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Sarcasm, Sir Thomas More, and the Presidential Election

For this one, all words are sarcasm, and even the law becomes a joke.

I do not like Joe Biden. I find some of his policies abhorrent. And I don’t think discussion around his sexual assault allegation should “just go away.” I don’t want to vote for him. I might. And part of the reasoning may come from A Man for All Seasons…

Observing our current President’s comments about injecting disinfectants into people’s lungs, I couldn’t stop laughing. It was one of the most ridiculous comments to come out of his mouth to date. I do think that he could have backtracked the comment by saying that he was just surmising on rumors (which he seemed to suggest in the briefing). After the briefing, many Trump supporters vehemently defended him, saying that his comments were a reasonable surmising and that he should be taken seriously. But the next day the President gave an explanation no one expected: he claimed that the remarks were sarcastic. I don’t see how any reasonable person can watch the briefing and then see the President’s later explanation as anything other than a lie.

Lies operate in the realm of anarchy. A thing spoken, Iike a law, is a commitment. You should remember and be accountable to your words, because this is the only way another can consider you stable and reliable. You can go back later and say that your words were wrong, but then you must be accountable for these words.

The United States is a country of laws and of a Constitution. And we cannot just ignore what has been written down for the sake of convenience. In A Man for All Seasons, William Roper argues that one should ignore the law if such ignorance is required to combat the devil. Thomas More disagrees. If you abandon the law, even for the sake of the devil, you destroy the law for all. You would destroy the country:

——————-

William Roper: “So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!”

Sir Thomas More: “Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”

William Roper: “Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”

Sir Thomas More: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”

——————-

A man’s word is like the law. To be “man of one’s word” enables one to be a man of the law. If a man is willing to lie (and to lie so obviously and in the face of the most serious public health crisis in 100 years) in order to promote his personal image, we shouldn’t expect him to be a man to uphold the law justly. We should see him as a man of anarchy, in word and in leadership. He considers himself to be a man above the things he says, above the truth. He’d be hardly a man at all, his words devoid of meaning and thus reduced to empty babbling.

The enforcement of laws in our federal government is the work of the President. The enforcement of the word in each person is the work of integrity. Integrity and enforcement must be bound together for the work of justice. When one falls apart, so does the other.

If we must choose among the devils available for election, let’s at least choose a devil that can be constrained by the things he says and the laws he promises to uphold. You can’t expect a devil to be constrained by the law if he won’t even be constrained by his own words. For this one, all words are sarcasm, and even the law becomes a joke.


Chris Damian is a writer, speaker, attorney, and business professional living in the Twin Cities. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame and his J.D. and M.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas. He is the author of “I Desired You: Intellectual Journals on Faith and (Homo)sexuality” (volumes I and II). He is also the co-founder of YArespond, a group of Catholic young adults seeking informed and holistic responses to the clergy abuse crisis. In his free time, he enjoys hosting dinner parties and creative writing workshops. 

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