F. X. Turk · @Frank_Turk

28th Apr 2016 from TwitLonger

@StephenGutowski @popehat Mistaking the Punisher as Moral

Hi guys -- as a fan of both of you, Marvel Comics, the Daredevil series on Netflix, gun ownership rights, and moral political thinking, I have to draw the line at the recent NR piece by Stephen which described Frank Castle as "Daredevil's most moral character."

First, let me put all the right warning labels on this reply:
- I think it's possible to cut Frank Castle as the most sympathetic character in the DD TV-verse because he's the one who has suffered the most loss physically, professionally, emotionally, and personally. The narrative "why" behind what he does is way more comprehensive than the motives for Matt or Electra, and on-par with the motives behind my favorite character on the show - Wilson Fisk. If understanding "why" someone does something makes good TV, Castle and Fisk are the ones we know the most about, and therefore we sympathize with them the most.
- I think it is also possible to cut him as a victim who has no choices left but ultra-violence. But let's be careful when we do this because this path leads to things I think none of us would endorse.

That said, is Frank Castle morally justified /inside the bounds of the world he is placed/ to be an ultraviolent vigilante? You have said yes -- because there is no system of justice to appeal to. In a world where the way government is executed is utterly corrupt and at the same time the mechanisms for gaining justice are utterly shrouded in unknowns (and my in fact be unobtainable), it seems to be your view that the individual is then morally obligated to take matters into his own hands.

I'm going to make an appeal here which I think will be lost on most people but maybe not on you: there is no way that's a philosophy which grew up in Western Civilization because our system of ethics is based on the Bible, not on some other system of thinking about the world where the individual is the chiefest judge of what's right. In our way of seeing it, the individual owes a moral duty to God in all things, including (and especially) justice. To that end, the individual is not tasked with deciding what is right and wrong and then carrying out the sentence -- even in the worst of circumstances. The individual is tasked to appeal to the motive of the governing authority to put the fear of God into the evildoer (cf. Romans 13). Even when the government is corrupt, the individual is not tasked to take up matters into his own hands.

This is the gigantic flaw in Frank Castle, and Matt Murdock, and a long line of vigilantes stringing back to the High Plains Drifter and probably farther back than that: the failure to understand that vigilantism is actually a violation of the order of society which God ordains.

Now, this view of it also has some problems, the chief of which between guys like us is the American Revolution. How is it that we can justify the American Revolution if we abide by an ethic that says we owe a duty to the God-ordained order of things? Isn't Frank Castle like the Founding Fathers in that he is facing powers which, frankly, will never give him justice and never treat him with human dignity?

The Founding Fathers would say it this way (in fact, they did):

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

And then further down they say:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

That last clause being the key difference between Frank Castle and Thomas Paine: Castle just wants to kill all of the criminals who have wronged him; the Founding Fathers want to rather throw off a corrupt government and put on a new one in which Despotism is removed and a "new guard" is provided.

Frank Castle, frankly, is not a sufficient new guard. He's not really much better than those he is murdering for at least three reasons: he thinks his authority to do as he pleases is absolute; he thinks that the means he can or should use are completely justified by that authority; and he is not seeking to make others safe by any means at all but rather only to extract vengeance.

In this, we need to make sure we aren't using Action Movies to describe our political objectives. Just because we seem to enjoy the use of giant-caliber automatic weapons and precision marksmanship as a spectacle to execute justice against mystic ninjas and racist stereotypes of white gangsters (think about this for a second: if the degree of racism used to invent the Irish gangs in DD S2 was used to describe a terror cell of ISIS fighters in Hell's Kitchen, would that series ever see the light of day?). We are, at the end of it, as conservatives, conserving more than just physical objects like guns and money: we are trying to preserve a way of life which, at its foundation, is based on the idea that there are decrees which come first, words which matter most, and a moral duty to a higher order than what seems right to us in the heat of the moment.

And that is, of course, why Donald Trump is the worst possible President, but that's for another day ...

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