A very revealing book called We Don’t Stop at Red Lights on former Israeli general and right wing politician Ariel Sharon, is about privilege and lawlessness, or more to the point, how some people just believe they are above the law, and that the rule of law does not apply to them. It isn’t just him, or the politicians who lie willfully and never acknowledge their transgressions or face consequences. Truthfully, it’s a chronic problem in human affairs, but the current loss of respect for the rule of law in today’s society is a bigger problem because it’s modeled by leaders who amplify it online.
I saw it just the other day in a municipal parking lot where the city has provided charging stations dedicated to electric vehicles. I wanted to charge my car, but all of the spaces were taken, two by non-EV’s—a new model Corvette and a Rolls-Royce—that were illegally parked in the dedicated charging spaces. The drivers had paid no heed to the warning signs. I wished for a police car.
Then I wondered if I had some heretofore unknown super-power because one pulled up. The officer got out and issued tickets to both the ‘Vette and the Rolls. Obviously both car owners can afford a parking ticket; they probably won’t feel enough pain to be chastened, or even enough to change their boorish behavior, but for a brief moment, I felt some relief that there were any consequences at all.
The wholesale disobedience of the rules of the road is a good example we see every day. They are disregarded at every turn (pun intended, I guess). Yesterday, I saw a bumper sticker that expressed my dismay. It read, “Forget world peace. Imagine using your turn signals.” I think the state should put up billboards reminding drivers that using turn signals is free.
And this coarsening of society, this divisive “your rules don’t apply to me” can be seen everywhere you look, assuming you’re still able to look up from your phone.
Boeing, which for decades was one of the most respected companies in the world, had such a cozy relationship with the FAA regulators embedded onsite at their engineering and manufacturing facilities, that the company was approving its own safety designs with essentially no external oversight. That all stopped when 346 people were killed in two 737 Max crashes that were 100% preventable, had the company not tried to cut corners by pretending the Max didn’t require new, expensive training. Now Boeing is struggling with stock price, credibility, and respect. Boeing was founded and run for decades by engineers, but in September 2001, the company moved away from its engineering roots in Seattle to new corporate headquarters in Chicago. A move that also heralded new management made up of financial engineers instead of aerospace engineers. Next, they moved some manufacturing to South Carolina, an anti-union, “right-to-work” (for less) state. Ignoring their union workforce and aerospace background, Boeing became just another creature of Wall Street, chasing quarterly profits, and cutting corners. Not exactly ignoring the law, but definitely flaunting it.
From Wall Street, we move to politics where both parties have played fast and loose with the law, but where the Republicans have a commanding lead. They have a complicated history regarding the rule of law. You have to go back no further than the 1950s and Senator Joe McCarthy‘s “Commie under every bed” witch hunt to see civil liberties suspended, or move up to the ‘70s for the Watergate burglary, or the ‘80s for Iran-Contra where Reagan tried to end-run Congress. Today, most elected Republicans look the other way as thirteen Republican-led states pass gender laws, and ban textbooks as well as accurate American history books.
Call them “Show Laws” that impact practically no one, and exist solely to launch a new salvo in the culture wars they’re sure will lead to reelection. Utah’s governor refused to sign a transparently political anti-transgender law, saying it was a waste of time that impacted fewer than ten Utahns.
Sometimes it’s less about what’s illegal than what’s immoral. Politico and Morning Consult conducted a poll in April showing where people stood on bad behavior. The only place of real agreement is for “major crime.” After that, the results might shock (below):
Leaders lead by example whether they mean to or not. And whether they should or not.
People follow leaders—including corrupt, immoral, selfish, demented, and misguided ones. Some have inspired a large following that emulates their lack of respect for law, order, and just plain decency.
©2022 Jon Sinton
“Roadblocks for Voters:
Allegations Considered A
“Major Problem” rep. dem.
Felony/Major Crime Arrest 81% 79%
Domestic Violence 67% 81%
Sexual Misconduct/Abuse 66% 83%
Anitsemitic Remarks 47% 71%
Racist Remarks 38% 80%
Homophobic Remarks 25% 71%
VOL. 112, NO. 18 - May 4, 2022