As someone who loves history I often come across an opportunity to stand in judgement. It's so easy to point to this group or that group in the past and label them cruel and barbaric.
However I think it's foolish to judge in retrospect. I think during an era, the people living in that era can only access the subjectiveness of that particular time and place and don't have the luxury that we have of seeing the world through the subjective view of a more enlightened time.
Many of the Torahs laws seem to reflect actions which to a man of 2012 might seem backward. But the Torah was written for all generations and so if in a certain generation it might perfectly natural then it too must be legislated.
To take this to an opposite extreme, I have a hard time judging those of a bygone era that were terrible to Jews.
Imagine you're a poor peasant living in the dark ages. Life is very scary. Plagues, infant mortality, poverty and invading armies. It's a superstitious time. There's no science so everything is explained through supernatural forces. You believe with all your heart and soul in your religion. And living in your town are these strange people whose ancestors killed your god. Who am I to judge? It's all about subjective perspective.
Likewise, I believe that there will come a time when America will be judged harshly.
That's right, we Americans of today will be called cruel by a more sensitive and enlightened generation.
I think the American Judicial system is a nightmare.
People will have a hard time believing that for a financial crime a person could be locked up for 30-40-50 years!
If you think about it, it really is barbaric, but we don't think about it because we're living it and so it's just natural.
In the Torah if someone steals money it must be repaid and sometimes with added financial consequences. But to be removed from your life for decades??
It's your subjective reality but in someone else's subjective reality it's cruelty.
I think our love of gossip and TV shows whose ratings are fueled by the humiliation and misfortune of others will be viewed the same way we look back at the Romans gladiator games. After all, they were the most enlightened civilization the world had ever known.
Millions of Americans sit down each night and laugh as people make fools of themselves or find themselves in unfortunate situations. After all we are the most enlightened civilization the world has ever known.
This is just scratching the surface but I'm just trying to paint a stark picture of how warped and tainted our view of reality. How difficult it is to truly see things as they are when you're stuck inside the subjectiveness of the present time and place.