The words are the same, but their order changes everything. Is “the Law King” or “the King Law?” The first promises a society governed by even-handed laws affecting all people equally. The latter makes an entire nation’s might dance to the whim of the guy in charge.
A country’s political atmosphere will depend on which of those systems prevails. Only a few years ago, if asked to describe North American politics, I would have replied that we have rule of law — imperfectly administered, sure — but rule of law nevertheless.
The certainty I held back then has vanished. There are too many clues to the contrary.
There are many ways to abuse the rule of law, but to keep it simple, let’s look at two categories. The rule of law can either be fairly written, but unequally applied, in which case the the enforcers of the law are at fault, or the law as written can be fundamentally unfair and not apply equally to all people.
By way of example, a court recently ruled that protesters were illegally obstructing a rail line. The judge gave law enforcement direct instructions to uphold CN Rail’s rights for unimpeded use of their railway. The protesters were to be cleared away.
Police not only refused to uphold the judicial order, they befriended the protesters they were ordered to disperse, even joining in a “drum circle”. They were given special treatment that would never have been afforded to others in similar circumstances.
Real equality under law is necessary. Wasn’t that the point of the civil rights movement? MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech spoke of the check that they came to D.C. to cash — the right for ALL men to be guaranteed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The rights that others enjoyed were their own birthright as well, and they were justified in demanding them.
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