When future historians write of these years in which we’re living, the common thread will likely be how divided - how splintered - how fractured - was our nation and nearly all political, cultural and societal relationships within its structure. How could they not?
Pick your own example for those historians. Pick a national subject like politics. Or a personal subject like religion. Pick almost any “Mom and Apple Pie” topic. You’ll almost certainly get an argument from somebody.
Divisions are open and deep. Even those who’ve been saying “Give him/them/someone a chance” have quieted down. Public debate has largely lost all tones of civility and courtesy while respect for a different viewpoint is as hard to find as truth in the White House.
No one knows how all this will shake out. But it will. Eventually.
There’s one area of our current trials of divisiveness I don’t hear much about - the subject of the rule of law. In my four score years, the rule of law has been a constant. Whatever the issue - whomever the protagonists - however divided - constancy of the law was simply taken for granted. Disrespect it - break it - ignore it - and there were consequences.
Now, our lives are filled with individuals, political entities and even government itself flouting the law and, seemingly, getting away with it.
A few years back, many county sheriffs across the country decided not to enforce any new gun laws - state or federal. They announced to all - including the federal government - that if its duly appointed agents came into the various states to enforce new laws, they’d be arrested and jailed. The rule of law? Ignored.
More recently, in Southern Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Montana and elsewhere, federal agents attempting to enforce federal laws on BLM and U.S. Forest Service lands, were faced by armed civilians who wouldn’t be moved and law enforcement backed down. In one case in Oregon, even the regional BLM office was closed and the agents transferred. Trespassing? Armed insurgence? Rule of law?
Several major cities across the country - and the entire states of New York and California - have told the President and the Department of Justice they will ignore federal orders and continue to be “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants. Rule of law?
Washington State Governor Inslee has issued an order telling state employees not to follow federal executive orders on immigration. Oregon’s Brown is doing much the same. What of the rule of law?
There are dozens more examples. The law says one thing; local government says another. Feds say “do this” and other elected officials say “No.”
There are laws on the books of various levels of government I haven’t agreed with for years. There’ve been regulations by the pile I’ve not liked most of my adult life. Our “unfit-for-any-public-office” President has been throwing executive orders this way and that for over a month. Haven’t found one yet that seems necessary and deserving of my obedience. And he’s been flouting the law and the Constitution even as he holds elected office
But - what about the rule of law? Without it - without all of us respecting and following our laws - where is this nation heading? What will be our national future if the various parts that make up the whole of our government pick and choose which laws will be followed and which ignored?
The guy sitting in the Oval Office today has the respect of only a minority of Americans. A significant majority wants him gone. He’s the punch line of social media - the butt of comedians everywhere. He’s unsuited for his job and has surrounded himself with equally unqualified minions who seem scared to death of the guy. He’s frightened and confused heads of government around the world. Honesty, integrity, moral character and respect for the office have become victims of continual lies about everything. Then, there’s his top aide, Steve Bannon, using Trump for his own purposes.
In short, the President himself has created an atmosphere which makes respect for him and his pronouncements impossible to accept by others who are far more equal to their public tasks. Many have reached a point they can no longer accept guidance from someone so obviously flawed who represents thinking antithetical to good and proper governing. Many are refusing to obey.
The rule of law is what’s at stake here. The foundation of a civilized society and the basic precept that creates the order in which that society has its being.
We are seeing ruptures in that foundation. What future will this nation have if that foundation breaks?