Judge not. It’s good policy.

To Jeff Jacoby:

You asked in your column today, ”Are human rights still a Democratic priority.” But I don’t think that is what you meant. I think you meant “Is criticizing the human rights policies of China and other countries and voicing  judgment over them still a Democratic priority?” There is little indication that human rights in China is advanced through our passing judgment and our voicing of criticism; and so I don’t think you are really focused on improving the situation in China.

I ask you, in turn, a different question. “Do you really believe that the US will improve its peace and prosperity by actively criticizing what we dislike most about other countries and making it the centerpiece of our foreign policy?” Perhaps you believe that a judging and self-righteous attitude by our government promotes freedom, democracy, peace and prosperity. I hope that you are wiser than that.

Judgment of others is easy and may sometimes feel nourishing. It can help people and countries to avoid focusing on their own limitations and  failures to live up to their own ideals. But it is a distraction, and it often causes harm. This is not to say that we should not support what we believe in.  Rather, it is to say that criticism of others is not the same as supporting one’s ideals.

I’ll end this post with some quotes about “judgment”, including three by past U.S. Presidents.

  • “We shall be judged more by what we do at home than what we preach abroad.” John F. Kennedy.
  • “One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty councils. The thing to do is to supply light and not heat.” Woodrow Wilson.
  • “Enthusiasm for a cause sometimes warps judgment.” William Howard Taft.
  • “It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.” Mohandis Gandhi
  • “Do not condemn the judgment of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong.” Anonymous.

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