Some thoughts on beliefs, law, and the USA
Often, lately, the phrases "Land of the free, home of the brave," and "with liberty and justice for all." come into my head.
But first, a detour. I have often noticed that people live their lives one way, but speak of their beliefs and how they think things ought to be done in another. A fictional example: Uncle Frank, the-present-at-every-family-gathering and usually-a-little-drunk character in everyone's lives who is a prime example of this behavior. Frank goes on at length about how much money is wasted on social services, but his very own children would not have made it through college without student loans. Frank complains about other races or religions, but his son in law is a black jew who he loves dearly. Frank can't stand liberals because they are destroying the country, but his safe drinking water, drugs, foods, vehicles, roads, as well as his lunch breaks, 8-hour work day, no mandatory overtime, and many other things we all count on were all fought bitterly for by those very same dreaded liberals.
In short, Uncle Frank talks out his ass a lot, but we know he's a good guy and doesn't mean it. Or, another way to look at it is, as long as Frank knows you, he's not going to screw you over. But what about the people Frank doesn't know? Ones he will never meet and knows nothing of? Will he vote to remove the same amenities he enjoys?
I said it. Vote. Back to the subject.
So, the ideas I mean to speak of are the ones we, as Unites States citizens all consider to be immutable: That an individual has the freedom to their own beliefs and actions so long as those actions don't harm others; that our nation is the one which others should look to as an example of a proper way to be; that it is our diversity which makes us strong, and it is our ability to intentionally get along which allows that strength to prosper.
I'm afraid, though, I don't see much of any of this going on lately.
It seems that now, having been here a generation or ten, people here fail to realize that each of us is an immigrant- except for the native Americans.
And belief. What does it mean to have a country with freedom of religion if people vote into law their religious beliefs? If 51% of the nation says "Our god told us not to do that, so you can't either," how free are we? Isn't this just what our ancestors moved to this continent to escape? Someone else telling them they couldn't practice their own beliefs?
And Law. What use is a legal system in which an obvious truth can be overridden by a defendant with deep pockets, public opinion, or a technicality?
When we get a doctor bill for $400 after a 3 minute once-over by a doctor, there's truth in that number, and lies in it too. To become a doctor, typically you need to go to school for more than six years, and do internships, and work relentless hours. The people who can stick that out are few, and we often forget that we're in the presence of an elite few who have devoted their lives to trying to fix us when we are broken. The lies are deep and entwining. The system a doctor must submit to in order to practice is colossal. Medical insurance is just getting more and more expensive. Drug companies, as we know, delight in being the first to produce a cure because they will get to charge a fortune for it. The bureaucracy, red tape, cost of doing business, and too many other things all get into the bill somehow, and instead of the 29-cent q-tip that went in your ear, and 3-feet of tissue paper you sat on, you're paying forward- the cost of keeping the doctor in business.
But back to law. A lawyer, like a doctor, is one of an elite few who can withstand the rigorous schooling necessary. Unlike a doctor, though, a lawyer is buying into a self-perpetuating system- curing a person is a noble cause, but winning a legal case only creates one more thing for lawyers to study, possibly one more loophole for someone to escape justice, and only deepens the divide between the common man and some kind of just result.
Imagine a cell phone service provider. There are many, so they tempt you with this, that, and the other thing in order to get you to sign a 1-year contract. Once you have signed you realize when you need help, if you don't have generic problem A, B or C, you will have to wait on hold and be transferred to 4 different people before you find out they can't help you. This is fair, in a way, because you had a choice- either another company, or no phone.
With a legal system, though, there is no option. When an unavoidable conflict with the law ends up in your lap, you have to have a lawyer, and you have the legal system created by lawyers, and you have to put up with the resources you have at hand- usually very little. There is no choice involved.
Does anyone trust a politician? Is there a single politician who does not lie or try to fill their own or friends' pockets with our money? Aren't these the same people we 'trust' to safeguard our legal system and assure that when we, the poor and lambasted nobodies who make up the country, are confronted with the law we all receive the same possible results as anyone else?
If we have to trust politicians, obviously we are in trouble.
But our constitution is there for us, right? When politicians violate the constitution, they are supposed to be punished, right?
I see gay marriage being made a big deal. I really can't believe anyone is giving it a second thought.
I see abortion being made a big deal, but I also see the laws not addressing it properly- if abortion is murder, then we need to issue birth certificates at the point of conception, and we need to have funerals for miscarriages, and we need to become, apparently, very, very invasive in peoples' private lives.
I had meant to come to the point, here, that there is a distinct lack of a clear line, conceptually, in what you can and can't make a law about. If you can make a law based on your belief which would prohibit others to act freely in their beliefs, then we are neither a free nor brave country. Until that point is discovered and carved in stone somewhere, people are going to be at each other's throats over whose beliefs are right.