Ronald Reagan said that America was a “Shining City on a Hill” serving as an example of enlightenment to a world in which too many people live in the darkness of oppressive, undemocratic governments.
Reagan was plagiarizing from a 1630 sermon by John Winthrop, first governor of the Boston colony of Puritans who settled a little north of the Pilgrims’ colony at Plymouth. Two hundred years after John Winthrop preached, taking a passage from the Bible, Matthew V, verses 14-15, Daniel Webster orated on the same theme to celebrate the nation’s birthday.
For three hundred and sixty years, from Governor Winthrop’s sermon on setting forth from England, to Ronald Reagan’s farewell address, the Shining City on a Hill reference has been a brag about how the U.S., in colonial form, in U.S. form, in beating back Hitler form, in technical innovation, has always been an exemplar for the rest of the world.
Before Cold Warriors, hoping to profit from Red Baiting and anti-Communist jeremiads, rebuffed him, Ho Chi Minh tried to follow the American Constitutional model, as did a too young and not too worldly Fidel Castro. They had read the propaganda and the documents and saw the proposed example and wanted to follow it.
How many others have looked to the American example with hope for their own liberating revolts and sometimes revolutions? Freedom fighters from Africa and Asia and Latin America, and people trying to modernize royalist Europe have looked to the United States for example, inspiration and guidance.
They have lamented our system of slavery, and cheered when we ended it. They learned from us that religious strife should and could be separated from government, and have followed that example as they modernized their world. They have made their own legal systems less corrupt and extended legal rights to their lower classes and oppressed populations.
And now they have to watch as the Roberts Republican Court strives to return the United States to legal concepts that predate the Constitution.
One of the things that the U.S. has done in legal process is to refuse to return people to countries where it is certain that they cannot get fair trials and will face persecution. And now the Roberts Republican Court is promising the world that it will strip people subject to U.S. courts of rights and fair trials. Will we see a movement in European and other nations’ courts to refuse extradition requests from the U.S.? It may be too late for Julian Assange, unless a new British government recognizes that he has less chance of a fair trial now than he did before the Roberts Republican Court attacked the Constitution. But maybe others will benefit.
What, specifically, might foreign courts consider as they review legal requests from U.S. agencies and courts? It will escape no one’s notice that a Supreme Court ‘justice,’ who’s entire career advanced solely because of Affirmative Action programs, is now writing opinions calling for an end to due process in our legal system. And that a majority of ‘justices’ on the nation’s highest court appear to agree with him. In two cases this term, they agreed that innocence should be no bar to the death penalty. How will that play in nations that have abolished the death penalty?
Adjudicative agencies in foreign nations will look at opinions written by the Roberts Republican Court and see that they mis-cite a variety of authorities. Foreign readers can easily see the public complaints by legal experts who claim that their work has been misconstrued and taken out of context. They will see the writings of historians who point to errors of history in the Court’s decisions. They will know how exceptionally good Supreme Court researchers are, and that accurate history was available the the Court. Can they reach any logical conclusion other than that the errors in the opinions are intentional?
Foreign legal and political writers will see that ‘justices’ have falsified the factual records in cases, in order to make their opinions fit the precedents they want to use. It is a dark stain on any judicial officer to misstate the record. Observers of the Roberts Republican Court can see that several ‘justices’ engage in this process. But worse, much worse, all observers will see that when a single ‘justice’ falsifies the record, the other five Republican ‘justices’ join in the deception. Lying about case facts is not merely a bad habit of individual ‘justices’ but is, rather, part of the normal practice of Republican majority opinions. The Court as a whole is rejecting facts that they don’t want to admit. How will foreign authorities react to this new reality?
Our Founding Fathers grew rich on international trade. Some by trading in human flesh. Some by exporting fish and lumber and crops, and importing immigrants fleeing from Europe’s endless wars and injustices. Our Founding Fathers grew up watching wars rage across Europe, wars that disrupted trade and damaged fortunes and nations, but brought America skilled men like Paul Revere and Alexander Hamilton.
From this real world experience, our Founding Fathers wrote into the Constitution creating their new nation provisions for international relations and for treaties and rules to govern relations between nations. Since the nation was formed, from Barbary Pirates to today’s myriad conventions on everything from Rules of Engagement in Wars to how we handle child custody when divorced parents live in different nations, the U.S. has participated and often led the way in forming treaties that have made the world safer and fairer.
And now other nations are watching as the Roberts Republican Court simply excises sections of the Constitution that it doesn’t like. The Court doesn’t offer logical or coherent arguments. But it is actively encouraging religious strife - the same strife that for hundreds of years wracked Europe, cost millions of lives, and delayed scientific progress. How must other nations fear that Constitutional provisions about treaties might be excised by the Roberts Republican Court?
The same Court has reached back to the Middle Ages to deny science. While 100% of world scientists who study the issue say that we are facing catastrophic climate change, John Roberts maintains that climate change is a fiction so trivial that the Constitution doesn’t allow Congress to address it. Our own Pentagon is struggling, even with its bloated budget, to cope with the reality of sea level rise at Navy and Army facilities, and with other climate disasters that diminish our “readiness.” Yet the Roberts Republican Court says that climate change is mythology. The same court denies that Congress has the power to protect its people from diseases or to create executive agencies to do medical and other scientific research.
Europe and Asia and colonized Africa and Latin America and the Middle East have been where the Roberts Republican Court is trying to take us. We speak with derision about the evidence-free, often secret proceedings in Chinese, Iranian, North Korean and Russian courts, where torture and coerced confessions are the norm—always to benefit the ruling castes. But free of the isolationist “America only” ideology raging in the U.S. Europeans can see that those courts are where the Roberts Republican Court is taking us. Even using its Shadow Docket to emulate the infamous “Star Chamber” court of English monarchy.
In the 1920s, long before WW-II, Hitler’s Nazi party started scapegoating Jews, with small steps to begin. In 2015, North Carolina Republican Party spokesman, Michael Charles Master, started ranting about how the Jews control all the Blacks in the U.S. and use them to control the Democratic Party. He claims that there are no Republican Jews, denying that Eric Cantor or Sheldon Adelson were Jews. He claims that saving America means defeating this scourge.
Judaism requires, not merely accepts but requires, abortion in some cases. The requirement is inseparable from Jewish beliefs in human rights and values. Jews are supposed to have equal rights to religious exercise as Catholics and Southern Baptists. But the Roberts Republican Court says no, not anymore, not in a nation where religious freedom is now only for favored religious beliefs.
Europeans have been down this road before, and no one, not even the most conservative corporations benefitted. They will not want to replay that history. They are resisting Czar Vlad’s effort to make Ukraine the new Sudetenland or Poland. They are using economic pressure as an alternative or adjunct to military measures. It is almost inevitable that they will try to take steps to protect themselves, in business arrangements, legal procedures and treaty and other international relations, from a U.S. legal system which is rejecting the Constitution, and thus international law.