By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
Before the former president was elected to office, I believed the hype about this country being one that abided by the “rule of law.” I believed that no person was above the law and that if one did wrong, our “justice system” would call them out and make them pay.
Now, I am trying to figure out why I believed that.
Political corruption has always existed, but it seemed that there was always a line that America’s politicians would not cross. Because Richard Nixon had been stopped in his corrupt feet and resigned from office, I believed that the former president would eventually be stopped.
But he was not. And every time he or one of his cabinet members or friends defied the “rule of law” and refused to honor subpoenas, it became more and more clear that it is primarily the peons in this country who are genuinely threatened by “the law.” As the former president continued to ignore the law – and the principles of democracy – “the law” seemed hopelessly impotent.
Tim Snyder, fascist historian and the author of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century has explained how authoritarians sidestep ‘the law” as they march themselves toward the acquisition of total power, and for the longest time, it seemed that we in America could and did look at authoritarian countries and see that happening. Law enforcement seemed more than eager and ready to support the overthrow of their own governments.
But that was not supposed to happen in America, because of our democracy, heralded as the premier democracy of all time, so “exceptional” that other countries studied it and imitated it. Many Americans carried that false sense of security, believing that the laws and the infrastructure of this country would forever save us from ever becoming a totalitarian state.
As a Black person, I of course realized that “the rule of law” did not and has not ever applied to Black people. Dehumanized because of the business of slavery, and criminalized after the Civil War during the Convict Leasing era so that there would be a “lawful” reason to arrest African Americans who had been freed from slavery and thus keep them enslaved so that they could continue to do the work of making America rich, Black people have forever yearned for “the rule of law” to “be there” for us. It has not. Neither do other marginalized groups enjoy the assurance that the “rule of law” will apply for them.
But watching the former administration basically snub his nose at “the rule of law,” and lead his cronies to do the same has been disheartening. Big money is making sure that their choices for government leadership are protect from “the law.” Congress seems woefully unable to make the rule of law work against these people who are guided and protected not by God but by big money.
Our laws have made it impossible to indict a sitting president for crimes committed that threaten the very survival of this country. Why is it that the law can and does allow a sitting president to plot against the country he was elected to serve? Why does the law allow a presidential candidate to refuse to reveal his tax returns as he/she barrels toward the highest office in the land? Why do our laws permit the tampering of legitimate ballots for a sham audit such as that being conducted in Arizona and being considered in other countries? Why are there no laws that absolutely prohibits any program on the air to spew obvious lies?
Why, in other words, doesn’t the “rule of law” kick in at a time like this to protect the masses of people whose rights are being eroded right in front of our eyes?
Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, has said, “in this country, it is better to be rich and guilty than poor and innocent?”
Watching these men in power ignore, disrespect and sidestep “the rule of law” and get away with it illustrates the truth of Stevenson’s observation, and I am sure that as the “investigation” into the administration continues, more “shocking details” will be revealed, but will slip quietly into the night as perpetrators of crimes are bailed out by big money. In the end, there is not much authentic respect for the “rule of law.”
America, it turns out, is no less corrupt than the governments it has always criticized. America is like the emperor who had no clothes. This country is walking naked through the streets of justice, mocking the belief in democracy and pushing toward a government where “the least of these” will be kept in – or in some cases, returned to – “their place.” And ironically, the “rule of law,” as defined by those with big money, will be the primary tool used to put them there.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. She is available for speaking. And she is an award-winning author for her latest book, “With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America,” available through all booksellers. Contact her at email@example.com.