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World Justice and Flag-Waving

January 06, 2002

Re "Stop the Violence; Kids Are Watching," Commentary, Dec. 16:

One of the most important traits of an educated person is the ability to draw distinctions between things that appear similar but are truly different. If an educator cannot distinguish between flag-wavers and gangsters flashing gang signs, I wonder what qualifies author Adrienne Hurley of UC Irvine to instruct incarcerated youth about the role of a government charged by its electorate to provide equality and justice for its citizens.

The thought that anyone could drag Osama bin Laden into court through some kind of international process as our government would use to extradite an accused criminal is another distinction a person acquainted with history would be able to make. Courts and their authority are hardly effective in societies where men put themselves above the law of nations.

Just think how nice the world would be if we could have subpoenaed former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to appear at The Hague to answer the charges of genocide leveled against him. Is Milosevic now in The Hague awaiting trial because he was nice enough to allow himself to be arrested? For years, he thumbed his nose at the international calls for peace, while his henchman systematically stripped villages of their men by slaughtering them like livestock. What international court could call him into account? When leaders don't respect the authority of a law higher than themselves, it's impossible unless done so by force. History repeatedly bears witness to this sad truth.

So what do we teach young men who flash gang signs as a symbol of recognition into a subsociety that prides itself on creating its own laws? I would teach them that our country is a nation of laws. I would teach them that participation in a violent gang is tantamount to urban terrorism and that a country of law-abiding citizens cannot tolerate those who engage in such activities. I would teach them that respecting yourself and the rights of others is the cornerstone of a nonviolent life. I would also teach them that these values are worth defending at any cost, and for that I wave my flag.

John R. DeSimone

Placentia

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