Archive for October, 2010

“We are a nation of laws; not of men” – John Adams

Being the strong-willed woman she was, Abigail Adams would likely have urged John to make that “men and women” when he spoke those words. But you get the idea.

The phrase has been a fundamental part of our judicial system for more than 200 years and basically defines what and who we are. It comes to mind because of three seemingly disparate issues which currently dominate our national psyche: abortion, gay marriage and an argument over where to build a house of worship: an Islamic Mosque.

All three have legal or regulatory approvals yet are steeped in emotional refusal on the part of some to realize the fundamental truth of John Adams’ words: a nation of laws.

In Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the abortion issue as a matter of law. The decision was based on law, not the emotional belief each Justice surely must have held.

The law against gay marriage … at least in California … has been ruled unconstitutional in an extensive, well-researched and articulate legal decision. Based on law. While on appeal, which will ultimately go to the U.S. Supreme Court, the issue will be governed by law. Not emotion.

The New York City Islamic Mosque construction plan has been approved under the laws and ordinances of the City of New York and the Borough of Manhattan. It’s legal. Developers met all requirements of both jurisdictions and gained approval. Regardless of the emotions of the granting authorities.

All these hot button subjects have been examined by appropriate legal or permitting systems and decided by law. Yet all three topics can get you into an argument at the drop of a hat.

For me, arguments against the mosque, in new York City or elsewhere, are a national shame. Pres. Obama put it succinctly: “If you can build a church there, if you can build a synagogue there, if you can build a Hindu temple there, you can build a mosque there.” That’s the law and that says it for me.

If we want to be a nation in which decisions are made by emotion, we will have absolute chaos. Speeding: “I got up this morning feeling great, officer, and it just felt emotionally super to drive 60mph in a 30 zone.” Murder: “I haven’t liked that guy for years and, suddenly, I just felt like killing him. Strictly emotion.”

Absurd? Sure. But you get the idea.

Every year in this country, millions and millions of dollars are spent on emotional arguments railing against black-letter law. Often, as in the abortion debate, those opposed to the procedure not only try to use emotion to overturn law, they usually insert a direct contradiction to other positions they hold.

To wit: signs that have appeared in numerous Tea Party brouhahas dealing with stopping abortion procedures right beside those saying “Get government out of our bedrooms.” Duh? But it doesn’t stop there. We now have candidates for national political office advocating the same directly opposing positions, saying government should force women, pregnant through rape or incest, to have the child of their rapist or family member. Government should enforce that.

Two factors worry me most about our upcoming elections. One is that some of these fringe-thinking idiots, if elected, will take their ill-founded anger and emotional intransigence into a political office which, by oath, must be conducted by law. Taking that oath, while continuing their emotional crusade, amounts to perjury. In my opinion.

The other fear is, once elected, the oft-proven power of incumbency will make it harder for better qualified candidates to root ‘em out. As a nation, we might be able to survive these idiots for one term. But if they are there long enough, the system … and the laws … will begin to reflect the narrow-mindedness and the emotional bias by which they will govern.

John Adams words are as true today as they were in 1776. They are wasted on the ideologues polluting our airwaves and newspapers. But they ought to be engraved in the hearts of the rest of us as we cast our ballots.