And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast– man’s laws, not God’s– and if you cut them down—and you’re just the man to do it—do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!
So said the character of Sir Thomas More in Ben Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons – essentially a warning about the misuse and abuse of authority – an authority which might once have been accepted as legitimate by all parties concerned. But once the law has been ‘cut down’ in pursuit of some supposed greater good – then all bets are off. The winds will blow, and no one will be able to stand upright, once the protection of equally applied-law and customs and habits of a well-ordered society have been dispensed with. This is the most horrifying aspect of what David Foster linked to regarding the John Doe investigation in Wisconsin – that both law and the constraints of custom and practice are being coldly cut down and trampled upon. Essentially, DA John Chisholm used his position to wage lawfare against supporters of Scott Walker, and with the full cooperation of Judge Barbara Kluka. Midnight SWAT raids against people who had done nothing more than to be politically-involved citizens exercising their rights to support a candidate with their vote, their donations and their words.
A more grim and deadly crime against the citizens of a democratic republic can hardly be imagined … and yet DA Chisholm and Judge Kluka were perfectly fine with ordering a series of fishing expeditions, plainly with the intent of harassing and humiliating conservatives and their families. And to add insult to the injury, ordering those so investigated to remain silent, and even to refrain from consulting a lawyer. I can only wonder if the logical next step in the eyes of activists like DA Chisholm and Judge Kluka are labor camps in the frozen woods or a term in a very particular kind of mental hospital.
This is what happens when people on one side of a matter are persistently ‘otherized’ – eventually words and words and words accumulate. The ‘designated other’ is no longer worthy of civilized regard and consideration in the minds of the proper and upright, and any kind of retaliation against them becomes perfectly acceptable, even laudable. Because … they are the ‘other’.
A commenter on another matter, on another blog discussing how the Nazi party managed to take over Germany in the 1930s, remarked that the date on which that was accomplished wasn’t really when Hitler dissolved the Reichstag, or when the Nazi Party first won seats in it: it was when SA thugs began beating up Jews and political opponents in the streets … and ordinary people looked away and did nothing, because they were afraid and/or thought it none of their business, really. And that was the moment when the laws being cut down, the wind began to blow.