Tuesday, May 18, 2021

A Nation of Laws.

April 18, 2021 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Politics, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Countless times we have heard politicians say the United States is “a nation of laws, not of men.”  Implying everyone has to play by the same set of rules and are treated equally.  But we know that is not true.  Wealth, gender and caste are the determinative factors in American jurisprudence.

In fact, it’s more about culture, or should I say cultures, that shape our legal system and how laws are made, enforced and adjudicated.  Southern culture, for instance, gave rise to Jim Crow laws and had a large role in passing the 18th Amendment banning production, sale and transport (but not consumption) of alcohol.  Now that same blend of racism, laced with “moralism”, is behind the latest trends in legislation sweeping the country today: voter suppression and anti-transgender measures.


Outlaw culture

For all the talk about “the rule of law”, some of the most notable events in American history were about lawbreaking.  The Boston Tea Party was a riot that resulted in the destruction of property and, of course, the Civil War was about sedition and treason.  And Americans have always loved outlaws.  Lessons about what happens when a moralistic minority sets the legislative agenda are instructive.

The temperance movement had been railing against the evils of “demon rum” since the 1800s but picked up momentum with the formation of the Anti-Saloon League.  The League’s founder, Howard Hyde Russell, was a lawyer turned preacher and its publicist, Edward Young Clark, an Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.  A local news editor in Alabama wrote, “it’s hard to tell where the Anti-Saloon League ends and the Klan begins.”

Pressure politics, or using mass communications and mass media to shape public opinion, was the League’s stock-in-trade.  Although it was not above using intimidation, threats and dirty tricks as well.  It sounds all too familiar as to the forces leading the voter suppression and anti-trans campaigns today.

Given this history, who is the most well-known figure to emerge from the Prohibition era: Al Capone.  He has been mythologized in at least seventeen gangster movies – ten by name – another ten about Chicago, ten about Prohibition, nine about the Mafia and so on according to the website for IMDb.

Laws as contracts

In the end, the law is what “We the People” say it is.  And it is subject to being hijacked by a vociferous and vengeful minority using the same tools that the Anti-Saloon League pioneered to get Prohibition passed.  Looking back, we see what was supposed to be a moral crusade for the good of the country result in enormous harm, giving organized crime a major foothold in the capitalist system.  A system that values profits no matter where the money comes from, as long as you don’t get caught.

Laws are like contracts, people only refer to them when there is a suspected violation.  It’s culture that people live by day-to-day.  Khalil Gibran said it best, “Your daily life is your temple and your religion.”

When we constantly see mass murderers taken alive and unarmed people killed; when we see laws proposed making it harder, not easier, to vote; when we see mainstream media promoting the “great replacement” conspiracy theory that led to targeted killings of Jews, Muslims and Latinos; we have to come together to stop it.  And as for transgender athletes being a threat to women’s sports, if you saw pictures of the women’s weight room at the NCAAW basketball championship, you know how much the powers-that-be really care about women’s competition.

What comes next…

It’s much harder to change cultures than it is to change laws.  But we have to try.  Try to foster a culture of giving rather than a culture of greed.  A culture of compassion rather than callousness.  A culture that values life, not only in the womb, but until the tomb.  Then laws that reflect these values will follow.

Staff Writer; Harry Sewell

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