The Tragedy of Immoral Law
This is a lifestyle blog. When I started it, I told myself that I would leave my wider opinions on law, justice, politics and morality at the door, and instead focus on my other interests that fit neatly within the “women’s lifestyle” industry. I should have known then that I wouldn’t be able to keep that promise.
I discovered social justice, or rather social injustice, at a young age, long before I ever developed an interest in beauty and fashion and “nice” things. I knew who all the local MP’s were when my friends were still playing with dress-up dolls and started keeping track of who the Prime Minister was, and the main political parties in the UK, when I was around 7. That’s not to say that I didn’t do other things; I loved doing “kid stuff,” but a part of me was always somewhat aware of the wider world around me to the point that I remember asking my mother at the age of 9 whether she was planning to vote Labour in the general election in 2001. (I tried to get her to vote Liberal Democrat just because I liked saying “Liberal Democrat” so much. Didn’t work.)
I think it’s fair to say that my interest in all of these areas has always been motivated by fairness or lack of fairness. I’m not sure where it came from because I don’t remember my parents ever discussing politics or the law, certainly not with me, although they always voted in every election and were very much aware of current affairs. Somewhere in the midst of all this, I developed my own code of morality, justice, fairness and crucially to my mind, the idea that the law should always be working to achieve these three things in order that citizens are able to live their lives relatively free from state interference but with the backup of help as and when they needed it, and the ability to access recompense or restitution when the system failed them.
Years later, this led me to study Law formally at university which I absolutely loved. I think it’s unlikely that I will ever practice Law but for me, the academic debates around Law and how it affects our lives was enough. Tied into the Law, not only in the UK but also abroad, was politics, and the understanding that all Law is created, amended or repealed as a result of political influence. What I understood as a result is that not all Laws are created equal and most importantly, not all Law sets out to achieve the aims that I had thought were the purpose of having Laws in the first place i.e. to achieve morality, justice and fairness for citizens. The uncomfortable conclusion I reached as a young teen was that in many cases, Law can be created to directly oppose these objectives and therefore “just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s right.”
More recently, I’ve been thinking about this again but this time in the context of US politics. Who could miss the debacle that the Trump presidency has created? Trump’s vision of the office of President as a “strongman” for his friends has caused uproar and misery to millions and the latest in a long line of actions has been to separate parents from their children at the US border. The policy of “zero tolerance” that has been touted to stamp down on immigration and those crossing the border has led to the detainment and imprisonment of parents with their children being taken away by the federal government through ICE, which has subsequently either posted these children thousands of miles away to end up goodness only knows where, or held at “tender shelters,” a euphemism for prison camps for babies, toddlers, children and young people.
In classic Trump style, he has insisted that this separation of children from their parents was as result of the Law being enforced as it should, whereas in truth, it came about as a result of an Executive Order he signed. Following the outcry in the US and abroad Trump backtracked and signed another Executive Order ending this policy of family separation but the problem is, it’s too little, too late. I understand why ICE and others acted the way they did – the issue I have is that it follows on from the principle that “just because it’s Law, doesn’t mean it’s right.” Admittedly, in this case, family separation wasn’t technically the Law, it was still an order by the leader of the nation to carry out something extremely morally reprehensible. And it was done.
Some have said, “if you ever wondered what you would have done during the Nazi regime, this is your chance,” and I have to say, so many people have failed the test. The attempted justification of “we were carrying out our orders” is literally the same justification that Nazi officers used to explain the Holocaust. It’s not good enough. There has never been a more crucial time in recent history than right now, for those on the right side of morality and justice to stand up. After all, there was a time when slavery was legal, as was human sacrifice. That didn’t make it right.
If you or someone you know is in a position to effect change, do it. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. Refuse to carry out orders, be subversive. There are times in human consciousness when simply disagreeing with the way things are is no longer enough. Get involved in your society and make a difference whether it’s immediate or long term. Stand for elections, galvanise the people around you. Hammer the point home that this is not normal, it is not okay, and you will not stand for it. If those who hold positions of power over in our societal structures are wrong, it is our job as citizens of our countries to make changes.