Events this week showcased both high points and low points in our collective journey that we call the American Experiment. On the high side, we celebrated Independence Day, our chance to remember the vision and courage that it took to dissolve the political chains that bound us to Great Britain and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of God entitled us. It was risky, it was painful, it was costly, but above all, it was necessary, and the founders embarked on this journey fully aware of all of those ramifications. Six years later, they succeeded, the Revolutionary War was over, and the Treaty of Paris was signed. Then the hard work began, taking the theoretical freedoms they had won and turning them into the concrete freedoms embodied in our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Independence Day is a celebration of all of that, and more. It is a chance to celebrate freedom from oppression, in this case, the oppression of a foreign government led by King George. But it’s also the chance to celebrate the concept of sovereignty, the idea that we the people are the sovereigns with the right to chart our own destiny, both independently and collectively as a nation.
It was a heady concept, but it has served us well for the past 237 years. One reason it has served us well is a result of one of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence itself, the concept that we are all created equal, each and every one of us. It’s a guarantee of equality, not necessarily of outcomes but of opportunity. We are also a nation of laws and those laws are supposed to be applied to all of us equally. The idea that no one is above the law is critical to the social order of our nation.
And that brings us to the low point of the week, the decision by the Democrat-controlled Department of Justice not to indict Hillary Clinton for egregious and blatant breaches of national security, the same types of breaches, ironically, yet on a much larger scale, than those that ended the careers of people like General David Petraeus. The refusal to indict takes the notion of equality under the law and throws it under a bus. Are we or are we not equal? It is a question that not only needs to be asked, but answered. Are we all subject to the same laws, the same level of scrutiny and the same punishment when those laws are broken, or is there a de facto elite political ruling class that exists outside and above the laws that govern you and me? The evidence was overwhelming. Secretary Clinton ignored well-established security protocol and set up an unsecured server that, in all likelihood, was hacked by our enemies. Forget the hacking, just the existence of such a server would be enough to get any other federal employee thrown in prison, yet she miraculously walks free, which takes us back to our original question.
Does there exist one set of laws for the politically well-connected and another set of laws for everyone else? And if so, what does that mean to the rule of law going forward? It is not enough just to remember the freedoms that were won during the Revolutionary War. The harder task is to administer those freedoms. Equality under the law either means something or it doesn’t. It either applies to everyone or the principles we celebrate on Independence Day are nothing more than a grand illusion. I, for one, hope that is not the case.