Hitler, Trump, and Martial Law.

“The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” said Martin Luther King. He was a man of faith, grounding his conviction about the ultimate justice of the universe squarely on his conviction that that the Lord of the Universe guarantees the ultimate justice of the universe.

When we look at tyrants, a tiny but important fragment of the moral universe, we can easily see that the arc bends toward injustice. One who exercises tyranny over people is simultaneously challenging God himself. And thus they are doomed.

How does this work out in history? The one tyrant we in the West know most about is Hitler. We know how his story turned out but not many people seem to pay much attention to the early stages of his tyranny. One month after he became Chancellor (a position similar to the Prime Minister of England, running the government but technically serving the monarch), the Reichstag burned to the ground. The Reichstag was the parliament building and its destruction — which the firefighters were apparently forbidden to save — left the parliament homeless and thoroughly intimidated.

Worse than that, Hitler used the conflagration as leverage in demanding the parliament grant him virtually unlimited authority to do as he liked. The fire, he claimed, was the work of the communists (though it is likely it was his own work) and they were thus presenting such a threat to national security that he alone could control the crisis without the cumbersome burdens of democracy to hinder quick action.

Is Trump going to burn any buildings in Washington? That’s highly unlikely because, despite how badly the Republicans have weakened it, our democracy remains too strong for such simple bullying to be effective.

The real question is whether the arc of Trump’s presidency bends toward the destruction of democracy. Does Trump really want to be an American dictator or is that simply the hyperbolic claim of madmen like me?

In the unanimous decision of the three justices of the Federal Appeals Court, come these strong words:

“Although our jurisprudence has long counseled deference to the political branches on matters of immigration and national security, neither the Supreme Court nor our court has ever held that courts lack the authority to review executive action in those arenas for compliance with the Constitution. To the contrary, the Supreme Court has repeatedly and explicitly rejected the notion that the political branches have unreviewable authority over immigration or are not subject to the Constitution when policymaking in that context.”

And they summed up their position in simple, direct words which completely invalidated the argument of the government’s lawyers:

“In short, although courts owe considerable deference to the President’s policy determinations with respect to immigration and national security, it is beyond question that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action.”

Justice has prevailed, at least for the time being, and democracy has won over tyranny but it remains chilling that Trump wants an unquestioned authority. As I have been arguing for a year now, Trump has all the makings of a brutal tyrant but, to his frustration, he is in country where it will be nearly impossible for him to gain the necessary power.

Look for him to seek an excuse to impose something like martial law. . .


About mthayes42

I am a retired pastor, interested in the Bible, cross-cultural ministries, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the current and past history of western civilization.
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