Saturday, May 8, 2010

immigration,part two - rule of law

After glossing over indefinite detention, "enhanced interrogation" (torture), and warrantless wiretapping, can those on the conservative wing seriously ever even say the phrase "rule of law", much less argue for it? They have so pushed for a situational ethics thinking (ends justify the means) - which is another thing true believers would never endorse - that any support for strict adherence to legal guidelines comes across as highly hypocritical at best.

The rule of law is our guideline in this game called life. It is the set of boundaries that ensure (or encourage at least) civil conduct and make a peaceful life possible. Just as in any contest the rules are not there to bludgeon any competitor and cause them to constantly look over their shoulder for fear of stepping out of line. It is there to reinforce what they normally should have, a good sense of right and wrong - morals and manners - and to deal with serious violations of those so that all can benefit.

You have seen basketball games, for instance, where the referees are calling every petty infraction of the rule book, and fans are chanting "let them play". The referees are not the game, they are there to provide the framework and guidelines to help the players play a safe, orderly game. In the same way, in this game called life, laws are not life, they are the boundaries set to insure that all people get the chance to play freely. They must be administered wisely to ensure that people don't worry about either being taken advantage of by unruly players, nor about being hammered by the rule enforcers.

The problem is two-fold. One , we target selectively those who we think have stepped out of line, while expecting ourselves to "get a break" when we step over the line -as illustrated by the "war on terror" advocates and their cavalier attitude towards those accused or suspected of terrorism. And, two, we confuse the spirit and letter of the law. We forget what the purpose of the law is and harp on strict enforcement (for others, of course) of rules.

We are like the Pharisees as seen in the New Testament who targeted Jesus as a "bad person" because he healed on the Sabbath. They forgot that , as he said, "Sabbath was created for man, not man for the Sabbath". There was a rule about not working on the Sabbath Day, but it was meant to benefit, by providing a day of rest, not provide a target for the "morals police".

Another thing about strict adherence to letter, as opposed to spirit, of the law. Law is there to provide a safe and sane society. If we handle things well those truly committed to actions detrimental to the general public (like violent criminals who care nothing for life) are restrained while the rest of us live our lives in peace with little attention from law enforcement aside from the occasional corrective warnings (like being stopped and advised of a headlight being out, for instance). When the law becomes the focus instead of life ,and strict enforcement of every rule is made, then we enter a caged existence.

So it is with immigration. So many people come here, legally and illegally, to get a better life, more opportunity under a fair system. They want to work hard, for the most part. And, as has been the case over the course of our country's history, they will add to the richness of life in America, by challenging our status quo -culturally, culinarily, linguistically,etc. If we are wise we will welcome them in and learn. A society that is static is only dying, slowly. A truly healthy society has growing pains and we should not shy away from those.

So when you next hear someone say "but they broke the law" you might ask them if they have every driven over the speed limit. If they admit that they have, ask them "why aren't you in jail? You have broken the law as well" ....we often gloss over our own errors while highlighting others - but need to remember ...a humble mind is a healthy mind :)

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