It Was All Legal

There are historians who maintain that all the acts and orders of Adolph Hitler were technically legal. Through intimidation, extortion, and the threats and practice of torture and murder, Hitler secured the legal approval of the German parliament (the Reichstag) and the courts to do whatever he wanted with immunity. This monster was given the freedom, sanctioned by laws and court decisions, to destroy a nation which had produced Bach and Goethe, the pursuit of a war that resulted in over sixty million deaths, and the most horrific act of cruelty in this history of humankind—the Holocaust. 

During the Nuremberg trials, the defense of those who collaborated in Hitler’s evil madness defended themselves by saying that they were “just following orders” legally sanctioned by the German government. With the obsessive precision expected of German efficiency. every “i” had been dotted and every “t” had been crossed by politicians and judges marching in lockstep behind this mad tyrant. It was all legal—and it was all atrociously evil.

Last week a lawyer stood before the US Supreme Court (the neofascist court Trump and McConnell created) and argued that a serving President should be able to order the murder of his opponents with immunity. When I first heard this, I couldn’t believe it. Then I read that three of the justices (Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Samuel Alito) seemed sympathetic to the argument claiming that future Presidents should be protected from the fear of making controversial decisions which may result in future prosecution or the inconvenience of any future trivial lawsuits.  

All three justices said they were not concerned about the specific case of Donald Trump—a man who incited an insurrection to overthrow a democratically elected government and who tried to force his Vice President to negate the decision of the American people for their choice for the Presidency! Such acts by any other politician would be viewed as insurrection and treason. 

The courts are given the task of protecting the Constitution of the United States from the tyranny of people like #45. If the Founding Fathers had wanted an “immunity” clause within the Constitution, they would have placed it there. But they had more sense than to write a constitution which would allow for the concept of the absolute power of a “king” who could act with immunity. The rejection of such a concept was central to the reason for the American revolution. King George III was replaced by President George Washington who was granted limited powers and was restricted by a written constitution. (Technically, England to this day has no written constitution. It has centuries of traditions which guide the government.)

Sadly, today too many of our politicians have degenerated into “political whores” who sell themselves to the highest bidders, who lack any sense of decency, and who prefer power and reelection over becoming “profiles of courage” in protecting the values of a nation dedicated to the “liberty and justice of all.” Like Pilate of the New Testament, they cynically ask, “What is truth?” They have no interest in truth or integrity. In fact, they wouldn’t know the truth if it slapped them in the face. 

And through the shenanigans of Mitch McConnell, we have a Supreme Court packed with unqualified (according to the American Bar Association) justices who will “interpret” the law according to the whims of a wannabe dictator and a political party totally dedicated to the greed of wealthy individuals and corporations. 

But all these ethical and political scoundrels are not responsible for the tragedy facing our nation. We, the people, are the ones who are at fault. We elect these despicable people to office, and too many of us decide our votes based on our own greed, self-interest, fears, and prejudices. Rather than placing our focus on policies and the results of those policies, we succumb to the lies and caricatures presented by ambitious and immoral (or amoral) politicians who care more about themselves and their futures than they do the common good of our nation. Such intentional and stubborn ignorance serves as a fertile soil for the weeds of greed, cynicism, and evil to spout, grow, and choke authentic freedom, compassionate justice, and guiding truth.  

Democracy is only as good as the people who intentionally desire and vigilantly preserve that form of government. The fact that half the population supports a wannabe dictator who cannot open his mouth without lying, who is a sexual predator, who mocks mentally and physically challenged people, who derides POWs, who possesses not a single ounce of compassion, who is racist and misogynist, who speaks of jailing and killing his political opponents,  who claims to know more than doctors, scientists, educators, theologians, admirals, and generals, and who lacks any human decency reveals how low citizens of the United States have descended into an abyss of stupidity and moral turpitude. 

Come November, if #45 becomes #47, we will have only ourselves to blame and we will deserve to suffer the consequences so many nations in the past have endured because of their foolish choices. A man whose heroes and role models are former KGB Putin and North Korean President Kim Jong Un should raise a red flag. Should he be reelected, future historians will record that every act he did, regardless how despicable and evil, was “technically legal,” and that warrant was granted by us at the ballot box. We will be the ones who destroy our democracy. 

(On September 8, 2019, I wrote an article entitled Mark 8:36; Matthew 6:21 “Self-Evident.” I encourage you to read it. I believe it’s as relevant today as it was in 2019—perhaps more so.)

Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

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