A month ago, millions around the world took a moment to recognize the 79th anniversary of D-Day (June 6, 1944). Though not a national holiday in the United States, perhaps it should be. The footage of allied forces, including thousands of young American men, storming the beaches in France have been seen by many whether in documentaries or in movies.
Generally, Germany, Japan, and Italy had strong central governments to control and direct all aspects of individual life through coercion and repression and had taken up arms to expand their rule across Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world. Millions of Americans traded in their civilian clothes for uniforms of the armed forces to fight in World War II. The battle was against the totalitarian government of Germany, an authoritarian government of Japan, and a fascist Italy.
In the space of one lifetime, there is significant evidence in the United States exposing us as susceptible to the very threat that millions of Americans fought against in World War II. A troublesome aspect of today’s U.S. political environment is that many who have at some point in their lives sworn to protect and defend the Constitution have taken up arms to actively undermine the foundations upon which the country was founded.
In view of what our grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought against and fought for in World War II, it is beyond discouraging to learn that of those participating in the January 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, a significant percentage of them had a military or law enforcement background. According to an NPR March 2023 investigative report[JO1] , approximately fifteen percent (15%) of those prosecuted had either a military or law enforcement background.
Sometimes, going back to basics is important and is worthy for us to remind ourselves of these basics. There is something fundamental and common when serving the United States. Whether one is an eighteen-year-old enlistee into the military, or one elected to the U.S. Congress or taking the office of the President, there is an oath for each. The similarity of these oaths, despite the differences in magnitude of responsibility, is striking.
By law, any person enlisting in the U.S. armed forces must take an oath. An enlistee states that “I, (his/her name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
At the end of the oath above, it makes clear that a service member must follow orders “according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.” The fine line reading requires an understanding of following legal orders and not following illegal orders.
The U.S. Constitution provides the language of the required oath of a person taking the office of the Presidency: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
The core element in both oaths is the obligation to commit to protecting the Constitution of the United States and by extension all laws enacted under the powers granted to the Congress and the President. Theoretically, we do not get to pick and choose what laws should be enforced and who should be subject to those laws when no specific individual is exempted from them.
Whether it was the outcome of the November 2020 election that resulted in President Biden’s election or the recent indictment of Donald Trump relating to classified documents, both events were subjected to the legal process. Literally dozens of court cases found no evidence of fraud or a stolen election in 2020. The conduct of numerous attorneys attempting to challenge the result of the 2020 election through their filing of complaints before the federal courts has resulted in sanctions imposed on attorneys for failing to engage in the type of due diligence required before filing complaints in court.
Unlike the courts, media personalities who seek to gain broad audience appeal and attention can say or do practically anything with impunity. However, those attorneys who seek to overturn an election without proper evidentiary foundation can find themselves on the wrong side of an ethical line. While the general public may consume all the media rhetoric spilled by various “news” outlets, judges expect fact-based submissions supported by evidence.
The latest series of developments regarding classified materials and the case against the former president have again raised the issue of law enforcement. It is ironic that for millions who would usually complain about the rich and powerful being treated under a more lenient set of rules and laws, so many now find it appalling that the former occupant of the White House is being subjected to the type of investigation and examination that many have been in the past for the same legal infractions.
The continuing barrage of rhetoric, some of which is to incite and encourage citizens to violence because of an indictment supported by evidence of wrongdoing pulls back the curtain and exposes both office holders and citizens willing to undermine the rule of law in the United States.
As another Independence Day comes upon us, we find ourselves in some disarray. How can it be that so many who once swore allegiance to the Constitution now encourage and incite others to take up arms or engage in violent conduct against the upholding of the laws of the United States? How can so many who are law enforcers or officers of the courts, having taken an oath to uphold laws and the constitution, consider it acceptable to ignore their oath of duty when off-duty?
The reality is that July 4th is no more significant on the calendar than any other day. Every day is significant when considering the future of a constitutional democracy where citizens do expect that the rule of law will be respected and applied to all. And, rather than succumb to political and media personalities, their own vested interests in riling up the citizenry for profit and adulation, we as citizens should expect more of ourselves as more educated and discerning individuals willing to take a few minutes to ensure that we are not manipulated and easily swayed so that we continue the hard work of a more perfect union.