Will of men v. rule of law
High school basketball season is less than
two months away, and with it will come
confused players, head-shaking coaches, and
upset fans. In the middle of it all will be some guys
wearing stripes and whistles. These under-appreciated
people will make quick decisions about whether
a player stepped out of bounds, traveled with the
ball, doubledribbled, took too long to throw a ball inbounds, and so on. These
are rules violations. A player does X, and the official
blows the whistle.
These officials will also determine that a rough
collision away from the ball didn’t impact the play
and let it go, and seconds later call a foul on someone
who barely brushed the elbow of a jump shooter. At
some point, they will make a critical block-charge call.
These involve judgment.
The difference for officials is obvious.
The fans don’t care. They don’t like that you called
traveling as much as they don’t like you called the
foul. That’s because they are acting on their feelings
for their team.
Over the past month, we have witnessed our fellow
citizens become mired in arguments over our feelings
with regard to a Supreme Court nominee and women
who came forward and accused him of various sexual
acts while he was in high school or college – more
than three decades ago.
The fans began lining up behind their teams immediately,
egged on by team leaders.
Some backers of Judge Brett Kavanaugh outright
dismissed the claims as non-credible because they
“know” him. In reality, lots of these folks just wanted a
conservative appointed to the highest court.
Some opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh enthusiastically
embraced the claims because they believed
the accusers. In reality, lots of these folks just wanted
to derail the appointment of a conservative to the court,
proven or unproven, true or not.
This jumping to conclusions to protect a “side” is
akin to the fans at a basketball team blindly supporting
their teams. Unfortunately, it’s more than that, and it’s
not a game.
In a column about something long since forgotten,
I adopted this phrase: “Where the will of men exceeds
the rule of law, there, tyranny prospers.”
What our founding fathers realized was that their
ability to agree upon a set of laws, and take actions
based on the application of those laws to the facts of a
situation, was the only way individual liberties could
be preserved in the long term. It’s why we have the
right to a fair trial, a right to be secure in our possessions,
and more. The founders knew what it was to
have a king or local lord come into their lives and ruin
them based on the feelings of a single person or small
ruling group. They knew what it was like when hordes
of people took to the streets and acted on their instincts
rather than waiting for facts to be reviewed. The First
Amendment and the Second Amendment are first and
second, respectively, to make it perfectly clear that
individuals have certain rights to political and social
speech, religion and press, and to knock down an illicit
government or infiltrator with the weapons they can legally
possess. The three branches of government were
established as checks and balances.
These men agreed to rule of law, not the rule or will
of men. I assume you comprehend the use of “men” in
terms of the general use – “people” if you prefer.
Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed an
incredible display of the will of men. A sitting U.S.
Senator, with the blessing of her party, armed with information
for months that could derail the nomination,
let it out at the last minute only to delay proceedings
– politics at its worst. A political party that wants its
nominee approved set a short time for an investigation
into whether the claims were legitimate just to get it
over with – politics at its worst. A sitting president, in
a speech in Mississippi, mocked a woman with a claim
of being abused, which in reality has neither been verified
nor proven – cruel. Meanwhile, a sitting federal
judge and his family have been dragged through a
terrible proceeding, and several women have come
forward with claims that likely cannot be proven after
30 years and have had their pasts over-exposed. Politicians
will take to the microphones and claim victory or
outrage, depending on the team, and the pawns used to
play the game will be disregarded, left to put their lives
back together on their own, now publicly humiliated.
I am a former basketball official. When I look at
what has happened, it becomes clear the decision about
Kavanaugh’s past was one of judgment, because there
are no clear and verifiable violations. When it comes to
evaluating the actions of some of the elected officials
who blindly lined up without ever considering the rule
of law, that is a clear violation. And as for the people
in the cheap seats, who parrot what the leaders have to
say, well, as most refs will tell you, a lot of them are irrationally
emotional on behalf of their teams and many
just don’t comprehend the rules. Shame on us for not
teaching everyone the importance of the rule of law,
and the costs associated with the will of men.