Law and Society: Politics of Freedom and Confinement


Societies are formed upon premises and philosophies but it is eventually and fundamentally laws that keep them in shape and operation. Laws are written regulations that are protected under the constitutional integrity of a state and its government, which define the limits of personal and communal actions. In the case that they are not adhered to, laws also outline and execute punishment and therefore they can be considered as the most important element in modern day social and political construction. Considering the large scale and high variety of human interactions and behavior, along with the reality that there are some considerably problematic issues and deeply confused individuals in modern day societies, law emerges an issue that should be investigated seriously for anyone expecting to comprehend modernity and its realities in full depth. In today’s world, If one needs to face charges involving a criminal investigation regarding homicide, one needs to consult a criminal lawyer who can explain them the procedure and do the best to win the case. Similarly, for a citizen who has been involved in a traffic accident, the best thing to do is to hire a car accident lawyer and consult them to be able to develop a reasonable strategy and win the case. In any given such situation or scenario, where there exist parties which have been involved and harmed due to emergent realities, the main idea is to be able to identify the problem initially and target it with the respective set of laws and legal advice to resolve the issue within the confined limits of the law. Otherwise, life would be quite painful and most likely unbearable for the public, especially the underprivileged members of it, who would be crushed under the financial, political and even physical power and authority of the privileged and the protected. Respecting law therefore is respecting the society a person lives in and this is why every citizen in every modern day society needs to learn and apply their respective laws and legal matters.

Today, America is considered to be the most developed and advanced society of all recorded modern history and therefore its legal issues and developments are always in the world public’s attention. Thanks to the recently elected Trump administration and its initiative to “Make America Great Again”, which is a very subjective and confusing statement to begin with, the media is provided with nothing short of a gold mine of news and developments on a daily basis. Sabrina Siddiqui for The Guardian reports on the recent developments related to immigration and immigrants in America to report her findings on “how Trump is cracking down on legal immigrants” and “how they are fighting back” to give the example of Sudi Wardere, an American citizen of Somalian origin. Wardere’s husband was refused an entry visa after the Trump administration’s travel ban for countries with a Muslim majority was put into effect, which separated the family when the mother was expecting their first child. According to Joshua Hoy, a co-chair at the National Partnership for New Americans, currently “the overall picture is one of extreme hostility with no distinction between the undocumented and those who are legally here,” therefore the rules of the immigration game have drastically changed. Siddiqui continues with her article to refer to attorney general Jeff Sessions and the White House adviser Stephen Miller, who are both known for their strong anti-immigration views, opposing “the system that cemented America’s legacy as a nation of immigrants,” and taking “other steps [which] have targeted those already here.” Currently, the Trump administration and its conservative leaders are working on a new proposal that will make it harder for immigrants to obtain green cards or citizenship and definitely a lot harder for them to benefit from government programs such as “the Affordable Care Act, food stamps and children’s health insurance.” The new set of regulations will affect/disaffect the lives of more than 20 million immigrants in the country and therefore is serious news for immigrants of the US. Reverting back to Wardere’s story, who has grown up in the US since the age of 10 in the suburbs of Seattle, Siddiqui refers to her complaints about feeling like a second-class citizen with a son that cannot even see his father. Wardere is taking the matters to court with a class action lawsuit against the US government and its Immigration Office to target the recently passed and legislated travel ban as an unlawful and illegal application of the UN constitution. Among Wardere’s supporters are Muslim Advocates and the Immigrant Advocacy & Litigation Center, which are also openly and legally challenging the travel ban, accusing Donald Trump and his administration of being bigoted, racist and unlawful towards Muslims. Currently there are tens of thousands of immigrant spouses in the US who have found themselves in the same or similar position as Wardere. Their situations will also not improve any time soon, given the president’s openly rejecting rhetoric regarding immigration. According to Donald Trump, the current state of immigration is a “national security threat” and therefore he or his administration will not be backing down on their legal fight against illegal immigration. Unfortunately, “for the greater good,” Mr. Trump and his team are more than willing to sacrifice the benefits and rights of the likes of Wardere, which is a criticism that does not seem to echo too well with the conservative political circles in TrumpAmerica.

Continuing with Mr. Trump and his new wave of American patriotism that has managed to create more conflict and controversy than any other recent political campaign in the country and in the world, one cannot help but refer back to Obamacare and its denunciation by the Trump Administration. Two law professors, Nicholas Bagley and Abbe R. Gluck, report for the New York Times, the legal complications and problems associated with the given issue, referring to it as a “political sabotage,” having obvious connections to Trump’s larger game plan and its consideration of social services and justice in America. The authors state that “President Trump has used all aspects of his executive power to sabotage the Affordable Care Act,” including issuing executive orders, creating new agencies or directing the existing ones to invent new rules and utilizing the publicity of his presidency to undermine laws that could stand in his way. With harsh statements such as “essentially, we are getting rid of Obamacare,” Mr. Trump has made his ideas about the issue very clear, much like a king would in the Middle Ages. Bagley and Gluck state that this attitude creates a problem because Donald Trump “swore to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” which includes the requirement as stated in Article II of the American constitution, necessitating the president to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” In this manner, the president’s “deliberate sabotage” of Obamacare, an act legislated by the Congress is unacceptable and most definitely illegal. In the very earliest days of his presidency, Mr. Trump instructed his government agencies “to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of” any part of the Affordable Care Act that they could” to initiate “a series of administrative actions aimed at undermining the law.” Apart from the legal impositions, the president also altered the parameters of the act to make it harder for people to enroll in its plans, shortening the enrollment period, cutting out the funding for its advertisements and taking legal action against the groups that helped applicants proceed through the complex enrollment process. Referring to his strategy as “the dismantling of Obamacare,” Donald Trump disrupted the system’s funding procedures, known as “cost-sharing payments” to take America “into a little different route.” In continuation, the Trump administration began to target the insurance market, encouraging large companies and smaller individual firms to sell ‘short-term- health plans that are exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s rules,” which have been “designed to provide people insurance for small gaps in coverage” such as occupational changes, which “had previously been limited to three months.” The Trump plan extended such periods to an entire year (364 days) to be renewed up to three more years in the name of initiating a cause for businesses to cooperate and produce collective plans to replace the Affordable Care Act and its provisions. This way, the Trump administration managed to create a wave of “junk coverage plans” that confused the consumers and pushed them away from Obamacare, which by then had already lost its funding and political support. Trump Administration, in a short period of time, succeeded in disrupting social peace and justice in America in a very fundamental way: by creating inequality and injustice through the hand of the American government.

