The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Friday, January 6, 2017

There Oughta Be A Law...Not!

Chuck Schumer Ranting
For the past few days, since the start of the new congressional session, our federal legislators of both parties have been racking up the live-shots on TV news. I suppose they just can't help themselves. It probably has something to do with the politically oriented personality, a psyche that seeks and often demands constant attention. (This character trait is why nation-wide term-limits will always be an unattainable goal.) In their defense, though, I'll agree that the media, especially the 24-hour news-focused television media, have provided one of the more effective means of getting a politician's message and face in front of the people. And as agents of the status quo, they can't be expected to try something new.

Donald Trump Cheering
Our president-elect, however, is anything but a friend of the existing order. Thanks to years of media exposure, his face and his voice are almost universally recognized. He need not  introduce himself to the nation; it knows him already. Through his business experience and his unorthodox campaign it would seem he has come to realize several important things: (1) the people don't want another talking head for a president; (2) the media tend to filter what he says through their own political and ideological biases; and (3) keep the message simple, concise and clear. And so, instead of seeking out the TV cameras to communicate, he's chosen to go directly to the people with tweets of 140 characters. Not only do the people like it, but it's also proven to be extremely effective in producing the results he seeks. 

As one might expect, the mainstream media is apoplectic about Mr. Trump's use of Twitter because he's been able to bypass them as he communicates to the nation, thereby threatening their continued relevance. The opposition politicians -- most Democrats and a few Republicans -- join the media in their disdain of his tactics. They rant and rave from the House and Senate floors in hour-long diatribes that nobody listens to. It's all quite remarkable.

One thing I've noticed is the number of these legislators who, in praise of themselves, focus almost entirely on the number of laws they've enacted and of all the new legislation they're just aching to pass. Fortunately, a few of them take an opposing view and are more concerned with the laws they'd like to overturn. The repeal of so-called Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) is at the top of most Republicans' lists, and I certainly have no problem with that. Any law that places the healthcare of the individual in the hands of incompetent government bureaucrats must be repealed. And for most citizens it's proven to be anything but affordable. It is also far too complex and like our tax structure is incomprehensible, not only to the average citizen, but even to the supposed experts. It has to go.

I have come to appreciate Mr. Trump's simple approach to things political. Our founding fathers were of a similar mind when it came to the enactment of laws. Laws, they believed, should be clear and simple so they can be easily understood by the citizen. One cannot obey a law that cannot be understood. And there shouldn't be too many of them. Laws are necessary to prevent societal anarchy, but a constant increase in laws means a constant decrease in freedom. Too many laws also lead to the growth of government and the creation of agencies needed to interpret and enforce the laws. This too impinges on our freedom. And our laws should not contradict one another, but should reflect a continuity of purpose and result, one that supports the moral foundation of the republic. 

We have strayed far from this understanding of the law. At all levels of government our laws are too many, too complex, and too arbitrary.  Even more disturbing, the executive branch has circumvented the legislature by issuing a constant stream of executive orders which it enforces as if they were laws. And the judicial branch has evolved to function as a kind of super-legislature that can enact its own laws without any effective oversight.

Can we overcome these near-fatal faults and regain our freedom as citizens of this great republic? I'm not particularly optimistic, largely because of the sharp divisions that exist among the citizenry. Racial and ethnic divides, once thought to be lessening, have in recent years intensified. The people we elect to represent us show a remarkable disdain for the good of the people and focus instead on that which will aid their reelection. And as religion is increasingly forced from the public square, the nation seems to have lost its moral compass.  We murder the innocent and inconvenient and label the good as evil and the evil as good. 

Can all this be changed? Yes, it certainly can, but not by man's doing. It will take the movement of God, the Lord of History, to save us from ourselves. All we can do is stay faithful, never be fearful, and trust in God's mercy.

Pray for our nation and for those we have elected.

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