Prayers of the Rational

You know that scene in The Verdict where Paul Newman gives his closing argument? Some folks at Florida State University stole a transcript of it from, and then the latter folks let their link go 404, so I’m going to steal it again and present it to you:

So much of the time we’re just lost. We say, “Please God, tell us what is right — tell us what is true. When there is no justice, the rich win, and the poor are powerless.”

We become tired of hearing people lie — and after a time we become dead — a little dead. We think of ourselves as victims and we become victims. We become — we become weak. We doubt ourselves. We doubt our beliefs. We doubt our institutions and . . . we doubt the law. But today, you are the law. You are the law. Not some book. Not the lawyers. Not a marble statue or the trappings of the court. Those are just symbols of our desire to be just. They are, in fact, a prayer — a fervent and a frightened prayer. In my religion, they say act as if ye had faith, and faith will be given to you. If we are to have faith and justice, we only need to believe in ourselves and act with justice. See . . . I believe there is justice in our hearts.

I’m reminded of that speech by the following two items I’ve read in the last few days, in which concerned citizens go out of their way to make a rational, unbiased case against voting for Bush (in the first case) and in favor of voting for Kerry (in the second case). Both authors present powerful arguments that I by-and-large agree with. But it’s not so much the arguments that I’m struck by. It’s the act of making them.

In a country where the kind of lies represented by the Swift boat ads can apparently be effective with a sizable chunk of the electorate, and people base their voting decisions on things like the weather (as described in that Menand piece I linked to this morning), merely being willing to invest the effort to make a rational case is impressive, I think. It amounts to a “fervent and frightened prayer,” in screenwriter David Mamet’s phrase, a prayer that the electorate will, in fact, behave rationally.

Anyway, from Publius of Law and Politics: The case against Bush — Part 1, the War on Terror. And from Scott Forbes of A Yank in Oz, as guest-blogged at Donald Sensing’s One Hand Clapping: The case for Kerry.


One Response to “Prayers of the Rational”

  1. StopTheLiberalLie Says:

    All this blather about bush and not one definative QUOTATION of Bush demonstrated to be a lie.

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