When Is a Minl Not a Mile? When Is a Terrorist Not a Terrorist?
by Ben Kinchlow

What is a mile? And when is a mile not a mile? In the Roman Empire, a mile was known as "mille pasuum", which is Latin for "a thousand paces". (A pace at that time consisted of five "sandal-shod" Roman feet). Using a simple calculator, we deduce that the Romans considered five thousand feet as one mile. No problem, because the world, and especially Rome, was judged by a single standard, "Pax Romano". Every measurement, every law, every judgment was according to the same standard, which did not vary by province, country, or continent. This was enforced by the Roman Legions.

When Rome, which ruled Britain, collapsed, the Britons were left with the Roman mile, 5,000 feet, as well as their own agricultural measurement, a furlong, used to measure farmers' fields for the purpose of recording deeds and other legal transactions. A furlong was based on the distance a horse could pull a plow in a straight line before it needed to rest, about 660 feet. Question? how do you convert furlongs to miles? Easy? you take 8 furlongs (5,280 feet) and make it a mile. If the British chose the Roman standard, the farmer lost 280 feet, so, not surprisingly, they created their own standard.

So when is the mile not a mile? When there are no standards. If a mile is 5,280 feet in England, 5,000 feet in Rome, 6,233 in America (American is bigger!), one could never agree on the meaning of a mile. Individuals would adopt the standard best suiting them. I, for example, would always choose the "American mile" when buying, the "Roman mile" when selling.

Without standards, there is inherent conflict. Here's an example. Recently, a TV talk show host was extremely exercised in his defense of the right to freely practice homosexuality as a civil liberty. He was, however, equally vociferous in his condemnation of the Catholic Church for allowing priests to practice homosexuality. When is homosexuality not wrong? When it's without a clerical collar? Or is it always wrong? This same host was properly incensed over the disappearance and possible death of a young girl in the Florida Social Services system, yet he was equally adamant that women should be allowed to exercise their pro-choice option of abortion. When is it wrong for a child to be murdered? Outside the womb, or inside the womb? Or never?

Simply stated, standards provide clear-cut absolutes that transcend time, culture, gender, and language. Without standards, nothing really makes sense.

The problem with standards, however, is the requirement that all who acknowledge them submit themselves to these standards. In Europe, kilometers are the order of the day, in America, miles. In America we drive on the right. In many European countries, they drive on the left. Refusal to adhere to these local standards would be disastrous.

There is a reason many are concerned that our society is coming apart at the seams. That reason? We have abrogated absolutes. We have slipped the standards. We have rejected the means of judging and establishing moral clarity. "Moral relevance" is the order of the day. "Moral equivalence" determines whether or not an act is terror, or self-defense.

When is murder, murder? When an innocent dies as the result of a deliberate act of violence perpetrated by another human being, that is murder. However, clothe that act with the political rhetoric of "moral equivalency" and you change the equation. From this perspective, a terrorist who kills in the Congo, Bosnia, Egypt, Israel, or New York City, assumes the guise of a "desperate freedom fighter", and becomes not a murderer, but a hero.

Without standards, the end justifies the means? always.

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