I haven’t been writing about politics much lately. It’s not because I’ve given up or lost interest. It’s more a case of there’s too many pieces to the puzzle and I have to do some reading to get some of them clear in my mind. I’m starting to believe that we don’t learn nearly enough about English history when they teach us U.S, history. Every time I think I’m close to the beginning, I find some more information that takes me even further back in history. Anglo Saxon England for example. My oh my. My reading list is longer than my arm and getting longer. Every time I finish one it leads me to two more.
According to one historian you need to go clear back to the reign of Henry II to find some of the roots of the law as we know it now. To the idea that if you want to know what the law is “go talk to my judges.” Granted Henry had a temper that would make Mt. St. Helens look tame and he didn’t always practice what he preached. But, the idea of a national body of law independent of the king, and that even the king was subject to, seems to have some roots in Henry’s reign.
During the reign of Henry’s grandson Henry III some members of the nobility tried to use the precedent of Magna Charta to place the king under the authority of Parliament. A tall order when you consider that Parliament only assembled when the ruler called for some kind of elections and then only when taxes were needed. The monarchy’s attempts to rule without Parliament and Parliament’s attempts to have a larger say in how the country was governed seesawed back and forth for centuries. What I’m trying to say is that what we’re seeing now has happened before. And if we are supremely lucky it will keep happening. At least we’re still shouting, not shooting and I hope very much that it will come to that.
There are plenty of pots boiling right now. The biggest one seems to be who decides what a law means and if the executive is bound by what the law says, not what he or she decides it means. Or if the executive has to follow the law at all. My personal opinion is this: the executive can’t pick and choose which laws to obey or redefine the meaning of the law to suit his agenda. If we allow this to continue, the meaning of a law may change every time we get a new president. No country that claims to be a democracy or a republic can function under those conditions, not and remain true to its founders.
There is a law on the books that addresses warrants for surveillance on communications from overseas. The government is allowed to set things in motion and has seventy-two hours to apply for a warrant. Given the history of the law there is little doubt that a warrant would be issued. If the government needs a new law, then go to congress and try to get a new one passed.
Asking questions in public about how to combat terrorism does not make us weak. It doesn’t endanger the public good. It’s the courage to discuss these issues in public that makes us stronger. Hiding in the shadows just chips away at the threads that hold us together.
Update: I had written this draft late last month and didn’t post it. There’s hope coming from the traditional conservative side of the Republican Party. They aren’t happy with the excuses in the Attorney General’s testimony. And quite blunt in the opinion that “if you don’t like the law ask us to change it.” What really takes the cake for me is the attitude of “yeah we knew about the law, we were basically too lazy to follow it.” And no apology for the ultra slacker attitude. Sheesh. There are other adjectives but this is an AOL journal after all.