Sunday, January 31, 2010

Natural Law, Justice, Oaths and Contradictions

Lately there’s been a controversy playing out over an organization known as LEAP and an outspoken member over there named Bradley Jardis. LEAP stands for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Bradley Jardis was a law enforcement officer who was against laws prohibiting drugs. The controversy played out over a blog post in which Mr. Jardis claimed that he could no longer, in good conscience, enforce laws calling for the arrest of people smoking marijuana for medical purposes. He claimed that doing so would be a violation of his oath to uphold the constitution of the state of New Hampshire. This declaration caused LEAP to remove Mr. Jardis as a spokesman for them and resulted in his eventual exit from the organization. This began somewhat of an Internet firestorm as people of principle aligned themselves with Mr. Jardis and many of them wrote scathing blogs and responses against LEAP’s decision.

I later heard a response to LEAP’s actions by its executive director, Jack A. Cole, in a radio interview. His view was that Mr. Jardis was in violation of his oath to uphold the law by announcing he wouldn’t arrest medical marijuana users. He further stated that encouraging others to break their oaths was also not to be tolerated. He also opined in the interview that it wasn’t the police officer’s job to determine the constitutionality of any given law and cited his own experiences in the sixties during the civil rights era where he saw police refusing to arrest people who were obviously violating the individual rights of others. This interview along with the actions and statements of Mr. Jardis has made me question the validity of where some lines are drawn.

Personally, during the interview with Mr. Cole, I felt he was simply making excuses for what should be unacceptable behavior, but I’m likely quite biased. Still, the argument taking place got me to thinking. Exactly what is law, anyway? What happens when one law contradicts another? How do we determine which law is more important to enforce? How can we determine right versus wrong? What happens when oaths contradict? Which oaths should be broken and which should be honored? What, exactly, is justice? Can we expect to attain justice in a seemingly unjust system?

There are two main types of law, in my humble opinion, natural law and manmade law. Natural law comes from the nature of things. It consists of not only physical laws that hold our reality together, but laws defining right and wrong that should be obvious to all thinking individuals. Natural law is really quite simple. Basically, it says don’t initiate violence and respect the property of others. It’s so obvious in its simplicity that that’s what is meant when you hear the old saying that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Manmade law, on the other hand, is perhaps the most complicated and convoluted concept ever created by humans. That’s because, in many cases, it’s created to curb otherwise natural behaviors. Many, if not most, manmade laws are created to justify one group’s desire to break natural law by initiating violence against others or stealing their private property.

Manmade laws, in many cases, violate the natural rights of others to create choices and make decisions for their own lives. That was likely one of the driving factors behind the creation of the Bill of Rights. The founding fathers understood that governments, not just monarchs, were responsible for more misery and crime against humanity than any other institution ever designed by man. It was for this reason they tried to devise a method by which government could be watched over and limited in its scope. The device they created was the document known as the Constitution. While it has been argued that the Constitution has failed in its capacity to be able to achieve this lofty goal, I argue that it is the common folk that have failed to pay attention to the usurpations prevalent in government and to use the document judiciously against any who would abuse the power to govern and create a privileged elite class.

The Constitution of the United States and the state constitutions modeled after it were created to protect the common folk against the abuses of authority. These words were not written lightly, but crafted with care. They were not written to protect a man against his own self, or against the mistakes he might make or the poor choices he might decide upon. These words were written to help protect against the intrusions the state might make upon a man’s life. They weren’t written to guarantee that a man would be provided for, but they were written to guarantee he’d have ample opportunity to provide for himself and keep the fruits of his labor. These ideals should be the anchors to our society. They are the foundation of what is called America. These were the ideals of the men who inscribed such word into law. These are the ideals Mr. Jardis was defending when he wrote his blog and decided he could no longer suffer to do wrong and injustice against fellow humans.

What did Mr. Jardis get for his brave actions? He was punished for his stance. He was told he could not speak for an organization that was supposedly looking out for the right of the individual to choose for one’s self. He felt it necessary to resign from the job of police officer, a job that should only be held by men like him who have concern for the individual rights of their fellow man. Mr. Cole’s position, in my humble opinion, was sadly lacking. It requires the dehumanization of a person to uphold laws that involve no victim without thought or accountability. The policeman is effectively told not to think for himself.

To tread on another’s rights by arresting them for the possession or use of a naturally occurring plant is unjustifiable, but to do so to a sick human being using it in a medicinal manner is torturous. Waiting around for some uncaring bureaucrats and lawmakers to correct an obviously flawed policy while many suffer is unforgivable. It takes people like Mr. Jardis to affect positive change, people who are willing to take action and disobey directives when they know they are in the right.

We as a society need to ask ourselves, “What is the higher law?” Are we to let our rights and the rights of our children be trampled by mindless enforcers who carry out the “laws” of a privileged elite who may very well profit from such policies, or will we demand a higher quality from them and a return to the days of the peace officer? Laws only need enforcement when they involve the violation of a human being’s rights, when someone somewhere is victimized. At that point the full fury of the law should come to bear on the perpetrator of such actions. Prohibition laws, on the other hand, do not require a victim. The victim becomes the possessor of the prohibited substance. This is exceptionally egregious when the substance is a naturally occurring potential medication that has been so wrongly maligned. In any case, one should have the right to decide for one’s self whether or not one wants to use such a substance just as one has the right to decide what kind of food one would like to purchase for the evening’s meal. Leaving alone those who decide to medicate themselves in an alternative way is the higher law, the loftier ideal. Mr. Jardis should be applauded for deciding to take such a vocal public stance.

I think LEAP should apologize to Mr. Jardis. I think it should adopt his view and encourage current law enforcers to stop arresting those who have harmed no one and to once again become peace officers and earn the respect of ordinary citizens who wish only to make their own choices. More and more often we hear about common folk who are brutalized by out of control police. If one tries to exercise his rights in this day and age, the state has trained their enforcers to disregard civility and to hit hard and often. Refusal to obey is summarily punished without regard for constitutionality, human rights or dignity. There is no sign that the system is anywhere near correcting this error. In fact, the system is more than likely to back up their men in black rather than the common folk who are subjected to the police state. LEAP appears to be condoning the state apparatus by chastising Mr. Jardis rather than trying to bring about effective change.

We have allowed our liberties to be violated for far too long. It is disturbing to me that I feel the need to remind people what it means to be free. We need to remember that free people allow others to be free. We need to remember that it is not so much the people that need to policed, but those who would govern the masses. It is they who oft times engage in criminal behavior. It is they who violate individual rights and reign from on high. Government has time and again shown its violent side while the people go about their business peacefully. It is time for the people to reclaim a free society for themselves and their posterity. If we had more people of conscience like Mr. Jardis who would refuse to enforce bad, victimless laws it would not be so difficult to achieve the goal of creating such a society.

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