Breonna Taylor, The Rule of Law, and John Locke

There are two names in the title. If you don’t know the first one, you must have been living under a rock for the past year. Breonna Taylor was an unarmed woman, who was shot to death by police serving a warrant that was not issued for her. Her death in conjunction with that of George Floyd sparked political unrest across the nation. There isn’t a soul in the world that does no know her name.

Recently, a grand jury decided to not press any charges against any officer over her death. Politicians, while stating it was a tragedy, called for people to respect the “Rule of Law”. In our society, The law is the great equalizer, blindly holding the balance of truth, and affording no partiality to any person. It is the objective and moral backbone to our nation, or so we thought.

Today, a member of the grand jury was granted permission by a judge to speak out on the case. We’ll have to ignore the implications of a juror needing a judge to grant them their right to speech, so that we can get to the matter at hand. In response to the decision by the grand jury, this person, who is remaining anonymous but was confirmed by an attorney, has claimed that any charges of homicide were never on the table, and that the only charge presented was wanton endangerment.

Here are the indisputable,objective facts, so that there’s no confusion. On the night of Breonna Taylor’s death, police entered her home and fired on her boyfriend, in what they claim to be self defense. During this series of events, Taylor was struck multiple times and died. This needs to be said very clearly for people to understand, this is not a racial issue. It has nothing to do with black or white, and has everything to do with the rule of law.

Face the reality of the situation. If you were attacked while jogging and shot an innocent person, homicide would be on the table. If you were defending your home during a break in and accidentally shot an innocent person, homicide would be on the table. If you ever accidentally caused the death of another person, homicide would be on the table. This isn’t a racial issue. It’s not even a cop issue. This is an issue of the existence of two sets of law. There is the criminal penal code to which the regular people are held, and the law that applies to a select few in power, who get every chance to be found innocent without the slightest attempt of real due process.

So what happens when the “Rule of Law” is arbitrarily applied? This brings us to that second name, John Locke. You may or may not know him, but you do know Thomas Jefferson, so here’s an easy summary of John Locke: Everything that Thomas Jefferson has ever said or written was first said by John Locke. “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness (property) ” was John Locke. The fundamental philosophy behind the Declaration and the Constitution was John Locke. If you like the values behind these documents, then you love John Locke, but Locke also said something else in regards to the rule of law.

See, Locke believed that the rule of law was only valid if it was just and equally applied to all members of the society. Whether you were a farmer, a banker, or a governor the law was applied to you equally. John Locke even went so far as to say that when the rule of law was not just; it is not only the right but the duty of the people to rectify it.

This is another situation where I must be very clear. We should not be over throwing the government. We should not stage a violent revolution. All violence and destruction of the private property of innocent individuals is wrong; however, we must accept that the rule of law is no longer valid.

Every time the law is not equally applied, we weaken the moral foundation of our society, and in this case, we have reduced it to rubble. The President tweets “LAW AND ORDER” in all caps and wins an election. Plenty of places had Law and Order. Soviet Russia, Communist China, The colonies under King George, Nazi Germany all had law and order, because law and order is easy. It requires no depth of thought or political nuance. It’s as simple as “this is the law; you broke the law”. No one ever asked if the laws were just. The law was just the law. The punishments that followed kept the order, but I would seriously doubt that anyone would want to live in those societies.

Rule of law requires more. It requires effort and struggle. The Rule of Law is uneasy, because it forces you to fight against your natural inclinations towards safety. It forces you to get uncomfortable. We could allow politicians and cops to do whatever they want. In that society, we would never see another protest or riot again, but we would also never see free speech, gun rights, or the right of privacy.

We live in a free society, and in all free societies you are faced with a constant barrage of choices. The most important choice is this: Are you willing to give up convenience for freedom, are you willing to sacrifice liberty for some type of forced peace? Will you accept oppression and be treated like a second class citizen in exchange for quiet? If your answer is no, then you must acknowledge the injustice that was done to Breonna Taylor, and demand that another grand jury be convened and a trial held. If you said yes, then you do not belong here.

Michael A. Romano

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