Monday, April 2, 2012

The Rule of Law

We need laws in society. Why? Consider some of the reasons I found listed on a teaching website (Teachers on the Web) :
  • To maintain social cohesion – so we can live together with other people in groups and communities.
  • To resolve conflict – to allow people to settle disagreements.
  • To attempt to balance the needs of individuals against the needs of the majority.
What are the consequences when individuals or groups fail to abide by the rule of law?  The rights of other individuals and groups are violated. The structure of society can break down.  Chaos can result. I worked in downtown Seattle during the WTO riots in 1999.  My office was a few blocks from the protests, but I still felt less than secure in the downtown area.  Fellow workers attempting to return home had dangerous encounters.  The failure by the protesters to abide by the "rule of law" cost governments and businesses both time and money.  Life was unable to move forward in a normal manner for a several days.

Seattle WTO Riots

This brings us to the Trayvon Martin case.  I do not intend to judge the case in this blog, only to say that the death of this young man is a tragedy.  As of today, the shooter George Zimmerman has not been charged with a crime.  If Zimmerman is guilty of a crime he should be given a fair trial and receive the appropriate punishment if convicted.  However, there are individuals and groups that are convinced that Zimmerman is guilty and may take actions beyond the "rule of law."

MSNBC host Al Sharpton is demanding the arrest of George Zimmerman and calling for an escalation in civil disobedience if action isn't taken immediately.  The New Black Panther party has offered a reward for anyone who captures Zimmerman.  Spike Lee attempted to tweet the address for Zimmerman's parents, instead tweeting the incorrect address and causing trouble for the residents.  Roseann Barr tweeted the correct address for Zimmerman's parents (later pulling the tweet).  On another front, Occupiers throughout America have disregarded local regulations and, in some instances, have destroyed property.

We may not like current laws or their results.  However, to act outside of those rules destroys the fabric that holds society together.  We have processes in place to create change.  Sometimes it is slow, but we must work within the established framework to make change.  Though some would disagree, the Tea Party actions that led up to the 2010 elections are a good example.  Tea Party groups and their sympathizers gathered in peaceful groups and worked through the electoral system to cause historic change within Congress.  This is an appropriate way to evoke change as it does not infringe upon the rights of others within society. 

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