This Country and Vigilante Violence
Our country has a long and dark history regarding vigilante “justice” that includes lynching. At the moment we have a President and certain TV personalities who appear to endorse vigilante violence while many, including the other major Presidential candidate, condemn it.
There is a scene in a movie, “The Oxbow Incident,” where Henry Fonda’s character reads a letter that the vigilantes let an innocent man they were about to lynch write to his family before they murdered him. The words are heartbreaking and timeless.
“I suppose there’s some good men here too, but they don’t appear to know what they’re doing. Men can’t take the law into their own hands because then they are not just breaking one law but all laws. Law is a lot more than words you put in a book or judges or lawyers or sheriffs you hire to carry it out. It’s everything people have ever found out about justice and what’s right and wrong. It’s the very conscience of humanity. Civilization cannot exist unless people have a conscience. Because if people touch God anywhere it is through their conscience. And what is anybody’s conscience except a little piece of the conscience of everyone who has ever lived?”
Among Dr. Martin Luther King's words inscribed on the monument honoring him built around the reflecting pond of this nation are these: "We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience."