When I was growing up, way back in the 1950s, my friends and I spent many a Saturday afternoon at the movie theater, eager witnesses to a double feature with color cartoon. More often than not, at least one of the features was a Western starring the likes of John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart or Randolph Scott. These stars frequently played the town sheriff, alone in a hostile world protected by his six-gun and sense of honor.
As frequently happened, the lone lawman depicted by one of these actors found himself guarding a prisoner, standing mostly alone against a mob seeking vigilante justice. Invariably, the mob had been inflamed by a hot-blooded blowhard who demanded instant punishment for the prisoner, venomously proclaiming, “We know he’s guilty. Why do we have to wait for a trial?” Having learned in my elementary school that American justice was built around the concept of “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law,” I could never understand how supposedly decent Americans could want to ignore justice and take the law into their own hands.
As I grew up, I learned that there are many evil and wrong ways to mete out what the self-righteous refer to as justice. There’s the star-chamber, the show trial and the lynch mob, and lately also the social media. There’s hot-talk radio and innuendo-based opinion shows on TV, and yes, there are letters to the editor whose sole purpose is to foment anger and hate, while prejudging the putative offender. There are declarative “facts” with little or no verification, all aimed at agitating “the mob” to prejudge a case.
But I also learned that, under our Constitution, there is only one correct way to assure real justice, and that is through the calm presentation of evidence, not opinion, in a court of law, followed by the verdict of a jury, untainted by prejudice.
When Bowe Bergdahl put on the uniform of the United States military, his behavior became the province of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the system of courts-martial, not to be preempted by the ranting demagoguery of talk show hosts and those inflamed by their rhetoric. Cries of “treason” by those with much opinion and few facts warrant scorn, not support.
Finally, and as an aside, claims that the “morally bankrupt Democrat party will block any impeachment efforts” is provable nonsense. The Republican Party frequently remind us that they have a clear majority in the House of Representatives, which is given the sole power of impeachment by the Constitution. If they have evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” let them present it and put up or shut up with the impeachment fantasies.