Lawlessness and America go hand in hand.
That’s not to say the United States is more or less lawless than other countries, but we have often celebrated that lawlessness—rooted for Bonnie and Clyde, lionized Al Capone, glorified John Dillinger, and found warm places in our hearts for the fictional Walter White, Marlo Stanfield, Dexter Morgan, and Tony Soprano.
It’s important to remember, however, that our "affection" for these people existed only within an environment of laws—laws that would eventually reel in these bad actors and make them pay; and that even though we had developed empathy with them as human beings with families and friends, hopes and fears, bills to pay, and children to raise—even though on many levels they were us, at the most basic levels of decency, they weren’t. In the world we still accepted as the norm, the meth purveyors of the world would eventually get their comeuppance. Take that element of normality out of the equation, and Walter White becomes a lot less lovable.
And that’s where we are today, led by a president and an administration for whom the laws are mere suggestions that might be followed or might just as easily be ignored. This whimsical approach is authored by a man whose entire life has been devoted to cheating people (from the most impoverished workers to the wealthiest bankers) and his Attorney General who has formally argued that obstruction of justice is limited to things like witness tampering and destroying evidence and that the president has “complete authority to start or stop a law enforcement proceeding.”
When William Barr, the one person charged with maintaining the judicial well being of the country. decides that someone—even the president—is above the law, then the foundations crumble. If you listened closely yesterday, you could almost hear it happening—almost see the incipient dust as all those self-evident truths transitioned to debatable points to be carried off by the next gust.
Some will say it’s unfair to saddle Donald Trump with the recent rash of anti-Semitic shootings, or the growth of white supremacy, or the increase in hate crimes. But I have no doubt that the lawlessness we one winked at in Dexter or Breaking Bad seems a little less benign when it pervades the executive branch, is abetted by the judicial, and found to be perfectly all right by half the men and women we elected to represent us.
(photo © Google Photos. Used by permission.)