A Nation of Laws?

Yesterday President Trump wrote, “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself.” He also tweeted, “The appointment of the Special Councel [sic] is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!” (Never mind that no serious constitutional scholar, or decent first-year law student for that matter, believes that.)

There you have it: we’ve elected someone who thinks he’s above the law. We’ve retraced history and have elected someone who thinks he’s a medieval monarch.

Nothing this man says or thinks surprises me. Not even this. But it’s a stark reminder of how fragile our democracy is. To think that such a demagogue could garner the support of enough people to get elected is scary.

I do think most of America’s success as a nation is owed to the preeminence of laws over men. We have been a nation of laws, albeit an imperfect one. But the imperfection is neither surprising nor troubling for humans are innately imperfect.

The principle of law is being tested today in ways unseen in the past century. Not even the outlaw president of the 1970s (Nixon) took it this far, although he was tempted. The difference then is there were responsible members of Congress, even of Nixon’s own party, who held the law in higher regard than the man. That’s not the case today; hence, the risks are greater. Today, Congress is full of small-minded cowards who are way over their heads.

I don’t know how it will all play out, Vera. I don’t know if my generation will pass off to yours a vibrant democracy, or one that is in its death throes — or, worse yet, one that can be found only in history books. It seems some of my fellow citizens fail to hold the principle of rule by law in high regard. And there were enough of them to elect this demagogue to office. So it’s impossible to know where all of this will lead.

I’m hopeful. Yet I’ve long ago learned that hope is not a strategy. And that only fools rely solely on hope.

From time to time the world is challenged by men (it’s almost always been men) whose appetite for power and glory trump all else. Occasionally, the masses, out of fear, resentment, or desperation, stand with the demagogue. Only time will tell if this is such a time.

Meanwhile, my task is to be watchful and, if circumstances dictate, to act to protect my family, mindful that this is nothing compared to what some of our distant ancestors had to endure. But also mindful that the risks are greater than they’ve ever been in my lifetime.

The world has seen worse. And it’s seen better. Stay tuned. Whichever way it goes, history will be made that will impact you and your generation.

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