To: Joshua Heath, Jan. 30, 2018
I have been reading your contributions to The Signal since your first letter, sometimes with incredulity, sometimes with laughter, but always by giving thought to what you say. I am worried that your ideas and understanding of how the world works might be widespread within your generation.
It is obvious that you want to be a student of history and that you have a great desire to make everything right, good, and fair for all people. (And, I expect, for plants and animals, as well.) A love of words and a respect for the power for good and evil that they carry is one of the most important gifts your education can give you. Know that words have been important to people since they were first beginning to be written down, and likely long, long before that. Important, for instance, to the Old Testament prophet and poet, Isaiah, whom President Kennedy was quoting. (Isaiah 58:6)
If you want to write the “Great American Law,” you know that you must first study what thought has gone into the body of existing laws, and why simply passing a law doesn’t make all things thereafter “right.” My friend, Katie, was not killed because breathalyzer technology wasn’t installed in the other driver’s car. It is beside the point that any such technology can be thwarted; that crash occurred because a person with freedom of choice made a bad choice. That will always be a possibility as long as we live under the best of all available nation experiments – a government of citizen participants that allows as much unfettered freedom as we can bear. Instead of writing more laws, you could be the great future leader who develops a legislative method to reduce the verbiage of existing laws such that all can clearly understand their meaning and purpose, that legislator who teaches his peers how to keep loopholes and exceptions out of the law.
If you want to write the Great American Law, study the document upon which all our important laws have always been grounded. It is not only a compilation of the greatest inspired thinking we have been handed from the most ancient authors, but it is also a tough-to-study guide to law. It is written in allegory, boring lists, symbolism, life experiences, and poetry, but with great ideas buried deep within those passages. They lay out a historical pattern of good and bad those who don’t study it repeat.
You are namesake of another great historical leader, inspired prophet, and pretty good wordsmith, who stated a number of fundamental measurements of character. One of them was,
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom you will serve; …but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15). That was in essence the announcement our founding fathers made to the rest of the world, and for most of our (relatively short) history, it guided our lawmakers. Not so much today.
Returning to the thought that people break laws because they have not developed an understanding of how law binds our society together and can protect all with indifference; when not understood by those authorized to enforce it, as well as those of us who ignore it, we get today’s unrest and crime. If educators taught correct principles instead of personal opinion and their hate for opposing ideas, most people would grow up governing themselves with equity, empathy, and respect.
Chuck Byers is a Santa Clarita resident.