A nation of laws protects democracy
By Roger L. Thompson
A quote contributed to one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin should still cause all of us to take a moment, and reflect. According to several who have written concerning his statement, it is noted that Benjamin Franklin was asked as he was leaving the Constitutional Convention of 1787, “Well, Doctor, What have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy? Franklin is reported to have replied; “A Republic if we can keep it.”
A republic is defined as “as state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly by them.” A democracy is defined as a government by the people. President Lincoln concluded his Gettysburg Address with the words “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Government receives its power from the people and government should be a servant for the people. It is not designed to be a government directing the people. It is designed to be the people directing the government.
The primary difference between the United States of America and many other countries is that we are nation of laws. Dictatorships and absolute monarchs are ruled by authoritarian rule. Their citizens live in fear and not in freedom. It is easy to note countries around the world like Russia, China, North Korea and others who are ruled by one person. While some of these authoritarian countries may have legislative bodies, it is well known democracy does not rule, law does not rule, it is the rule and will of one person.
Too many times we get in such a hurry to get something done, if are not careful we can trample on democracy in our zeal. We must remember we are a republic, we are a nation of laws even if we do not like nor agree with some of the laws.
It might even seem that our cause is righteous and time is of the essence, however, if the rights of the citizens are trampled on in the process, the project does not outweigh the rights of the citizens.
Over the last three years, there has been much discussion about the McGirt case. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the reservation of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation was never disestablished. Therefore, the reservation status still exists. The ruling states “Congress has since broken more than a few promises to the Tribe. Nevertheless, the Creek Reservation persists today. Pp. 6–28.
(1) Once a federal reservation is established, only Congress can diminish or disestablish it. Doing so requires a clear expression of congressional intent. Pp. 6–8. The federal government promised the Creek a reservation in perpetuity. Over time, Congress has diminished that reservation. It has sometimes restricted and other times expanded the Tribe’s authority. But Congress has never withdrawn the promised reservation.”
There are some today who debate whether the Supreme Court of the United States was correct or incorrect. While it is fine to have that debate and discussion, the McGirt decision is the law of the land. Does it present challenges in law-enforcement? Absolutely! Does it present other challenges in eastern Oklahoma? Absolutely! However, it also presents opportunities for us to work together with a sovereign nation as defined by law for all the citizens of the state.
Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond is on record of saying the “Supreme Court decision in the McGirt case will not be overturned and Congress will not act.” Therefore, we must learn to work with each other in the framework of the current law.
During times like these that some people talk about judicial reform. Whether it be the McGirt decision or the Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action, there are those who begin to talk about reform because we disagreed with a decision.
In Oklahoma, regarding the Oklahoma Supreme Court, there are those who are upset with a recent ruling on abortion. Again, the conversation turns to judicial reform because we don’t like a decision that has been rendered by the court.
Our democracy is built on three co-equal branches of government. It is not built upon one branch and two twigs, but on three co-equal branches of government. This check and balance system has worked since the beginning of this great nation.
Not only should we be looking at laws on a national level and a state level but also on a local level. One should not give up their rights without due process, no matter the urgency of a matter before us. We are still in a nation of laws. Every citizen is entitled to due process. That due process is not comprised of one person making the final decision.
Freedom is extremely precious. The right to vote for those who represent us is extremely precious, and this right should be exercised by every citizen to protect the freedom that we now enjoy.
Fredrick Douglas said “A man’s rights rest in three boxes. The ballot box, jury box and the cartridge box. Let no man be kept from the ballot box because of his color. Let no woman be kept from the ballot box because of her sex.”
Today, if we don’t like the laws of the land then let us change them. But let us change them by exercising our right to vote. Let us change them according to the art of persuasion and not intimidation. We do right because it is the right thing to do and not because of the fear of retribution if we disagree.
I encourage everyone to be vigilant when it comes to protecting our freedom. It has been my experience that freedoms that are forfeited in the name of expediency are usually lost forever.
Located on the Southwest corner of the block by the US Post Office in Okemah stands a memorial to all of the men and women who lived here and served our country fighting for our freedom. Many gave their very lives for us to live free in a nation of laws.
Democracy works. Democracy amplifies freedom. Democracy provides every citizen with due process.
The United States of America is the greatest country in the world. Because we are still the land of the free and the home of the brave.