It is often said that a man who does not read is no better off than a man who cannot read. Along that same line, certainly laws that are made in our name and under the logic of our Constitution are worthless when they are ignored.
Stop signs work only because we collectively agree to stop.
But what if we didn’t? Or what if some of us didn’t, or a few of us didn’t, or if specific individuals among us didn’t? What would be the effect upon society? Does our agreement to stop go further than the impact on driving?
It’s an interesting line of thought, that doesn’t stop with stop-signs.
Consider civil society. We are more and more un-civil, from road-rage to slamming phones to beating our spouses. But why? The case can be made that a universal de-sensitizing of America, through TV, video-games, rap-music and an apparently endless thirst for violence in all its graphic forms, led us to a disconnect between the event and the person to whom the event is happening. The result?
- Kitty Genovese being cruelly and systematically beaten to death while her neighbors closed their windows against the screams.
- Passengers leaving one subway car for another, to avoid a gang-rape and beating. Not leaving to seek help, but merely to avoid involvement.
- Automobile accidents where drivers no longer stop to help.
Laws not enforced, whether stop signs or the societal law of the Samaritan, weaken the fabric of our trust in one another. Now we have institutionalized law-breaking. The Office of the Vice President of the United States has been systematically ignoring the laws passed in Congress, on their way to the President for signature.
A cottage-industry of executive-branch lawlessness in Washington, the seat of American government. Anarchy reduced to process, assembly-line fashion, as Dick Cheney routinely redlines legislation on its way to the Oval Office. Where once we actually brought impeachment proceedings against a president for a hallway blow-job, no one requires Cheney to observe the literal law, as set forth in the Constitution.
We expect our president and vice president to stop at governmental stop-signs. But, what happens when they don’t? Actually, nothing. The press observes that the vice president is running red-lights, states the number to date as 750 and then quietly goes to lunch.
Dick Cheney takes the personal view of executive power that Congress may not pass laws that restrict how the president runs the military and spy agencies. Unfortunately for the vice presidential view, but fortunately for the country, the Constitution of the United States specifically states that Congress has those precise powers and holds them alone unto itself.
Cheney takes the equally impressive view (apparently through binoculars) that the Congress is further prevented form passing laws that give government officials the power to act independently of the president. A whole new theory of government–a Congress prevented from legislating–and the media goes along.
One can only presume that had Nixon properly understood the vice-presidential view, he’d have simply sent the various Watergate prosecutors (as government officials) home. Cheney was in that White House. It’s taken him 30 years to get another shot, but he’s taking it now.
And the press (dutifully and sleepily) reports it. Advising us that “the Supreme Court has consistently upheld laws giving bureaucrats and certain prosecutors the power to act independently of the president," the nation’s newspapers and TV sink back to quietude. Are they afraid? Unsure of the well-trampled ground Cheney stomps across? Reduced to whimpering irrelevance, a once-mighty press lies at the feet of the most power-mad presidency this country has known, tail between its legs.
Is this, in fact, the highly trumpeted press the nation celebrates as its best protection against the excesses of governmental abuse? Is Randy Cunningham a scumbag for taking money and Dick Cheney any less a scumbag for redlining the Constitution? Where is the outrage? How far must this truly evil and unlawful man go before the nation’s newspapers brand him a liar and a thief?
We deserve only what we require as a civil society. Stopping at stop-signs, helping the helpless and driving from office those who would make a mockery of our Republic, yet brag that they are Republicans.
Laws not enforced are no longer laws.