01 Feb “Above the Law”
I’ve been thinking about the Law lately. When I was younger, the law was not my friend.
The Law felt stern, authoritarian, all about justice and little about mercy. The king’s law, the man’s law, patriarchal law. If women were kept from control of our own bodies, if every aspect of life—from voting to “wealth management,” from health to the court system, from the color of our skins to the shapes of our bodies—if all this and more could be determined by laws established and promulgated by white, old, straight, wealthy males, that law was certainly not my friend.
I’ve fought all my life on those fronts and others, and intend to continue doing so. Yet lately I’ve also been thinking about the Law itself. Its history. Its triumphs and failures. Its multitudinous, varied contexts, its ironies. I might here be falling on a platitude with an air of great discovery, but lately I’ve been thinking—without denying the above-noted past and present atrocities—that the Law can be pretty cool, depending on its application, of course. At its core it’s actually a record of somewhat savage human beings trying to work out what will be generally agreeable/acceptable/tolerable to the greatest number of people. Two staggers forward, one step back. Again and again. That this has been attempted, as the eons pass, with a gradual decline in the harshest punishments, is in itself astonishing. That presupposes an element of trust, which is in turn a sign of civilization, even of evolution. And it’s based on a mere idea.
To say with conviction “No one is above the Law” is an extraordinary statement: a concept of fairness overarching us all no matter our status or condition (and a relatively recent one). It might ring hollow and sound only aspirational, but even aspiring to something is better than despairing of it. Perhaps this is what wise judges and justices down through history have meant when they revered the majesty of the Law. It’s not reducible to recompense, revenge, justice, or mercy. It may encompass emotion but it exists outside of it. It is its own force, and that force is one of balance, like physics–wherein every action has a reaction. Accountability, responsibility, fairness, balance. There’s a grandeur to that.
No one is above the Law. That simple.