I appreciate Lenore Hirsch's response to my letter on equality under the law and giving us all a short history of our immigration policies over the years (“Empathy for immigrants should be our birthright,” Jan. 26).

But her statement that I am “questioning how so many Americans can empathize with illegal immigrants might be answered by a quick review of immigration history in this country" really had no bearing on my letter. My letter was not about "empathy" for illegal immigrants. It was about equality under the law.

I have tremendous empathy for those coming across our southern border, trying to escape the corrupt Mexican government and its class society to provide a better life for their families. I have empathy for them risking their lives to come from a country ruled as much by drug cartels as politicians in Mexico City.

But does my empathy trump our immigration laws? No pun intended.

For example: Does my empathy for the terrible upbringing of a child mean they should not be convicted of a terrible crime they have committed as an adult and let go? I don't think so but it's up to the jury and judge to pass sentence under the law -- Sometimes making the punishment less severe, but, some form of punishment nonetheless.

I'm not talking about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients here who didn't break any laws in my opinion. But their parents did.

Having said that, it was her last paragraph that caught my eye. She wrote, " But above all the constructs of law and order, there is a higher level of principle called morality, humanity, and empathy."

Let's take that statement apart. According to the Collins Dictionary: "Morality is a system of principles and values concerning people's behavior, which is generally accepted by a society or by a particular group of people."

In a secular society morality is defined by the majority. Southerners thought morality included owning slaves. In Nazi Germany, morality was believing Jews were an inferior race. What may be "moral" for me may not be moral for you. I have heard that phrase from liberals for years. Morality can be subjective in a secular society.

From the same dictionary: "A person's humanity is their state of being a human being, rather than an animal or an object. Humanity is the quality of being kind, thoughtful, and sympathetic toward others."

I imagine the second definition was what Lenore was thinking when she used the term. But what is it to be human? Some think being human means gaining power over their circumstances. Survival of the fittest.

Others, I imagine like Lenore, think it's acting in a "humane" way. But that again relies on what they think is humane. Again, it could very well be a subjective term.

And last, but not least: Empathy is the “projection of one's own personality into the personality of another in order to understand the person better."

This happens to all of us. Putting our own beliefs into another person, thinking that will make us understand them better. Doesn't always work. It, like the terms above, can be misleading. Subjective if you will.

So to finish from the dictionary again: "The law is a system of rules that a society or government develops in order to deal with crime, business agreements, and social relationships."

Do I think there are "immoral" laws in this country? Inhumane laws? I do, but there are only two choices I have to deal with them. Try to change them through legislation or disobey them and suffer the consequences.

Terms like morality, humanity and empathy in a secular society can rest precariously on a sliding scale. But the law is the law. It's written in stone, so to speak, and those who break it need to be prepared to suffer the consequences no matter how much empathy we have for them.

Lenore may think that harsh, but our founders created a government where justice under the law should be blind for a reason. To keep anarchy at bay and preserve our union. To create equality under the law.

E pluribus unum.

Kent Cohea

Napa

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