I’m not preaching, nor am I depressed, but I will confess, I am at a loss…
Our system of laws has a hierarchy: County is above City; State above County; Federal above State: Constitution above Federal. Well, we’re told it does; it’s supposed to have, anyway. So naturally, I find myself confused when, if anyone tries to hold to the actual language of the highest law in the land, the Constitution, they are told they can’t do that. They cannot decide for themselves have to wait for the Court to decide what that language means. But, if the English language doesn’t mean what it means, then why bother writing the Constitution, or even trying to adhere to it? And that’s just it: we don’t adhere to the Constitution anymore. We have replaced it with contradictory case-law, legal precedents and judicial opinion: none of which provide a consistent, coherent guide for the application of any law beneath the Constitution.
What’s more, even where there appears to be an objective guide, such as the enumerated powers, I find that these restrictions aren’t really restrictions. Apparently, there is some hidden meaning to the language that only those who have some special training/knowledge can see and understand, and I need these ‘experts’ to interpret that language for me. I guess a restriction is a suggestion, and a suggestion is actually a mandate that something be done that the actual language says is prohibited. Confused? Well, that’s the point: you’re supposed to be — so you will accept “their” word for what it really says. To me, this all smacks of the abuse perpetrated by the Church leaders against which our founders rebelled. It’s also reminiscent of the ancient evils associated with the occult, where everything is connected to secrecy and some secret knowledge. But then, language and culture change, so I guess restrictions may not be restrictions anymore, either. Is it possible that the law can change over time, and that we really do need people to rediscover it and define it for us, even though the scribbling on the papers that are supposed to define the law haven’t changed at all?
So I find myself wondering, given this reality, how is it that we still believe we are under the rule of law? If there is no set guideline or standard against which we can judge the application of a lesser law, or, if the standard we use is subject to whatever a given judge decides he/she wants to do, then what does “the rule of law” even mean? But my confusion doesn’t stop there.
Now we find that the law – as it is applied today – is applied in a hierarchical manner. If you have both power and money, then the law doesn’t apply to you. If you have power, it only applies if those above you or with more power than you wish it to do so. If you have money, it only applies if those with power and/or more money want it to apply to you. However, if you have neither money nor power, and those above you do not wish to protect you, the law not only applies to you, but it applies in whatever manner those above you desire to apply it. They call this hierarchy “prosecutorial discretion,” but is that what it is? Does the rule of law even have such a thing as “prosecutorial discretion,” or is that supposed to be the role of the jury?
I ask these things because I honestly don’t know anymore. What I thought I knew and understood doesn’t match with the reality I see around me. So, do my eyes deceive me? Should I accept that 2+2=5 if that’s what I am told? Or should I stick to what I know to be true even if it means I suffer an injustice – an injustice that happens to be legal. And, in that case, which is the injustice? Is it that I break the law, or that the law has been used against me in a manner that is immoral? For that matter, can the law ever be used immorally, or is morality defined by the law? And does the intent of the law even matter when that intent can be ignored or that intent can be altered by “interpretation” decades later? But if the intent of the law doesn’t matter, and the language of the law doesn’t necessarily mean what it says, then how can anything be called law? For me, it would be so much simpler had someone been smart enough to establish a system of legal hierarchy above that of the Constitution: a system that does not change with time or technology. Maybe if they had left us some sort of declaration asserting our what our rights are and from where they come, and providing us with some idea of what the law is supposed to preserve and protect — or something like that. That might have helped.
Then there is the issue of the people, themselves. Do we understand or even care about the law anymore, or are we perfectly happy to use it to our own benefit and just hope that it always works in our favor? And, if we don’t care about the law unless it helps us, then what sort of people are we? Do we even deserve to have rights or to be free, or should we have masters to keep us in check? And, if we deserve to be ruled over, then are we a people I even want to be a part of? I just don’t know anymore, and all this uncertainty has left me clinging to something I do know; something that I can have faith in and depend on because it never changes – and never will. And, perhaps, this is the reason for the change in me these past few years…
“Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet.”
— Robert Winthrop, Speaker of the U. S. House