“A Nation of Laws”….
… is the term most proudly cited by our polititians, teachers, and our leading governmental spokespeople. “The United States is a Nation of Laws.” It is also a guarantee to the millions of men and women around the world who want, more than anything, to be part of such a celestial place.
To a degree this is true. Our national government and our state legislatures pass thousands of statutes a year. All of these are meant to make American life better, more fulfilling, safer.
But the other day a thought came to us. We can pass ‘em, but we can’t enforce ‘em.
This is more than simply a look at current gun safety obstruction. It is more than the 3000 anti-abortion laws put on the books of state legislatures in the past year. It is more than defining who may be killed on presidential order and who live free.
The American public seems to feel that if a law is passed, a problem is solved.
Polititians of all stripes love the spotlight and “news conferences” where one senator or House member announces a new initiative that promises great reward, greater security, greater Greatness.
Most often, those moments are the last we ever hear of these particular ideas. Why?
Because people fail to realize that passing a law is one thing, implementing it is quite another.
Immigration. For years Washington has been making noises about closing our borders to the south, building insurmountable walls, booby-trapping the Southwestern deserts, spending billions hiring National Guard retirees and former law officials to lead the attack upon illegal entry.
But the secret to success in a nation of laws is the ability to regulate and ensure that what has been passed can actually work.
Here we have the beginning of our problem. With polititians as philosophically divided as they are, few proposals have much of a chance of being passed, let alone being implemented. Votes swing from pole to pole, depending on who’s up and who’s down, who is ambitious and who is content to sit on his or her hands protecting his/her employment.
Gun control. It’s terrific to tighten restrictions on purchasing firearms. Now, who’s going to pay for new computer systems to back these ideas up? Who’s going to pay for oversight of gun dealers? Who’s going to pay for the establishment of a national registry of people who should not be allowed to purchase guns? Certainly not the NRA, who all along has been saying that if we only implemented the laws already on the books, we would have enough laws behind which to take cover and feel secure.
Campaign, if you must, against mentally unstable people. Campaign against the ease of purchasing guns on a street corner. Campaign against senseless killing and maiming. Campaign for armed school guards. Who’s going to pay for all this?
It is not enough to pass a new law that makes the public somnolent once more about a problem. Because what we get then, and what we have now, is a Nation of Talk.
Better to say we are a Nation of Words. Why, for example, when he could speak before any forum in the world of equally influential people, does the President insist on lecturing high school children here and abroad? Do we expect fifteen year olds to handle national and international problems more effectively than we can ourselves? Are we being fair to them, loading them with ideas and expectations that we ourselves know are bogus?
We have a President who talks a great game. He has been talking at us since 2009. Doing so, for such a long, unfruitful time, he has over-exposed his talent, and his failings. He has, in a word, made himself irrelevant long before the midpoint of his second term. He may already be lamed in the duck department. Only a passed immigration bill can help him now.
Even his interview recently with Charlie Rose made him weaker, not stronger. True, unless you have been in a situation room and had to make life and death decisions based on intelligence that may be ranked “highly confident” or moderately so, you can’t imagine what it’s like to be president. But so what? That, after all, is the man’s, or woman to follow, job.
Syria. Two years of death and destruction, thousands of warning words and tens of red lines. And so what? Who – without a national draft – is going to do what Senator McCain wants? Where do we get international support? Can we afford to fuel a no-fly zone? Can we afford to send 300 million dollars of humanitarian aid?
The farm bill, a debacle and trauma for John Boehner. Even if the bill had passed the House, could we ask people to eat words, build with words, sow, plough and reap and market words throughout the world?
Would we be fair in asking for drug tests for food stamp recipients, or demanding new work programs from which people might be able to supplement their food supplies with food stamps? Can agriculture be expected to survive in a world environment without continuing subsidies, such as other countries have?
We could do a lot of this. America does have deep pockets. And it has its share of cogent, accomplished men and women who might be persuaded to help oversee our goals here and abroad. But until these people make themselves known and let us know they care, deeply, we are stuck, as before, behind Oz’s great rock, making noises that sound horrific and dramatic, but in fact change nothing at all.