Monday, April 20, 2009

This Enlightened Mirror: Voltaire, 1777

The Obama Administration is apparently trying to restore a healthier legal balance in the land of the free, home of the brave. Despite notorious resistance from Fox & Hound blowhards and Palinest-Huckabee imbeciles, Obama's approach actually seems pretty similar to that advocated by Voltaire in 1777.

Unlike the laws of nature . . . the laws of man are mutable and flawed. Often devised by the strong as the means of oppressing the weak, they should be reformed to protect the weak and inhibit the strong. . .

[C]ease arbitrary imprisonment . . .; abolish interrogation under torture; open trial proceedings to the public; secure the rights of the defendant to a fair trial, including proper cross-questioning; conduct a thorough investigation of motive . . .; punish in due proportion to the crime; improve prison conditions; end the death penalty; seek to prevent crime by more efficient deterrents and by eliminating the conditions that foster it . . . (Roger Pearson, Voltaire Almighty: A Life in Pursuit of Freedom, 2005, pages 366-367).

Voltaire, a man who because of his writings knew a lot about harassment and exile, became increasingly disturbed throughout his life by incidents of government torture, coercion, and execution. In eighteenth century France, he defended the rights of oft-persecuted minority Huguenots; today's closest equivalent would be LGBT rights and the legal enemy would also be the same: ignorance and religion-inspired intolerance.

I'm happy to report also that before Voltaire died in 1778, he was also able to meet Ben Franklin in Paris -- during the American Revolution. These dudes still seem ahead of our time, let alone theirs.

Today's Rune: The Self.


the walking man said...

Let's not forget the American Voltaire...Thomas Paine.

nunya said...

Man I hope DiFi doesn't cave on the investigations. Let's keep our fingers crossed, eh?

Mark Krone said...


Sometimes the magic of technology actually feels like magic. You are in San Antonio sending back delightful travel notes to your blog and I am reading them and taking another sip of coffee in an old room inside the Boston Public Library with maps on the wall.

I love Amtrak the way I love my oldest brother -- I wish I could make him run better but I can't.

I once took a bus from Austin to San Antonio. When we boarded in Austin, an elderly man in a cowboy hat bumped his head and said, "I almost broke my thinker!" I loved that. I like the way Texans use English like bread doe, stretching it in every direction and making it into something related but different.

Your "Fox and Hounds" crowd and "Palinist imbeciles" made me laugh out loud. Stop it! This is a library. Have fun.