Criminals and Hypocrites
The United States of America is a nation of laws. Only by following the laws does our society work. To think otherwise is lunacy.
But what if we disagree with the laws? Are we just free to ignore a law because we disagree with it? Sorry buttercup, that’s not the way things work. We don’t get to pick and choose what laws we want to obey and which ones we want to ignore. What if everyone were to do that? What would happen if each of us chose to follow only the laws we personally agreed with, and that list is different than everyone else’s? The result would be utter chaos.
We didn’t always have laws to obey. In the beginnings we had simple traditions or customs. We did things, or didn’t do things, because that was what was accepted in the society. Violate the will of the society you lived in and you would be punished. Punishment could include such things as banishment, a savage beating or even death.
As civilizations grew larger and denser, the rules were codified and formalized. In written form, it became easier for everyone to clearly see what was and was not acceptable. Did everyone agree with them? Of course not, but then that’s the problem with free will.
It’s also important to note that while laws are enacted by the majority — “the people have spoken” concept — they are also in place to protect the minority from the majority. A majority opinion doesn’t make something right, at least in our society. It’s a fine and delicate balance our nation struggles with every day.
Breaking a law simply because you don’t agree with it doesn’t make you a community leader; it makes you a criminal. Likewise passing laws to make legal activity illegal because it doesn’t align with your way of thinking, while simultaneously ignoring other laws because they don’t fit with your higher moral ideology, doesn’t make you a lawmaker; it makes you a hypocrite.
In a letter from the Birmingham jail in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote: “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws”.
I agree with the sentiment Dr. King is expressing; however I have a problem with the last part of his statement, specifically, the word “disobey” in the final sentence. I would replace it with “challenge” so it reads: One has a moral responsibility to challenge unjust laws. While this might sound like just a game of semantics, there is a very real difference in the way this plays out today.
In our 24/7/365 live-feed world where everyone is an expert and nobody is willing to be held accountable, we have witnessed the rise of the self-entitled elitists who believe they and ONLY they are morally superior. From this lofty perch they believe any laws which do not support their ideology are free to be ignored, but only by them of course.
Here’s the reality of the world. If you choose to break the law because of your beliefs, do so with the full understanding that you may be held accountable for it. Do not expect the world to readily accept your opinion that the law is unjust and change it just because you say so. It is possible your case will be the one that changes a national injustice and makes the world a better place. Perhaps… but in the mean time, you are still breaking the law and are a criminal. Put another way; “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time”.
If we have no respect for the rule of law, we are nothing more than criminals and hypocrites ourselves. Laws have and will be changed, and while the process is sometimes painfully slow and complicated, the history of our nation shows just how far we have come.
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