Sunday, May 13, 2018


The real shock of our present time is not our doofus president, but rather the slow realization that our insistence on the Rule of Law has allowed — almost caused — a parallel and closely related culture to grow up in reaction and accommodation to it.  Rather than being an identified stratus of society, it is an accumulation of individuals in various roles who somehow have a developed a community.  It’s not a different kind of lawyers and legislators so much as individuals who have turned away from the public system to a defiant underground that is dedicated to fighting it on its own terms.

Now we seem to have reached some kind of critical mass that allows those linked people to simply be unresponsive.  The president performs all sorts of dishonest atrocities, the people supposedly in charge do nothing but watch, and the rest of us are astounded — then terrified.  It’s like the moment when a horse realizes that it has been fooled into believing that a bit in its mouth can control it.  First the horse fails to respond.  Soon it attacks.

This is not unlike the realization that there is no God.  He didn’t die because he was never a person in the first place, just a fantasy who echoed a paternal system.  Antinomianism is the realization that there is no big “name” to be obeyed.  Note the second meaning. 

Merriam-Webster definition of antinomian. 1 : one who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace, the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation. 2 : one who rejects a socially established morality.

The Christian denial of the power of faith (obedience of thought) is still being fought out, but there is a growing fraction of people who are onboard.  The second part is more difficult, and deeper reaching, which is a bit ironic.  Some say that Trump is not imposing a return to the idea of democracy, but rather a social order that preserves the status of himself and others like him: rich white men late in life.  This reveals that they are not thinking of progress but of greed, the last means of emolument, which was attached to the Industrial Revolution of Trump’s parents.  The keys were oil, coal and steel.  

Greed, in a nonjudgemental context, is the accumulation of credits that symbolize ownership.  Trump doesn’t have a big pile of steel in his backyard — he only has paper that describes regulations of the Rule of Law, all about ownership.  In other countries and sometimes in this one, that paper can be knocked aside in order to change ownership without any exchange of “money.”  In fact, the present oligarchs in Russia became rich in just this way when the Soviet Union dispersed.  The deal was very much like the kings of Europe removing the ownership of Roman Empire Catholic property when the Romans withdrew, so they could re-allocate the land to people who were “faithful” to them, the sovereign.  Much of that allocation still stands.

The criminal and black legal world exists in reciprocity with enforcers who are authorized by the forces of democracy.  Both sides use secrecy as a tool, which enables spying.  These days technical devices expand this ability very much and we have counted on the “truth” of what they record.  Now we are baffled by having access but not being able to guarantee the accuracy or prevent deception.  This is almost as bad as not having them and causes reliance on paper records to return.  Paper is something that can be seized.  Cyber info can be intercepted and records everything.

Much of this blog thinking is in reaction to   Evan Mandery tries to describe the convictions of Alan Dershowitz.  The latter is a purist, a priest-like figure who will do cultural evil to preserve a transcendent principle.  Most of us would go the other way, defending a known cultural constant rather than an unseen theory.  Theories are  rarely practical which I discovered when serving congregations.  It’s the unexpected consequences that throw everything sideways.

Last week at the hearings  I saw this vid, linked below, which was first posted in entirety and then disappeared.  I found the beginning of it here.

“Capitol Police, who went to remove him from the hearing, could be heard yelling at him to “stop resisting.”  Some reporters identified the protester as Ray McGovern, a former CIA officer turned activist.”  Ray is 78 (my age), was well-dressed, did not curse or struggle, but resisted.  He has relevant testimony but not status for the committee protocol.  In the hallway, way too many cops threw him on the floor and twisted his arms behind his back.  One is easily dislocated, which he told them though they were no more careful and made him yell..  A woman’s voice said,  “Why are you hurting him?”  Finally they let him up.  

To watch this is radicalizing.     If he had been black or young, I think they would have hit him.  He had been part of a group protest that had shouted and been less roughly removed.  Following is a more complete vid.    McGovern says:  “Polling shows that most Americans, including Catholics, have been persuaded by Hollywood films and TV series, other media, and Trump himself that torture works.”  

I tweeted that this incident may be a precursor for crowds in the streets this summer.  The tweet never appeared.  The need to oppose respect for democratic participation against the need to protect the country from major terrorism is a real one and pressing.  The balance shifts back and forth, particularly in “civil” situations.  McGovern was issued a ticket and will have to appear in court.

The line between civil and criminal Rule of Law is a frayed and gray one, and often the real problem is with regulations rather than the majesty of constitutional law, which is meant to be principled.  To burn a flag in protest is entirely different from burning a flag that is sullied and torn in order to give it a final end.  The intensity of protest is related to the seriousness of the issue.  We’re being treated to some passionate responses to weak, thin mottoes, because they reflect the contrasting internalization of the issues.  

Habit-driven old white senators are visibly shaken by the scoldings they get for interrupting a young black woman in violation of the Rule of Law, the politeness that preserves order in a democracy.  Another clip follows:

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