What Law?

What Law? 

By Patrick F. Cannon

Now, I don’t want to accuse everyone who’s reading this of being a law breaker, but chances are you’re as guilty as sin. Have you every jaywalked? Crossed against a light? Failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign? Driven through an intersection when the light has turned red before you cleared it? Exceeded the posted speed limit? Talked on a hand held cell phone while driving? Texted while doing the same? Fiddled a bit on your income taxes? Are you a bicyclist who’s flaunted every traffic law on the books? And, horror of horrors, have you neglected to scoop up your doggies poop?

Let’s be honest – we all occasionally break the law or laws we find inconvenient. Human nature, we might say. When we do, we generally put only ourselves in jeopardy. And surely, some of the laws on the books are just plain silly. Legislators at all levels seem to think they must leave nothing their constituents might do to chance. So many laws, indeed, that the poor police have no earthly way of enforcing them all.

What do we say then when our elected leaders decide which Federal laws they wish to enforce, and which to ignore? You may well say, if your own politics agree, that the President of the United States is within his rights not to enforce a law with which he disagrees, and be furious when the next President decides the very opposite. You may have noticed the current occupant has issued double the number of executive orders as his predecessor, which his successor has promised to reverse.

There was a time, one imagines, when time and circumstances rendered some law obsolete or even odious, and it was repealed. Apparently, political gridlock has rendered this sensible alternative impossible, thus leaving it to our leaders to decide which laws they will enforce and which ignore. Before you accept this as the status quo, as we seem to have accepted that Congress has lost the power to declare war, I ask you to consider this exchange in Robert Bolt’s play (and later movie) A Man for All Seasons as perhaps relevant to today’s situation. It is between Sir Thomas More and his son-in-law William Roper, and is related to what Roper believes are repugnant laws during the reign of King Henry VIII (who will eventually cause the future Saint Thomas More to lose his head).

Roper: So now you give the Devil the benefit of law?

More: Yes, what would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law is down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not Gods! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?  Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for may own safety’s sake!

If you have never seen the movie – the great Paul Scofield plays More – you might want to look it up. As with all great works of art, it still speaks to us.

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Copyright 2017, Patrick F. Cannon

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “What Law?

  1. My former, mafioso-wannabe barber used to say it was the law that made the criminal. His view of humanity may have been a bit rosy. Sometimes it is the criminal who makes the law. And yes, there are too many laws, or rules and regulations as our enlightened bureaucrats prefer to call them. Too many laws and the unending interpretations of those laws tend to dilute their potency. So it becomes easy for our highly self-esteemed president, not to mention candidates for that office and the officials politically tied to their candidacy, to bend, enforce or ignore laws as they see fit. When you have a politicized FBI and Justice Department, and a Chief Justice who can argue that the government can tax you for something you did not buy, own, use or earn, who is going to stop them? No wonder Saint Thomas More lost his head.

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  2. What a timely topic! The Great State of Texas is engaging in just such an idiotic waste of time and resources as we speak!

    Legislators are attempting to pass a “Privacy Protection Law”; aka “the bathroom bill.” If passed, the law would prohibit a man from entering a women’s restroom. The alleged intent is “to keep predators from taking advantage of local laws that allow transgender people to use the restroom of the gender with which they identify.”

    This is clearly a bunch of hooey. Though it’s fortunately rare, predators have been entering women’s restrooms for a long time. If they enter and assault a woman, the assault law already applies. If they just lurk in a corner and stare, the disorderly conduct law applies. If predators are willing to ignore the existing laws, this new law won’t stop them.

    The bill raises many questions:

    How will we enforce it? Will public places have to hire bathroom police? Will malls end up needing the equivalent of a TSA force to ensure that only those who should enter a women’s restroom can enter? How, specifically, will such an enforcer determine whether a prospective user of a women’s room is, in fact, female? Will we all have to drop our drawers to prove it?

    What if paramedics are called to care for a woman who collapsed in a public restroom, and the paramedics on that particular call all happen to be male?

    What if a harried solo father needs to help his young daughter use the restroom? Does he really want her to see a bunch of strangers peeing in the men’s room? Wouldn’t he rather cover his eyes while taking his daughter into a stall in the women’s room?

    And how about maintenance and repair? What if a commode is profusely overflowing and there are no female plumbers available?

    If you’re adding up the prospective costs of solving all of these problems, you’ll be as scared as I am.

    Interestingly, the law is intended only to prohibit men from entering women’s restrooms. The converse does not apply. The stated reason is “because men can protect themselves.” Yeah. But that’s a different topic, and all of us helpless, hanky-waving females will be happy to debate it any time. Especially with any restroom-invading creep who gets close enough to get a knee to the groin.

    Frankly, the bill seems like a thinly-veiled attempt to harass transgender people, and only those who were born as males but now identify as females. Apparently female-born people who now identify as males and prefer to use the men’s room are free to do so with no consequences. This, of course creates a situation of unequal treatment of groups who are equal in the eyes of our constitution, and that’s never a good thing.

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