The Benefit of Law With our national news headlines unfortunately stuffed with stories about the current administration trying to get around Congress to execute on an agenda, it is a useful exercise to wonder, Is this good for the country?
My point is, through the years, some parties have come to power and others decline, and vice versa. With any luck, the history of this country will be counted in centuries upon centuries. The population of the country will change, new religions may arise, and morality may shift. The current system of checks and balances was built so that no one president or decade of political thought could undo what has taken 250 years to grow. We are protected by laws that are to be immutable unless amended by a vast majority of the people. Those in power one year will decry certain laws or administrative procedures for holding back their political agenda, be it a border wall, the weight of environmental protections, or the practice of gerrymandering. Then three years later, if that same party is no longer in power, they may applaud those very same protections for not dismantling the progress that has been made. The point of politics is not for one side to win while the other loses. It is to fairly govern the people for the benefit of every American. The law is there to stem the tide of impulse and radical change for the better. All of this reminds me of the scene in Robert Bolt’s play “A Man for All Seasons” (which was made into an excellent award-winning film as well). It is the story of the friendship between Sir Thomas More and King Henry VIII set against the backdrop of Henry seceding from the Roman Catholic Church and creating the Church of England because the Pope would not grant him a divorce. Sir Thomas More is revered as a master jurist, and in the film, he delivers lines of such gravity that they bear reflection. More is ultimately imprisoned in the Tower of London with his family and treated quite well, but as time goes on, the King loses patience with him, and he is ultimately executed for refusing to compromise his religious beliefs. Set against this backdrop, there is an exchange
between More and another character that needs to be repeated to those in power today who seek to discard and ignore the rule of law and proper procedure that have governed this country from the start. In the scene, Roper argues for going after a criminal without giving him the benefit of law because he is obviously guilty. Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law! More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that! More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake. Regardless of party affiliation, we should all insist that those in power adhere to the rule of law for our own and our children’s sake.
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