What is the Law?
A good answer to that question is given to us by Cary Grant in the 1942 movie, “The Talk of the Town.”
In that film, a wealthy and detached law professor claims that “The law is the sum of the experience of civilized man. It is the sign that man has emerged from the jungle.”
In the role of a Labor Union leader who is being hunted by a state-compelled lynch mob, Cary Grant responds “What is the law? It’s a gun pointed at a person’s head. It all depends on which end of the gun you stand whether the law is just or not.”
Those two beliefs remain the contrasting views of the law. The people holding the gun believe that it is the fine-honed tool of a civilized society. The people looking down the barrel believe otherwise.
For the well-off middle-aged woman with her proper virtues, laws prohibiting prostitution are necessary to maintain a moral civilization. For the impoverished and unskilled woman who has no other means of earning money, those laws result in an arrest that leaves her in an even worse situation than she was beforehand.
For the upper class man with his cigars and champagne, laws prohibiting marijuana are an absolute requirement to keep society from collapsing. For the person who likes smoking, those laws result in the loss of his job, his finances and his freedom.
And, though we can all agree that Aggravated Assault needs to be illegal - The righteousness of that law’s application might be questioned by the man who is doing three years in prison because he pulled a knife out in a bar.
Since the days of Cary Grant, some of the specifics have changed. But the law is still what it always has been - a gun held by the powerful that is aimed at the powerless.