When they exalt blind obedience to man-made laws, as CNN anchor Chris Cuomo did recently in a confrontation with Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, some Americans speak as if we can preserve the great advances in liberty and justice made in the course of our nation’s history by discarding the understanding of right, law, and just government that made them possible. But the principles of the Declaration of Independence were the basis for all of the ultimately successful appeals to reason, common sense, moral conscience that produced those advances. Those battles weren’t successful because consensus and compromise are the basis for America’s implementation of right, justice and law.
They were successful because of the common understanding of God-endowed right that informed the goodwill of the American people. In every era until our own, this common understanding has been maintained, with wisdom and prudence. It has therefore been sufficient to provide the conscientious motive that, when called upon with integrity, brings Americans together on grounds of their respect for the rules of God’s endowment of right, especially the right of liberty which they implement as a people. It is their practice of constitutional self-government that substantiates their common good, their common identity as persons, (by God’s intention made in the image and likeness of God), and as a people.
There is an American consensus, but it is not an artifact of compromised passions and shifting selfish interests. The American consensus is the product of our nation’s regard for justice. It is not the congregation of human powers intended to impose by force, without regard to justice, the will of would-be tyrants, lords and kings. It is not the aggregation of human numbers, exploiting the tidal impulses of a lawless mob to sweep away all opposition. Whether it is a capable few who prove greater in power, or a great mob that proves powerful because they are greater in number, nations that act from a consensus of will without regard for justice, have routinely become oppressors of humankind.
It seems that every age of human history is marred by grisly monuments to their sojourns in power: from Tamerlane’s pyramids of skulls to the skull-walled killing fields of Cambodia; from the French Revolution’s perverse pretense of humane atrocity at the guillotine, to the atrociously dehumanizing gas chambers of the Nazi holocaust. The consensus of arrogant, vengeful, self-willed power runs rough-shop over the true communion of reason, will and compassion that is the hallmark of justice when it is predicated upon respect for God-endowed right.
Contrary to the lies elitist faction tools like Cuomo now propagate, the idea of justice that inspired the America’s constitutional self-government is not derived from the premise that blind obedience to human law is the supreme imperative. Cuomo’s willingness to suggest that it is resonates with his deceitful attempt to erase the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence from America’s memory. When asked by Chief Justice Moore whether he would have enforced the Dred Scott decision, which held that all Americans had to join in the enforcement of slavery; or Plessy v. Ferguson, which held that racial discrimination did not violate the premise of equality under the law, Cuomo replied “You follow the law of the land. You follow the law of the land. That’s what our nation is based on.”
I’m sure that when Black History Month rolls around Cuomo pretends to admire people like William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Tubman and others. Yet they supported or carried out the work of the “underground railroad”, which defied human laws and court decisions in order to help enslaved people escape the enslaver’s yoke and find their way to freedom. I’m sure Cuomo pretends to celebrate the character and courage of Martin Luther King. Yet King organized and personally led massive, deliberate disobedience of the laws and court decisions that that upheld the systematic, race based violation of the God-endowed unalienable rights of Black Americans.
Is Mr. Cuomo so ignorant of history that he is unaware of the consensus, lasting for centuries, which not only tolerated, but actively promoted (for the sake of greed and convenience) the enslavement of my ancestors? Is he unaware of the consensus that for decades withheld the privileges and immunities of American citizenship from my parents and grandparents? (Despite the terrible sacrifice of life and treasure during the Civil War, which was supposed to assure, once and for all, America’s adherence to the premise of God-endowed equality for all those who simply exercise their God endowed unalienable rights.)
Consensus and compromise often take no account of anything but expediency, and produce no result that does not advantage the few at the expense of many, or vice versa. It is a phrase that can mask the iniquitous collaboration of ruthless ambition and ruthless envy; ruthless arrogance and ruthless vanity; ruthless greed and a ruthless, unquenchable thirst for vengeance that consecrates itself in innocent blood. Always it favors the passionate demands of narrowly defined self-love and selfish interest over the pacific love that exalts truth above expediency, justice above vengeance and the good of the whole, including the wholesomeness of individual lives, above the specious good that leaves selfishness divided against itself.
Though these days it is supposed to resound in our ears with the hope for harmony, peace, and friendship, when consensus rules unconstrained by any standard of justice beyond itself, it resounds with the clamor of war, discord and rude competition, rooted in “the perpetual and restless desire of power after power that ceases only in death.” This is why America’s founders acknowledged and applied a standard for justice beyond human will. Even though they strongly favored human liberty, they acted in light of the conviction that Madison expressed in Federalist #51: “Justice is the end of government; it is the end of civil society. It has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.”
Push freedom beyond just bounds and it will be undone, along with the right actions it disdains to let go in peace.