To the senators, congressmen, governors and other elected officials across this land, I have something to say to you. Someone ought to say it; and if no one else will, it looks like it will have to be me. This is what I have to say: I accuse you before all of infidelity and injustice! I do not condemn you all; but speaking generally, you politicians repeatedly, habitually fail to meet our just and reasonable expectations for basic integrity that an office of public trust demands.
The Charge of Infidelity
When I say infidelity, I am not, of course, speaking of marital infidelity, as the word is most often used today, but unfaithfulness to the people who elected you; to the promises you made to get elected; to the letter, and especially the spirit of the law; and to your oath of office. I will take each of these in turn, and make my indictments accordingly.
First, the people who elected you had certain expectations of you, which you well knew when you offered to represent them. Now, some of these things you ought not to concern yourself with, since it is the people’s legitimate interests, and not their whims or the selfish interests of some group or another that you are to represent. It is to see that they get justice from their government; and not goodies. Some of you have failed utterly to serve the common good; and have become tools of donors and lobbyists. Many of you have represented the interests of your people faithfully except when your own interests led you to do otherwise. There is no use denying this. The thing is well-known, and complained of by all!
The second indictment needs no proof; for you have all done it. You fail to keep your promises because you never intended to; or because you lack the backbone to resist pressure; or because you don’t like confrontation and conflict; or all of the above. The people do not expect you to keep all of your promises, for they do not always keep theirs. It is a human failing, and we all know that you are not above human weakness. But they do expect you to at least try! We do not even mind if you occasionally see that one of your promises is against the common good; and therefore find yourself forced to break it. All we expect at that point is an honest and reasonable explanation.
As to the third indictment: sadly, many of you are law-breakers, even lawless men and women. You will do anything — even violate the law — to promote your agenda if you think you can get away with it; and most of the time, you can. Whether it be the constitution or the laws of the state, or the rules governing your conduct in office, you think of them only as tools to get your way. When you do not need them, you feel free to discard them. Worse, you betray hypocrisy when you quote the letter of the law to your political opponents, while violating the spirit of the law yourselves!
You all know what I’m talking about. You are, most of you, lawyers; and you are experts in the art of getting around the law, without openly breaking it. But we can see it; and we do not trust you. In vain do you seem to break the law with impunity. You can be as slippery as an eel, as crafty as a fox; but your ways are known to God; and he will not hold you guiltless. Neither will we. Even if we cannot get to you because of your subtlety, we know what you are, and we know your names.
Fourth, you have been unfaithful to your oath of office. All of you have sworn to uphold the constitution, or the laws of your particular city, state, or nation. Have you done this? Did you say the words without concern about their meaning? Do you realize that, whether you meant them or not, they placed you under a sacred obligation? Or did you take the oath just because you had to? You must know that oath-taking is the highest form of commitment; and that it is a promise before God to bless or curse you accordingly as you keep or break it. Do you even believe in God? How many of you make conscience of that oath? Do you ever think about its binding nature? Do you ever use it as a prop to conscience, a device for the strengthening of your will when you are tempted to break it? Or was it forgotten the moment the ceremony was over? Do you even remember what the words were that came out of your own mouth? Only you can answer these questions.
People despise the political class; most of all because they perceive you as being more concerned about being re-elected than you are about doing what is right. We understand your desire to hold onto the perks of your office; the respect paid to you, the free lunches; the opportunity to cut shady deals, the job that makes no physical demands on you. We also understand the advantages in terms of power and influence that can be gained by seniority. But we expect you to keep your oath of office; and accordingly, to resist the temptation to compromise with evil for the sake of your own selfish agenda.
Every one of us must make hard choices in life. Some of them may lead to the loss of our job, or the breaking of a relationship; and for some, imprisonment or worse. Many times, we are tempted to lie, cheat or steal in order to gain advantages that cannot be gotten by honesty. Do not think that the temptation to corruption is peculiar to politicians. So we understand what character is, what integrity means, and though relatively few of you display these qualities; we still feel justified in expecting these things from you. Though we know, in our own moments of honest self-reflection, that we may be no better than you, we are not in positions of public trust, as you are. To whom much is given, of him much shall be required.
So much for the indictments.
The Demand for Justice
Now; for our sole demand, for of all of the things that we want from you, this is the chief, and the sum: justice. I wonder if you are aware of how deeply resentful we are at the injustices you daily inflict upon us! I doubt that you understand the depth of our resentment, our indignation, and our sense of betrayal; much less the lengths which many of us are willing to go to in order to secure justice and the impartial rule of law in our country.
Now, justice needs to be defined; and it cannot be defined by human law unless it is nothing but a conventional definition, made for functional purposes, as an agreed upon — or a forced — code of conduct. It must have a transcendent origin to be universally binding. And we all assume that justice is universal and unchangeable; which is proved by the fact that we hold everyone accountable to it. That there is an absolute right and an absolute wrong is the conviction of every human soul, and is the basis of conscience. Therefore justice, if there is such a thing, must be defined by the the Supreme Being and Judge of all men. America was founded upon this belief; and the conviction that the Bible is the word of God. This is unarguable, unless one is ignorant our history and of the founding documents. Justice, for the founders, was defined by the law of God given to man in the holy Scriptures. We Americans are still a religious people; and everyone at some time or other appeals to the Bible as the final authority (even the irreligious, whenever it suits them).
Justice is the hardest thing for a people to get. It can only exist when the courts administer the law of the land with an eye to the law of God; which should be the basis of all human laws. The laws of men are only justifiable as long as they promote the justice of God. That is the reason for their existence. The power to determine when a law is unjust — that is, contrary to the transcendent law of God — is given to juries in trials. This is called “Jury nullification”, a practice now discouraged by judges, but still legal. There is a difference between the law of God, which is always just, and the laws of men, which are frequently unjust.
So much for definition, which provides the basis for our demands.
First, we demand that the laws of our land be just. They must not be written to favor one class over another. They must not be against nature, conscience, right reason, or the written law of God.
Second, we demand that the laws be made only by those elected by the people — not un-elected judges issuing politically motivated rulings on trivial grounds that effectively supersede the laws made by the various lawmaking bodies of our nation.
Third, we demand that justice be administered impartially. There must be no favored class that is above the law. Justice is the same for the rich and for the poor. The penalty must be proportional to the crime; not to the social status of the criminal. Everyone knows this; and nothing is more execrable than the connivance of the justice system at the crimes of the rich and powerful, coupled with a merciless severity to others less favored when they commit the very same crimes! This is abhorrent, as it undermines the law; for when men see the law as merely a tool to control them; rather than an instrument of God to enforce justice, they will despise the law, and think it a small thing to break it.
Fourth, we demand that the laws be actually enforced by those whose responsibility it is to enforce them; even when political or personal interests may tempt them to connive at the breaking of the law.
In summary, we, the forgotten people, generally overlooked, if not despised by you politicians, only want two things from you: fidelity and justice. If you can forget your political differences, end your party spirit, and attend to the business of governing in the real interests of the people, administering justice as the ministers of God, then you will earn the respect and gratitude of us all; but if you continue in the practices that have earned you the nickname, “the swamp”, then you will eventually destroy this nation, and incur the judgment of God upon yourselves. Augustine said, “A land without justice is just a band of robbers.” We will pray for you, that you will not continue in the path of destruction; but go to work to heal our land.
Howard Douglas King
November 3, 2018