‘If destruction be our lot,’ we hurt ourselves

“If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.” — Abraham Lincoln, in 1838, 23 years before the Civil War

“Without a trusted referee, the United States becomes increasingly vulnerable to political disagreements spilling out of the nation’s political and legal systems and into the realm of force and violence.” — the Washington Post, Oct. 10, 2022

“It’s like, if someone’s breaking into your house, and the court says, ‘Oh, sorry. You can’t defend yourself.’ What do you tell the court? You tell the court to go to hell. You defend yourself and then figure it out later.” — U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, in an interview with Fox News

What shall historians say in retrospect about this foul Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twenty-Four?

Will they call it the end of this great American experiment? The beginning of a national conflagration?

Or will they look back and see that the very fabric of this nation stood up to its mightiest tests?

Cast your gaze around the country and see the symptoms of a national malady.

In Texas, the governor at least tests the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court by continuing to lay razor wire along the U.S.-Mexico border after the nation’s highest court ruled that President Joe Biden’s administration could rip up the wire. The state has denied the federal government access to a key park in the city of Eagle Pass where migrants frequently cross illegally into America.

The Biden administration has yet to sue Texas directly for access to the park.

In Alabama, state lawmakers ignored a U.S. Supreme Court order that the legislature there draw a congressional map that includes a second majority-Black district. Lawmakers turned in a map that included a 40% Black district.

And here in Michigan, the state Republican Party has cleaved itself into two competing factions — one led by former ambassador and former congressman Pete Hoekstra and the other led by activist Kristina Karamo — with two competing state caucuses planned for today, Hoekstra’s in Grand Rapids and Karamo’s in Detroit.

The Kent County Circuit Court has deemed Hoekstra the rightfully appointed state party chair, but a state lawmaker who chairs the party’s northern Michigan district told the Detroit Free Press the court ruling “does not automatically translate into winning the hearts and minds of the delegates. Whatever THEY decide to do will determine where we caucus.”

Hoekstra, meanwhile, told reporters on Tuesday he doesn’t “worship at the idol of unity.”

So what happens now?

The courts have no mechanism to enforce their edicts. They are but one of three separate but equal branches of government, counting on the executive branch, which includes military and police forces, to enforce the law of the land, including courts’ interpretations of said law.

So how does Biden’s Border Patrol gain access to that Texas park to remove the razor wire?

Will he federalize the Texas National Guard troops currently keeping Border Patrol out, as Dwight Eisenhower did in 1957 when Arkansas’ then-governor tried to use his state’s National Guard to prevent the integration of an all-white school?

What if the Guard troops refuse to follow Biden’s commands? Would the president then send in the U.S. military?

Florida has sent its own Guard troops to aid Texas’s border enforcement, and other Republican-controlled states have promised to do the same. What would happen if the U.S. military, under the direction of a Democratic president, took up arms against the militaries of Republican states?

Would Eagle Pass become our generation’s Fort Sumter?

This nation has sustained itself for 248 years through a collective respect for the institutions designed by our forefathers. Our entire way of life exists because society overwhelmingly follows the tenets spelled out on a few sacred pieces of paper: Lawmakers make laws, courts interpret those laws, and the executive branch enforces the laws and courts’ interpretations.

The one time an entire political bloc decided it didn’t want to abide, 620,000 people died in America’s bloodiest war.

At the end of the day, sacred or no, the Constitution and all our laws are nothing but words scrawled on paper. The great American ideal depends on we Americans agreeing to follow those words and respect the institutions created by them.

Those institutions fall far short of perfection, and it is within our rights and among our duties to push our government ever closer to our great hope for it.

But the Founding Fathers in their wisdom provided us the means to do so within the system we aim to improve: at the ballot box, through petition, through peaceful public demonstration, through running for office ourselves.

Simply ignoring the system when it disagrees with us abets lawlessness and anarchy.

And lawlessness and anarchy abet violence and death.

Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-354-3112 or jhinkley@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.


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