Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Civil disobedience is the new political chic

Sir Thomas More
Sir Thomas More (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)
It seems to have started with Manning and Snowden and their mega-leaks of classified documents.  

Then it spread to pot enthusiasts.  Twenty-two states currently consider marijuana use legal for medical and/or recreational purposes.  Never mind that dope is still illegal under federal law.

Now we have the pro-gun guys.  After the latest school-shooting tragedy, New York passed its SAFE Act, a tough gun control statute.  This morning, the radio reported that many sheriffs in upstate New York have announced they will not enforce the new law.

Meanwhile, Coloradians in their infinite wisdom are trying to recall Democratic state senators who voted for gun control out there. Never mind that recall elections used to be rare... reserved for moral miscreants and outright criminals, caught in flagrante delicto mid-term.  Now, the cowboys in Colorado want to spend millions to cut short the terms of duly elected representatives just because they didn't vote the way the voters expected.

And in the wake of the Supreme Court's recent decision, striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, local officials are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Here's the thing about civil disobedience:  It's supposed to come at a price.  As MLK said in his letter from the Birmingham Jail, you have to be prepared to go to prison in support of your principles.  You are not entitled to just pick and choose the laws you will or will not obey, all with impunity.

If Empire State county sheriffs decline to enforce the SAFE Act, they should tender their resignations.  It is a travesty for them to remain in office while asserting the right to pick and choose the laws they will enforce.

The same goes for public officials who issue marriage licenses in violation of state laws.

Don't misunderstand me.  I am in favor of same-sex marriage and legalizing pot.  And I own guns.

My point is that a notion seems to be abroad in the land currently that, if an individual decides that a law in unconstitutional, s/he can violate it with impunity.  Never mind that s/he is a member of the military, a defense contractor with a top secret clearance, a county sheriff or a clerk of courts.

Manning found out the hard way he was wrong.  Others need to learn the same lesson.  Otherwise, as Thomas More put it, cut down all the laws, like so many trees, and what will stop the winds of anarchy and lawlessness from howling through your villages?

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