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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 6/13/17

A Nation of Laws?

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Goddess of Justice - a gallery on Flickr1024 Ã-- 748 - 231k - jpg
Goddess of Justice - a gallery on Flickr1024 Ã-- 748 - 231k - jpg
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The US investigation into whether and to what extent Russia interfered in last year's presidential election increasingly appears to be transforming a nation of laws into a lawless labyrinth.

By definition, a labyrinth is a place where things that seem hidden suddenly reappear, while those that were in plain sight vanish. The most widely observed phenomenon in a labyrinth is a repetition of ineffective gestures that result in total confusion on the part of those who have become its hapless victims.

The law, very differently, is represented by a blindfolded female figure, holding a scale and a sword, suggesting that whatever facts may be hidden from sight, the sword will ensure that they are given equal weight.

What happens when the blindfolded 'Justice' wanders into a labyrinth? This is what is playing out on our television screens: Jim Comey's testimony to a congressional committee, preceded by the release of an opening statement, consists of very few elements, limiting the number of original comments that can be made about it. Their non-stop repetition suggests that the United Staes qua legal entity is in a labyrinth from there is no exit. The President is considering firing the Special Counsel appointed by Congress, which is like using a helicopter to escape a labyrinth

The law is a pretty straightforward thing: do A, and unless B can show you're innocent, you will be punished by C. But when B becomes so complex that it is no longer possible to determine whether A happened, C has little chance of occurring, or can be overblown. Much will depend on what D knew -- and when; or how much weight to ascribe to precedent in a world where facts are updated by the nanosecond.

Over the last two centuries, laws have evolved into a thicket, gradually turning life on the public square into a labyrinth. Wondering whether this or that presidential utterance is an impeachable offense or whether a US citizen's personal notes are classified material, or whether the White House tapes its conversations with underlings can be compared to hoping a hand-held compass will show a clear path to obstruction of justice.

Once straightforward guidelines have turned into a labyrinth, nothing can stop a public servant from justifying questionable action by claiming that his superior may be lying, just as persons caught in a real labyrinth can never know where turning right or left will lead, or whether they will eventually emerge unscathed. Thus, "a nation of laws" can become the helpless prisoner of their labyrinth, which grows bigger with each step taken toward an uncertain exit.

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Born in Phila, I spent most of my adolescent and adult years in Europe, resulting over time in several unique books, my latest being Russia's Americans.

CUBA: Diary of a Revolution, Inside the Cuban Revolution with Fidel, Raul, Che, and Celia Sanchez

Lunch with Fellini, Dinner with Fidel: An Illustrated Personal Journey from the Cold War to the Arab Spring


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