The United States has become a nation of scofflaws.

How did this happen?

Who is responsible?

First, let’s get on the same page, definitionally. What is a scofflaw?

Wikipedia reports the term was coined during Prohibition (1920-1933) to define a person who drank illegally, or who violated the law in other ways. Eventually, it morphed to cover anyone who flouts any law that is effectively difficult to enforce.

My father, who was an alcoholic, was a scofflaw. So was one of my aunts and cohorts who paid for their education at the University of Idaho by running illegal beverages from Canada to Moscow in a touring car equipped with a special tank.

Today’s scofflaws speed, pass in no-passing zones, run red lights, drink when underage, create false identification, under-report their taxes, operate Airbnb without paying the city tax, and ....

Myriad are the ways of scofflaws; but the way we should be concerned with today are citizens who refuse to wear masks or operate businesses in violation of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

In doing so, they risk transmitting the coronavirus even though they may not have symptoms. Witness the horrendous spike in COVID-19 as scofflaws refuse to wear masks and social distancing.

The result is that as of July 6, the United States now leads the world in COVID-19 cases and deaths. This in a nation that falsely prides itself in being a country of law and order?

Who is responsible for this epic tragedy?

Let’s start with public education. It has utterly failed to give students even a nominal understanding of constitutional law, both in high school, but also in college.

Bachelor’s degrees should require a muscular course in the Constitution and its interpretation. Such courses should be required to teach principles, not political dogma. Professors shouldn’t be allowed to teach their personal opinion, but all major approaches to interpretation of the Constitution.

Universities confer baccalaureate degrees on students who are fundamentally ignorant (not stupid, but lacking knowledge) of both history and the U.S. Constitution. Yet, everyone seems to think they are Supreme Court justices.

Indeed, that they are a Supreme Court of one. No need for additional jurists. They “know their rights,” which include the right to spread pestilence.

So we have sheriffs declaring they won’t enforce requirements to wear face masks, or to social distance, as not to violate citizens’ constitutional rights to spread contagion.

Such declarations almost assure that those sheriffs will be re-elected. Then, of course, we have the worst of the worst offenders, politicians who, like President Donald Trump, throw out the science of disease prevention and muddy the waters not only by refusing to wear masks, but by discouraging citizens from wearing masks and social distancing.

They hypocritically campaign, blathering about America being a nation of laws and the electorate continues to elect, or reelect them.

Many people of religious faith pray that God will save our nation; others, like me, believe God expects citizens to save America themselves.

If our democracy is to be saved, citizens will do it not on their knees asking God to do their work for them; they will save our nation on their ballots.

Terence L. Day is a retired Washington State faculty member and a Pullman resident since 1972. He encourages email to terence@moscow.com.

Recommended for you