Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Rule of Law

There is a lot of controversy regarding the Separation of Church and State, and the religious right, at least the far right elements, seem determined to remold our views of history to match their determination to overturn our Constitutional legal system in favor of a theocracy.

But what does that mean?  What would be the consequences of changing this country's legal system from its current basic dependence on written rules to a system of government based on the rules of a theocracy ruled by a very few men who have the power to interpret the rules of their holy books by mere whim?

The Constitution was written by men who had lived through decades of autocratic rule by feudal lords with virtual unlimited power over the common citizen - lords of both secular and theocratic power - often combined in a single very powerful man.  The feudal system had held sway over Europe for over a thousand years, and had proven itself to be a system tied to the whim of the royal families who controlled the highest reins of power.   Families who were so interbred by the eighteenth century that genetic disease and mental illness was a common problem, and was often at the root of power struggles, war and inter familial strife.

So when the opportunity came to mold a new system of government, they leaped at the chance to do something radically new, something that hadn't been tried in Europe for over two thousand years, and indeed, in the form they eventually built, had never really been tried at all.

Let's kind of tiptoe past the Articles of Confederation - they were a first attempt, a brave one - but one which failed miserably.  The second try was our familiar Constitution, the one with no dependence on the divine favor of a heavenly deity for its authority, but one which explicitly takes its authority from the collective will of the people of this country upon which to base the foundation of governmental authority to govern.

For the first time, really, a government's authority to rule was based on the broad base of the goodwill of the whole of a population - from the lowest to the highest, instead of the past practice of top down authoritarianism.  Which means that the few had to go to the many for permission to change the rules.

But, in a theocracy, the rules, while having been written down for 1600 years or so, are notoriously open to interpretation.  No matter how repressive, no matter how much the one "authority" may term itself as the one and only "true" authority of god on earth, we all know how that ends up working out, don't we? After all, we've got numerous examples of how such top down authoritarian regimes have worked out in the past, and they all end up dissolving into factions, squabbling over details and fighting over power.

And while all that is happening, the common folk suffer.  They suffer because in such a regime, there are no rules of law.  Every law, no matter how rigorously enforced by the powers in charge, inevitably end up being suspended for the convenience of the powerful.

An example.  Recent protests by the group calling itself the 99% have been met by often violent enforcement actions by police departments across the country.  Police departments that are supposed to be composed of normal Americans - yet, they take actions that are often designed to hurt, humiliate and demean the people they are supposed to be protecting.  Few, if any individual officers have been disciplined for such actions, and have been protected by that "thin blue line", that blue brotherhood.

And that is under a government that is supposedly under the control of a democratic government - how much worse would it be under a government with no motives to hide behind a public facade?  How much worse would it be under a government whose very existence would be based on the ability of its police forces to keep order and repress dissent?  A government with officials with the power to arrest at whim, and for literally no reason?

If you really want to know, just look at Saudi Arabia, where a women is, today, at risk of her head because of a man's accusations of witchcraft - because of his teenage daughter's "strange" behavior in public!  Look at the various regimes of a dictatorial bent in the past where stories of disappearances, torture, public executions and arrests based on mere suspicions between neighbors have resulted in the deaths of whole families.

There is nothing magic about the legal system in this country that we enjoy today, however flawed, that generally allows for at least a public show of following written, formal laws which allow us to predict how the police in our communities will act - at least for the majority.

A determined, organized element can, indeed, overturn that system, and the repercussions for the rest of us would be terrible indeed.

No.  Our Constitution was written as a LIMIT on the government.  It lays out the limited powers we, the people, have allowed our government to possess.  At no point in that document does it limit the rights of the people, but instead, reserves all the powers not provided to the government for the States or the people themselves.

Current attempts to write amendments to the Constitution to limit the rights of gays or others are wrong, not just morally, but in a legal sense as well - no amendment should ever be made to that document taking away a right of the people or a portion of the people.  It's very reason for being is to limit government power and protect the people from a runaway government

Funny how the Republicans loudly proclaim that fact - while doing everything they can to undermine the principles that document was based on.

Vote the bastards OUT this November!

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