The theme of this year's Law Day, "The Rule of Law: Foundation for Communities of Opportunity and Equity," recognizes the fundamental role that the rule of law plays in preserving liberty in our Nation and in all free societies. We pay tribute to the men and women in America's legal community. Through hard work and dedication to the rule of law, members of the judiciary and the legal profession help secure the rights of individuals, bring justice to our communities, and reinforce the proud traditions that make America a beacon of light for the world.
Not a bad sentiment, I know. I agree with it, actually. But when it comes from mouth of one George Walker Bush, the words, 'Today, we are reminded of that past and look toward a hopeful future as we work to secure the liberty that is the natural right of every man, woman, and child' one cringes a bit. Securing liberty, he says, on a day where the U.S. prepared to conduct a trial against an empty chair at Guantanamo? Celebrate free society on a day that it's announced that a secret court has more than doubled the number of secret warrants approved in the last seven years?
The 50th anniversary of Law Day is a day we should all mark. We should take time to remember how far from the rule of law we have strayed in the last seven years. Warrantless wiretapping, indefinite detention, kidnapping, expanding surveillance, government secrecy, political spying, abuse of the No-Fly list, and attacks on academic freedom are just a few of the assaults on the 'liberty that is the natural right of every man, woman, and child' that the Bush administration have perpetrated. The Bush administration is guilty of the worst transgressions to the rule of law in the history of this nation. Who is he kidding with these high-flown statements?
As ignored a holiday as it is-maybe it's the competition with May Day-I love Law Day. When I was a kid my dad ran a Law Day program in my hometown. It involved pairing eighth-grade students with local politicians, lawyers, and law enforcement personnel for the day so they could learn about our justice system. For me Law Day meant skipping school and hanging out with my dad all day: genius.
But when I was 11, Law Day took a turn. We were setting up for the opening ceremony pancake breakfast, setting out napkins, and silverware at a local Elk's club before the throngs of kids and self-congratulating politicians arrived. We also had to decorate the place, with hundreds of helium filled balloons. This is where the trouble started. First it was just sucking down a balloon so we could both sing 'Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho' while we decorated. Then it was a contest to see who could say the silliest thing in a high pitched voice. Then it was how much helium we could suck and who could squeak the longest. And then, like so many addicts before us, we stopped playing around the edges and got serious. We started sucking the helium straight from the tank. That's when I passed out.
I didn't just faint. I fainted and, according to my father, I began to convulse right there on the floor of the Elk's Club. I awoke in his arms as he rushed me to his car. I must have only been out a minute or two, but he looked terrified. I told him I was fine and, after he checked my eyes and made sure I could walk, the trip to the hospital was averted. Then he turned to me and said, 'We are NEVER going to tell your mother that this happened.'
My father's instructions not to tell anyone about what we had done, saved us the headache (well not really, I actually had a splitting one all day) of lectures and unnecessary doctors visits. We did something stupid, ill-advised, but ultimately harmless.
But the president's double-speak on this Law Day, his declarations of dedication to the rule of law even while he flouts and ignores it, is not. His abuse of power has done serious damage to our nation. And when he speaks about the law, it should be clear to everyone, he's been sucking straight from the tank.