The safety of the people shall be the highest law -Marcus Tullius Cicero
You have to accept the rule of law even if it’s inconvenient , if you’re going to have a country that abides by the rule of law.- Jesse Ventura
We may brave human laws, but we cannot resist natural ones. ― Jules Verne
The clearest way to show what the rule of law means to us in everyday life is to recall what happened when there is no rule of law. -Dwight D. Eisenhower
I don’t usually call attention to the quotes that preamble these missives. I feel they speak for themselves and honestly, fishing for them frequently requires more effort than any compositional output of mine. But, as we officially pass the 100,000 mark of American fatalities from Covid-19, I hope you will give them a bit more thought. At this time in our history they are more prescient than anything I could ever write. They always are, but now especially so.
Marcus Tullius Cicero died at 63, for his times, a long life. Today when someone succumbs to the whims of nature at that age, particularly when the deceased seemed in good working order with quite a few good miles left on their transmissions, we are surprised. But Cicero died in a manner quite common for many political operatives of his time, specifically assassination via beheading, by government fiat and without a trial. As it was his words which led to his undoing, Mark Antony’s minions lopped off the hands which penned the offending rhetoric, for good measure. Remember that the next time you question the value of the first amendment or read about a reporter having their White House press privileges suspended.
That such a fate, could not happen today at least figuratively if not literally, is wishful thinking. In a time when the safety of the people should be the highest law, the leader of a once great nation refuses to follow precautions recommended by his own councilors and just about every other major voice in the public health community, thusly endangering the millions who blindly follow him. Those who publicly challenge him are punished. Chief executives of various states honoring their sworn obligations to ensure the safety of their citizens, must contend with fanatical subsets of their constituencies who willfully and dangerously break lawful orders enacted for both their own protection and society at large. They do this armed and unmasked. They shout about their “freedoms”while endangering the very basic foundations proscribed in the Declaration of Independence of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” which underlie the prescription of such freedoms. Their freedom to get a haircut or to walk into a Costco unmasked, they shout, outweighs their fellow citizens right to safely breathe the air around them. The fact that cadavers may not pursue happiness, having been deprived of life and any of its inherent liberties as a result of the perilous actions they rally for, has apparently never occurred to them.
At the time of Jesse (The Body) Ventura’s inauguration as the Governor of Minnesota I had presumed (and I don’t believe I was alone) that the melding of political activity and celebrityhood had reached its zenith, but shortly after his term ended, the Terminator himself became the Governor of the fifth largest economy in the world, setting the stage for a reality TV star to take over the largest economy in the world. But even Governor “The Body” understood the importance of the rule of law. Are there some laws that are unjust? Sure, to argue otherwise would be naïve. Do we have legal remedies to change the law? Yes we do. Are those remedies too often corrupted by a system flagrantly geared to an already existing power structure? Of course they are. When in the course of human events such difficulty is encountered that the will of the people to make change is hamstrung, there are instances where the breaking of lawful orders may, safely and in complete regard to the public good, be practiced. The right to assembly is enshrined, the right to peaceful assembly that is. There is a difference between Martin Luther King’s march in Selma, Alabama in 1965 and armed proponents of racist legacies cheering the vehicular homicide of innocent counter- protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. What Dr. King did was practice peaceful civil disobedience of a so-called lawful order in the name of a higher order. What happened in Charlottesville was murder in the name of evil.
On that note we move on to Jules Verne and his comment regarding man’s law and natural law in 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. For too long we have mistreated our mother earth but happily due to the period of Covid-19 lock-down worldwide, carbon emissions this year are estimated to fall 4-8%. That’s great! But according to United Nations projections, we must continue reducing emissions by an average of 7.6% per year between now and 2030 to avoid further and more lasting damage to our environment. I am fearful that these standards may not be maintained once the pandemic lifts and we return to our wildly gluttonous behaviors. Yet in the meantime, globally, electrical demand has decreased by 20% or more according to the IEA (International Energy Agency)and across the full year it is estimated that the need for electricity will fall by 5%. The demand for coal should fall by 8% this year. 2020 worldwide oil production may see a steep decline. It’s almost as if mother nature sent us all to our room for a giant time out while she nursed a bad headache.
Aside from warning the world about the dangers of the military industrial complex before leaving office in 1961 Dwight David Eisenhower ( it should be noted, a republican) reminded the nation that history has given us many examples of what happens when the rule of law is decimated or corrupted. It is doubtful Ike could pass the litmus test of the present-day members of his party.
The early Romans saw themselves as paragons of civilization and to some degree they did set a standard which still exists today in societies precariously close to the edge of disruption, and steadfastly clinging to some semblance of order. Cicero’s commentaries on society have been cited by people like John Adams and Voltaire. Thomas Jefferson noted him as a major influence when composing the Declaration of Independence. Our survival as a free state requires us to impede with passion any and all attempts to behead the rule of law itself, if we are ever to form that more perfect union the founders hoped to establish.