unthinkable. The movie itself is a fascinating and engrossing suspense thriller that covers a wide variety of politically charged topics. What I found most interesting was its exploration of American societal principles in the face of threats and dangers. The bulk of the movie deals with the EXTREME interrogation of an American Muslim who planted three nuclear bombs in three U.S. cities. As time runs out on the bombs, the interrogation becomes more extreme, going beyond physical torture of the man to torturing the people he cares about.

In the U.S., it is believed that everyone has rights. Even those people who have committed crimes have rights, granted some of their rights are taken away as punishment for their crimes, but they still have certain core rights. The movie raises the question of what happens when the criminal threatens millions of lives? In the case of the movie, does that justify torture methodologies like amputation of fingers, electrocution, or water boarding? What about torturing the people the criminal cares for? The criminal's wife or children? Does such a widespread threat where in the best case hundreds of thousands of people (in the worst case millions) die justify removing the rights of one individual? If so, what about two? In the context of the movie, does the threat to millions of people justify the murder of the wife of the criminal responsible for that threat? What about the criminal's children?

These are very tough questions to answer. And you have to consider the millions of people whose lives are in the balance. Not just the victims, but also their families and friends.

The dictionary defines "principle" as, 1) a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption, 2) a rule or code of conduct. And in MY code of conduct, my personal set of rules that I try to live by, I believe the quote at the top of this posting. It's when you're at your worst that you know what you truly believe in. And those beliefs, those principles, they are the framework you build your life around. You live by them, and yes, if necessary, you die by them.

1 comment:

  1. The American justice system has always been based on the belief that your rights as an individual pretty much end when the rights of a larger majority are put in jeopardy due to the consequences of your actions. It's the classic "shouting FIRE in a crowded theater" example. Your right to free speech in shouting "FIRE" where there is none ends the moments the lives of those people in the theater who panic to rush out are put in danger.

    So, for me, the scenario you describe isn't as dire or problematic as it's made out to be. The precedent for how the justice system deals with this has already been set.

    Plus . . . Jack Bauer already covered this scenario AT LEAST twice on 24. I can't believe a new movie exists that treads on such old territory.

    Speaking of which, I did hear of Unthinkable from a friend who highly recommended it to me. His selling point: "Okay, think of Sam Jackson as a black Jack Bauer . . ."

    That was all I needed to hear. I have it on my PC now, but have not managed to watch it yet.