Respect for the Law?
It is often said that a civilized society cannot live without laws. The absence of laws supposedly leads to the law of the jungle or “Lord of the Flies” scenarios. In theory, the courts enforce the laws and dispense justice, which should mean not only upholding the laws but being just. In order for the courts to retain moral authority, the laws have to be fair and applied equally to all. This always involves a balancing act for if the laws are not fairly applied to all citizens, the people lose respect for the justice system.
When I was growing up the nuns taught me to revere the U.S. Supreme Court. What it said was the law of the land; the nuns reasoned that the justices had to be objective because they had life time appointments. But, as I grew up the contradictions became glaring, and I realized that the Supremes were only separated by one degree from members of the mafia. Evidently, many Americans have reached the same conclusion, and the Supreme Court’s approval rating has fallen to 44 percent and plunging.
We always knew that the justices were conservative, but we believed that they tried to be fair. This confidence has been eroded by the irrational outbursts of Antonin Scalia who gives no pretense that he gives a damn what people think. Some of my colleagues excuse him, and say the he is a right winger but that he has a brilliant legal mind. But, so did the flat earth people, and they kept the people in the Dark Ages for hundreds of years.
Because most people today are educated and some actually think, more and more people are questioning the Supremes. They are concluding that justices and the nation’s lawmakers don’t care about the law, and that they are making a mockery of the saying that no man is above the law.
The Supremes care only about themselves. They don’t have the welfare of the people or the nation in mind, and they could care less about the poor. Most of the Supremes care only about serving their own class interests, protecting their investments and keeping their family members in cushy jobs.
The lawmakers are not far behind. They don’t legislate, and when they do they reflect the biases of special interests groups that are paying them bag money.
How many laws have the so-called lawmakers passed in the past eight years? Like Nero supposedly let Rome burn, the lawmakers are letting the country burn.
No doubt that we need cops; no doubt there are bad people in this world; but should we tell our children to blindly respect the police and the courts? I concede that without the police there would be total anarchy, and the thugs would threaten our safety. However, what price are we willing to pay? Do we really feel more secure because the NSA is bugging the world?
I wonder if the parents that forty years ago told their children to have blind trust in their priest would do so today.
Americans take pride in the fact that they don’t live in a Moslem country where a religious elite keep people in the Dark Ages. They forget about our own religious zealots that seek to impose their morality on the rest of us. They point to the dictatorships in Latin America forgetting that most of them were educated, trained and paid by the United States.
I do not deny that there should be respect for legitimate laws, but respect has to be earned. In 2000 Gore v. Bush stole the presidency. In 2010, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Court in a 5-4 decision held that “No sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech (including bribery of public officials) of corporations.” This is chicanery at its worse and anyone who respects the decisions is a fool.
The decisions of the Supreme Court are not based on logic but on sophistry. The Supremes justify bribery. A majority collaborate with the Republican Party in the suppressing the right of minorities to vote. The judges do this with impunity.
The Supremes are supposed to avoid the appearance of impropriety: Canon 2 of the Code of Conduct says that “A judge should not allow family, social, political, financial, or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment. A judge should neither lend the prestige of the judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others nor convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.”
Good luck! Justice Antonin Scalia and his wife, Maureen, flaunt the rule and appear at right wing functions hosted by corporate crooks like the Koch Brothers. Scalia has received honorariums for speaking at these events, and he obsequiously caters to the rich for bigger kickbacks.
Scalia and at least two other justices have been criticized for the appearance of impropriety. Justice Clarence Thomas attends exclusive events at private resorts that are orchestrated again by the billionaire oil barons Charles and David Koch.
Justice Thomas has accepted gifts of travel on the private jets of billionaire Harlan Crow. His wife, Ginny Thomas is a Republican Party bagman who has benefited from Court decisions. She is actively building a Tea Party network that she works for as a lobbyist.
Mrs. Thomas was an aide to former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and was a staff member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the reactionary Heritage Foundation.
Meanwhile, Justice Samuel Alito who is rude to his colleagues is a headline speaker at right wing fundraisers, namely the Manhattan Institute, a creature of right-wing think tanks such as Exxon and CIGNA.
The saying that no one is above the law is a joke. Justices Thomas, Scalia, and Alito flagrantly violate all ethical norms and the get away with it while some poor joker with a couple of ounces of marijuana is sent away.
This critique does not include the damage that the Supremes are doing to the nation. They are crooks and they get away with it. Worse they are spreading scandal; their actions are similar to those of pedophile priests who have damaged the credibility of many good priests and adherents.
If you are honest with yourself, there is little hope that the system will correct itself. But the truth be told, we all in some manner contribute to the burning of Rome. We work for the institutions that rationalize the myth that no man is above the law. We listen to news programs knowing that what we to listen are lies.
I educate people for a living, hoping that I will help make a difference. I have helped thousands to become professionals, knowing that they will encourage blind respect for authority that ultimately keeps the Scalias, the Alitos, the Thomases and other scumbags in office.
My remarks are not meant to offend anyone. I am just ruminating, an art that has been lost. Education today is propaganda, and it does not tolerate reflection.
I love my students dearly and take pride in their achievements. However, they have become professionals, and as good professionals they have to move up. Recently, I came across posts on Facebook from former students and friends, posing with our current political savior.
They refer to themselves as members of Team [Eric] Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles. They take pride in being part of the inner circle.While I concede that they have accomplished a great deal, traveling from los de abajo to city hall in one generation. However, they delude themselves into thinking that they are doing it for the people.
If they don’t want to be part of problem, my advice to them is to ruminate – that is what we used to call an examination of conscience.
RODOLFO ACUÑA, a professor emeritus at California State University Northridge, has published 20 books and over 200 public and scholarly articles. He is the founding chair of the first Chicano Studies Dept which today offers 166 sections per semester in Chicano Studies. His history book Occupied America has been banned in Arizona. In solidarity with Mexican Americans in Tucson, he has organized fundraisers and support groups to ground zero and written over two dozen articles exposing efforts there to nullify the U.S. Constitution.