Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
We all believe in righteous accountability. We secretly smile when the “idjit” who cut us off in traffic is later pulled over by an officer to receive a ticket. At last! Karma! The rule of law is glorious…UNTIL the siren is behind us and we’re caught. Were we speeding? Yes. Do we deserve a ticket? Yes. Are we still angry? Yup. It sucks to be wrong.
Perhaps the greatest indicator of character appears when someone is clearly guilty of wrongdoing. Do they blame? Do they make excuses? Do they accuse the officer(s) of misconduct? Or, the meanest response, do they threaten or perform retaliation? During his career, my husband—an honest, compassionate police officer—received multiple death threats aimed at him and his family by people who were caught and convicted of breaking the law. Kevin McCarthy is doing much the same to Attorney General Garland—attempting to control by intimidation.
When you’re accused of being wrong, the central question should be, are the charges warranted by evidence? When the officer who pulls you over has your ID and speed recorded on his radar gun, or the alcohol on your breath registers as being too high on the breathalyzer, or you have multiple video/eye witnesses to your participation in a violent coup, you’re caught. You did it. Complain as you will, the evidence is plain. Sometimes your attorney can find a way to weasel you out of trouble using a technicality, but that doesn’t make you innocent. Only a dictator of some sort such as Putin can declare truth to be a lie and walk away unscathed, at least temporarily. His people may not respect him, but they’re forced to accept him. Over time, a democracy is infected with many would-be dictators—a few, like Nixon, in public office. If the rule of law prevails—as when Eliot Ness brought Al Capone to justice—the democracy rights itself. (Note: Al Capone was popular with a segment of the population as is our former president.)
Democracy depends on a fundamental reliance on good character—regardless of whether goodness always prevails. The American version of the rule of law should encompass these concepts: No one is above the law (too important or popular to be held accountable) and no one is beneath the law (too insignificant or despised to be protected). The trailer for the Superman TV series used the motto: “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” Not everyone thinks that’s a good idea, apparently, if it doesn’t guarantee their own dominance. Personally, I can’t imagine how even the wildly egotistical can believe their power will be safe in an oligarchy or dictatorship in which laws are constantly reinvented to enshrine the influence of the few, but gullibility is not reserved for the uneducated. For some, championing a lie that perpetuates harm is more comfortable than admitting you were wrong or duped. That requires character.
In the wee hours of dawn, the city streets were nearly empty. My husband sat in his police cruiser at the bottom of a hill by the traffic light, which was red. Then a single car came flying through the red light, the driver waving gamely at the patrol car. The driver readily obeyed the signal to pull over. “What was that about?” asked my husband. “DWHUA,” replied the driver. “I was driving with my head up my ass.” My husband gave him a warning instead of a ticket for being so honest. Admitting when you’re wrong can be refreshing as proof that we as a species are capable of maturing.