Guarding the Ephemeral

A Man for All Seasons – Act One

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.

Written by Robert Bolt (1924-1995)

This is the major reason I fear a Donald Trump presidency.  Not the outrageous tax cuts or the trade war he has threatened either of which will crash the economy.  Not the ridiculous spats he will launch against world leaders.  Not even his control of the nuclear codes because I have to believe that the people around him are smart enough not to want to die in a nuclear conflagration.

I fear him because he has displayed a fundamental disrespect and lack of understanding of the Constitution of the United States, and about the role of the judiciary in our country.  Without faith in the rulings of our courts and the primacy of the Supreme Court everyone’s personal safety is at stake.  If a president says he can flout the rulings of a court then political opponents can be thrown in jail (we’ve seen this attitude on display at Trump rallies).  Unpopular minorities can be harassed, arrested, deported without regard to our laws or our founding documents — a stated goal of Mr. Trump’s and one that has been vigorously applauded by his supporters.  Voting rights can be eroded and ultimately removed.  Remember it has been the courts that over the past few months have reversed blatant attempts by politically motivated legislatures to deny the franchise to vulnerable segments of society.

There is a crises of faith in all of our core institutions, but I think this constant assault on the judiciary is the most alarming.  It can be seen in a Cliven Bundy who refuses a court order to pay the required grazing fees.  In a Senate who will not seat a ninth justice to the highest court in the land in direct contravention of the Constitution that they swore to uphold.  A supreme court justice in Alabama who refused to accept the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States as regards the right of LGBT people to wed.  A county clerk (a government position) who refuses to issue marriage licenses and placed her religion over the law of the land and the rights of minorities.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

We can achieve none of these things unless we all agree to honor certain core institutions.  This is not to say they can’t be improved, the rights expanded, the meaning of “we the people” broadened, but we all have to agree not to burn down the edifice that has been built for us with the sacrifice of those who came before us.

I fear that Donald Trump believes he can fly above the flames and use them to propel him to what he wants, and that many of his supporters have forgotten in their anger that oft times the arsonist can be immolated along with the building.


A Man For All Seasons

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