May 1 is Law Day and Criminals Aren’t Yet Running the Place. Thank the Rule of Law.

It's time to make Eisenhower, civic order and normalcy "sexy" again.

By John Zmirak Published on May 1, 2016

It’s hard to get excited about Dwight D. Eisenhower. Unless you’re old enough to remember him as the strategic genius who commanded D-Day (where one of my uncles was wounded), you likely see Ike as the icon of a dull, unexceptional era, which subsequent culture has tarred with crass materialism and herd-like bourgeois conformity. You know, the America from which the “Beat” poets helped to free us, and which the Sixties rejected decisively, via the New Left’s embrace of “sex, drugs and rock and roll” as weapons of revolution. The media’s nostalgia factory makes sure that we see things this way, run as it is by Boomers who still remember their parents’ sexual mores as somehow part of “fascism.” Even Christian writers warn us against an undue yearning to return to Mayberry.

Then again, as we blanch under the blows of one leftist assault after another against simple decency, freedom and common sense (as we realize that you can lose your job for not wanting your 12-year-old daughter to share a locker room with a voyeur) normalcy might start to seem positively “sexy.” It’s in that spirit that we should revive one of Eisenhower’s ideas. In 1958, he made a presidential declaration that May 1, the Communists’ May Day, would henceforth be marked in America as “Law Day,” to celebrate “the Rule of Law.”

I know, you’re already yawning, but hear me out. Want to know the difference between Pike County, Ohio, and Juarez, Mexico? It’s the Rule of Law, which has long prevailed in Ohio and been lost in Juarez — though our broken borders have let cartel members reach their tentacles deep into our homeland, as Ohioans may have learned to their horror after the drug-related massacre this week. Such killings are the exception in Ohio, not the rule, though the growing lawlessness of our borders is erasing the distinction more quickly than you might think.

The tragic, enduring chaos in Mexico is in fact the plain result of the long disrespect for law among that nation’s political classes, and the failure of law to protect the property rights of the poor — a toxic failure common to most Third World countries, as Hernando de Soto documents.

The American left is conveniently schizophrenic on the rule of law. When Kim Davis appealed to her Constitutional right to freedom of religion and seemed to flout the “gay marriage” Supreme Court decision, leftists loudly demanded that she knuckle under and “do her job.” Now, when the North Carolina attorney general blankly refuses to do his by defending that embattled state’s “bathroom bill” from legal challenge, the left makes him a hero. Social justice warriors who intimidate spineless college administrators are brave conscientious objectors, while David Daleiden faces prison for exposing Planned Parenthood’s virtual cannibalism. And so on. As the sheep learned to bleat long ago, some laws are more equal than others.

Christians do understand that some laws are intrinsically unjust — and hence in extreme cases can be openly disobeyed. (In extreme cases only: Just because you decide that a speed limit or immigration quota seems too low or your tax rates too high, that’s no excuse for flouting debatable laws you could freely lobby to change.) It was right for Harriet Tubman to scorn and disobey the Fugitive Slave Act, and right again for Operation Rescue to blockade abortion clinics in the business of murdering innocent human beings. We look back to ancient Antigone, to the Christian martyrs and to anti-Nazi conspirators like Dietrich Bonhoeffer for other clear examples where flagrantly unjust laws demanded to be broken.

But why do we say this? Is it because the Gospel has “freed” us from obedience to any earthly law, as antinomian (e.g., anti-law) heretics have popped up to claim from time to time? No, no, 322 million times no. We steel ourselves to defy Kamala Harris and defend David Daleiden not because we are lawless but out of respect for the deepest and truest law, the one that God Himself carved with a finger of fire into the depths of the human heart. That law of Nature’s God, the Natural Law, is the only foundation that any lasting law can ever have. Remove it, and all your statutes are a teetering house of cards. In 2014, Jason Jones and I published a book exploring the horrible consequences of abandoning God’s law for man’s ideologies.

 

 

That great historian of the law Heinrich Rommen told this stark truth in the teeth of the Nazi seizure of power. In his classic study The Natural Law, he showed how the relativism, historicism and other subversive “isms” that were so fashionable among 19th-century skeptics had smashed every speed bump that might have checked Hitler’s smooth ride to absolute power. For his truth-telling, Rommen lost his career and had to flee his native Germany.

To protect ourselves, our children and our neighbor from the cruel and destructive willfulness that dominates society when it abandons the just rule of law, what price are we willing to pay?

The price of chickening out is much, much higher in the long run — as Dwight Eisenhower and the soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy could testify, soldiers who pushed their way through Western Europe to rescue a civilization from surrender.

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