Almost exactly eleven yeas before Germany began World War II by invading Poland, her government, along with the governments of the United States, France, Britain, Italy, Japan and a number of other nations signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact outlawing war. Italy and Japan joined Germany in declaring war on the Allied nations.
You cannot outlaw war. You cannot outlaw evil. And much as we’ve tried, laws cannot succeed in banning human cruelty. To be sure, they can increase its cost, hence the need for laws punishing such crimes as rape and other assaults, invasion of privacy and murder. Once those laws are in place, we need make sure they are enforced. More laws will not necessarily make future generations any more secure.
And it seems that whenever we hear a story that moves all of us, about the beating death of a young child or the suicide of a gay teen, various advocacy groups rush to advocate for more laws.
The problem, however, may not be the inadequacy of the laws on the books, but the cruelty of the perpetrators.
Some gay groups seem to think that additional anti-bullying policies might have prevented Tyler Clementi’s roommate from recording the young man’s private activities. Earlier today, I received an e-mail from the folks at California Faith for Equality (CFE) urging people, among other things, to “Organize . . . turn your anger and grief into actions to improve anti-bullying practices in local classrooms, campuses and transform our congregations into accessible networks of safe spaces.” While well-meaning, I’m not sure such practices will make much of a difference.
That said, creating an “accessible network of safe spaces” could well help young people looking for support.
It seems that the “gay rights’ paradigm” involves pushing for new laws or policies every time we hear of a terrible story like that which took place last month in New Jersey.
But, when there are laws on the books punishing such crimes, it’s time we consider other means to respond to such situations. Laws aren’t always the answer. To their credit, the folks at CFE do not limit themselves to proposing new policies.
Perhaps, we can learn from history. If instead of relying on a treaty banning war, the United States, United Kingdom and France and worked hard developing a deterrent, they would not have faced German belligerence in the 1930s. So, now the only question is determining an appropriate deterrent against bullying and invasions of privacy.