Monday, January 24, 2011

Bleeding Hearts and Iron Fists

       Looking around Hollywood you get a fairly decent picture of everything that is wrong with this country.  Not that I want to pin America's social ills on the entertainment industry, but Hollywood is a grotesque (as in distorted) microcosm of American culture.  You've got the glitz and the glamor of the walk of fame and the Kodak theater (home of the Academy Awards) next to the shamelessly prevalent strip joints, night clubs, and liquor advertisements.  The billboards are gigantic.  The lights flash constantly. 
     And the people - well you've got the girls who dress in 7 inch heels with 7 inch skirts, the guys who wander around boisterously yelling at the girls; you've got the drug addicts and sellers surreptitiously lurking in sketchy allies; you've got homeless men and women trying to rest their tired bones on cracked concrete sidewalks; and you've got the concerned believers trying to save them all with fear of damnation. 
     It's easy to look around and feel terrible for all the social injustice in the world, to feel sorry for the drunks and the drug addicts, to feel pity for the homeless.  It can also be easy to look at all the social wrongs and get angry, to get frustrated with the prominence of sexuality in advertising, to get aggravated with the people who seemingly won't take control of their own lives. 
     No matter your reaction, the question remains - can we fix America?  Which reaction is better?  A bleeding heart or an iron fist?  Do we seek mercy or justice? 
     The answer, of course, is a balance of the two.  We cannot look at them as opposite impulses.
Mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution; and justice without mercy is cruelty.
St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Thomas Aquinas basically summed it up in this system of equations: 
     Mercy - Justice = Dissolution
     Justice - Mercy = Cruelty
What do you get when you add them together, though?  In my humble estimation,
     Mercy + Justice = Love
     The best way to begin thinking about America's, and the world's, social wrongs is with love.  Love is constructive instead of destructive; it builds up rather than degrades.  And not only do we need to think about people with love, but also our country if it is to change.  I love America.  I love our tradition and our ideals, but I am not blind to the cracks in our bells of liberty.
     For more about the coextensive nature of justice and mercy, check this article out: Justice and Mercy.

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