My friend Dennis Weller pointed me to this article:
Burning the Law in a Riot of Treason
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Columnist
Monday 27 August 2007
nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both
instances, there’s a twilight where everything remains seemingly
unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change
in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the
– Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas
departure of Alberto Gonzales from the Attorney General’s Office brings
America to a place of definitions, and hanging in the balance is the
very idea of the nation itself. The basic concepts and fundamental
principles of our republic now stand as the only legitimate
considerations going forward, for they have been tested almost to
annihilation already, and will not endure much longer if we continue on
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Something I wrote sometime ago seems appropriate here.
Three decades ago, I served in a conscript military, in an unpopular war, in a country of no consequence to me or my comrades. There was no law there that could force me to do my job, there was no law that could force anyone there to do anything. As we used to say, “What are they going to do? Send me to Nam?”
It became obvious to me that the military was functioning more ‘in spite of’ than ‘because of’ the formal military rules. It continued to function without good leadership, clear purpose, or popular support because the average soldier, some of whom would have willingly shot their commanding officer had the officer ever gotten in front of them, would not willing endanger their comrades even to save their own hides.
The ‘code of conduct’ many of us operated under was not exactly the idealized version, but it was allegiance to it and, not any law, that kept the situation from deteriorating into complete anarchy. The word for that allegiance to a code is “honor”.
Honor is the adherence to a specific standard of conduct, without legal or other obligation.
I believe we are losing respect for honor in our society. We use the title ‘The Honorable’ and snigger when we say it. We assume a lack of honor in our politicians. It has become ‘politically correct’ to belittle military honor.
Is honor important? After all we have laws, don’t we? We believe in the Rule of Law!
Of course there are some areas where we recognize that ‘honor’ has some value. Like, maybe, for the military?
It has always seemed a little silly, to me, to have rules about how your are to go about killing your enemies. However; the soldier’s primary job, even in war, is not to kill the enemy but rather to protect his own society.
Soldiers need, and we civilians need to believe that they have, a strong allegiance to specific ‘code of conduct’, because so much of their required conduct is way outside what is normally allowed in society. When we train a wolf to guard the sheep pens we need something that restrains the guard wolf. The same reasoning applies to other occupations where ‘codes of conduct’ are often mentioned such as medicine and law enforcement.
These are certainly not the only areas where ‘honor’ is a consideration. What about the wild wolves of society.? Can a thief be honorable? Of course, a thief is usually outside the pale of acceptable conduct and deserving of punishment. However, we commonly lighten the punishment based on our judgment of the thief’s sense of honor. For example if they did not go armed, worked carefully to enter only empty homes, or held a reputation for dealing honestly with their peers in their daily life, they might well be judged worthy of receiving a sentence much lighter than the maximum allowed under the law.
The fact is that all human society functions on the honor system or it soon ceases to function at all!
Does this statement seem extreme to you? Think about it a bit. What percentage of crimes are ever solved by the police? I can’t give a figure but I think that we can agree that there is a sense that most crime is not solved. And given that feeling, fear of punishment cannot be a powerful deterrent to crime. So why isn’t criminal activity the norm instead of the exception?
Because most of us have a ‘sense of honor’ that tells us that it is not OK for me to steal your stereo just because I happen to know that you and all your family will be in another city for the weekend. Because most of us have a ‘sense of honor’ that says it is not Ok to push into the front of a line, a ‘sense of honor’ that says it is not OK to grab a kids Halloween candy. Each of us has the power to be the wolf sometimes but we usually don’t do it because of our ‘sense of honor’.
The decline of respect for honor is an excellent indicator of the impending dissolution of a society, because there is no rule of law that can force ‘proper’ conduct from a population. My military experience would certainly back that idea.
Is it critical what standard of conduct one holds allegiance to? Not nearly as much as you might think?
Is someone who would steal your stereo while you were out of town, or some one that would drive after having a beer or two, or some one that would hire out as a soldier to the highest bidder, or some one that would sell sexual favors ‘dishonorable’? Not by the definition.
Of course, as with the thief, a code of honor outside the range considered acceptable within your society will lead to personal troubles sooner or later; However; the definition of honor does not concern the terms of a particular standard of conduct to which a person holds, but rather the degree of allegiance to a standard.
We have become so dependent on the idea of the rule of law that we are in danger of forgetting that law cannot rule anything. Any law that is not supported by the ‘honor’ of the majority of the population, cannot be effective.
Honor is an allegiance to a personal standard of conduct, a personal standard of integrity, without legal or other obligation.
The standard of conduct may well vary from time to time, place to place, or person to person, but, the decline of a society is not signaled by changes to the ‘standard of conduct’ but rather by decline in respect for allegiance to a standard.
It is important that we instill a sense of honor in our children and reinforce it in ourselves.
For without honor there is no ‘society’, without honor there is no law, without honor there is no future!
I had it in mind to post William Pitt’s article, Burning the Law in a Riot of Treason, but I cannot. He underestimates the power of our rights and attributes far too much importance to the life of one man in government.
He is also wrong in denying the illegality of the massive treason committed by this administration and in claiming that this is the worst we have ever seen in the US. We’ve known nothing but law breaking for the last century.
Inasmuch as we have been taught repeatedly that we cannot trust our federal government–at all–it behooves us to make our federal government as close to irrelevant as possible. If that is where we think we will find protection of our rights, then we haven’t learned our lessons very well.
We don’t need a patriot attorney general. We need our federal employees to live in fear of bullets.
Pitt writes, “There is no code, ordinance or law specifically forbidding the total ruination of all our rights and protections; the act is neither felony nor misdemeanor, because nobody ever considered the black-letter necessity of making it illegal to destroy the rule of law.” He ignores the original intent of every one of our founding documents. He’s lost perspective.
I could go on, but that’s enough. It suffices to say that we disagree on numerous fundamentals. Had he spent more time thinking he might have written a more accurate article.