The United States was, from the very beginning, an experiment. So many facets of it’s creation were unique to world experience that nobody had ever seen the like of this before. But the crowning achievement was the Constitution, and the fact that this was to be a nation governed by laws, not emotions or the whimsy of the rulers. There would be clearly defined parameters so everyone would know what was acceptable and what was not, and everyone would have to face those parameters as equals.
It worked great – at first. Between 1780 and 1840 (just 60 years!) we went from being a “mom and pop start-up” to being one of the dominant world powers. Our system isn’t without problems, though, and a dream I recently had highlights what is perhaps the biggest one.
The dream was – well, calling it bad would be like calling the US Government “a bit off”. In the dream, it was like I was an invisible being, wandering around observing the actions of others – and the others were mostly teenaged-to-twentysomethings, who were traveling around in gangs killing, looting, and generally living a lawless life. They had no respect for anything or anyone but each other. There was a serious tone of despair to the whole scene.
This may be easily dismissed as “it was just a dream” or any of the “dreams are meaningless” variations. But I have come to believe that dreams are the subconscious mind’s effort to resolve problems we encounter in our waking, normal, lives. And if you look beneath the surface, this dream is confronting a real humdinger.
You see, this dream tells the story of the natural result of having a “nation of laws” where the laws are divorced from the notion of justice. Justice is the brutality of law tempered by wisdom and mercy. It is hope that we can all become better than what we have been. When courts, even the SCOTUS, fall into the trap of enforcing the letter of the law, justice dies. We’re seeing the early warning signs of this now, with huge international corporations getting the government to pass laws that make 16 year-old kids wanted felons for sharing music with their friends, or single mothers with 2 jobs become criminals for using a back-up program to preserve the DVDs they spent the precious little disposable cash in their budget on. There is no compassion, no justice, to such laws.
Oh, and as an aside, I would dearly love to see someone mount a court challenge to the bizarre notion that anyone can voluntarily surrender “inalienable, inherent, natural rights” by agreeing to the fine-print in an EULA (End User Licensing Agreement).
I think our nation’s Founding Fathers knew this might happen, though, because they originally included rules that made corporations very hard to create, and even harder to maintain. Each corporation first had to pass a “public service” test – you couldn’t just form a corporation for the sake of selling your restaurant some time off in the future. No, it took something big, like making the Erie Canal, to form a corporation. Which naturally led to the second condition – the corporation, once formed, was only licensed to exist for a maximum of 5 years (rare extensions were allowed, such as the aforementioned Erie Canal project). Corporations had no “personhood” – no rights, no property ownership. This kept them from amassing the powers they flex so easily today.