Freedom and liberty have both need two fundamental building blocks of the American society ever since its earliest days and therefore the American constitution has always been expected to live up to certain legal standards, such as undisputed and non-discriminatory equality and justice for all citizens, based on the liberal philosophies of the founding fathers. The recently popularized and much debated right to same-sex/gay marriage in America is one of the most controversial issues of legal concern in the country, as it openly violates several conducts of social and moral code of the ever-conservative American society. Jessica Schulberg for The Huffington Post targets the issue of children being born to LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Questioning/Queer) not acquiring American citizenship, which is a legally supported form of injustice that relies on “an outdated policy that is at odds with federal court precedents.” The policy demands that there should exist biological relationship between the US citizen parent and the child, which has created absurd results as the American government recognizes the first child of American parents as a citizen but not the second one. This is due to the fact that several gay couples get married in other countries such as The Netherlands and return to America with their children to get them registered as American citizens. The State Department is the forefront advocate of conservatism in this paradigm, constantly ignoring and avoiding pressures from the advocates of the LGBTQ rights in the country, disabling them to “have the same ability to pass on their citizenship to their children as straight Americans do.” Currently, there are two pending cases in the US Supreme Courts with two same-sex couple suing the American government for “denying U.S. citizenship to their kids who were born abroad” with one of each parents being an American citizen. Although in both cases, the first child was granted American citizenship, the second one was not and therefore the couples are pushing for legal action against such discrimination. Since there cannot exist a blood relationship between a pair of gay parents and their children, the Internal State Department policy which necessitates such a bond between a child and a parent is quite debatable and inapplicable in this context. The couples and their lawyers are defending the assumption that “no such investigation of whether children are biologically related to their married U.S. citizen parent is mandated by law.” The parties base their arguments on “two rulings by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, one in 2000 and the other in 2005, made clear that [acquiring American citizenship] does not require a blood relationship to pass along U.S. citizenship to children born outside the country.” Schulberg finalizes her article by stating that while “the Immigration and Nationality Act requires “clear and convincing evidence” of a biological relationship between a U.S. citizen father and a child” for unmarried couples, a direct comprehension of the mentioned law also indicates that “there is no requirement of a blood relationship” for kids born to married parents. Therefore, as long as LGBTQ marriage is legally recognized, for children born into such families, the US citizenship is a right and cannot be bargained or taken away from such parents and their children. Although the legal system is under social and political pressure coming from conservative groups of the American society, it can be assumed and forecasted that the situation will change in favor of the LGBTQ movement in the years to come. As more appeals to the Supreme Court will be ruled in favor of such families and more families will be coming forth with their success stories through the media and other forms of public communications, the general public will come to comprehend the issue as a regular part of life that was overlooked culturally, socially and legally so far.

Another frequently experienced and debated aspect of law and legality today is sexual assault and abuse, as allegations of such nature have been known to end careers and even break up families. Interestingly, the Catholic Church has been at the center of such allegations for a long period of time, and as Rosa Flores reports for CNN News, $3.8 billion has been paid “in lawsuits and claims over sex abuse allegations in Catholic Church since 1980s… involving allegations of clerical sexual abuse.” The findings belong to a monitoring group, BishopAccountability, which went through more than related cases of 8600 survivors who have been reported to have suffered physically and psychologically from the sexually abusing acts of the clergy men since the 1950s. The group’s spokesperson, Terry McKiernan believes that it is not possible to give a direct number of “predator priests” because of out of court settlements. Given the large sums of capital associated with such procedures, numerous attorneys have been known to show significant interest in representing such clients to get a share of the settlement with the Catholic Church not holding back with respect to funding such payments in the name of silencing the media and the public. The largest payment of such nature “totaled $660 million and was issued in Los Angeles in 2007” related to221 priests, lay teachers and other church employees who were accused of victimizing 508 people.” While the authorities such as The US Conference of Catholic Bishops are keeping their silence about the issue, the legal system and the media both frequently target such groups through legal applications and journalism campaigns to ensure that predators are identified and are not allowed to interact with the public again, not without their prior knowledge. Similarly, a Pennsylvania grand jury released a report recently, focusing on “alleged abuse in six of the state’s dioceses,” in turn placing “the issue of abuse by Catholic clergy back in the spotlight” as the report identified  “more than 300 predator priests” who have been “credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims over seven decades.” As more investigations are opened almost every day, even the highest authority within the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, addressed the issue through a public letter recently which acknowledged the fact that the Catholic Church failed to take the necessary action regarding these cases of sexual abuse, planning to meet with abuse survivors in Ireland in the near future. Although the money aspect of things seem to be silencing a lot of critics and opponents of the institution, there still remain a significantly large group of such critics and opponents which utilize ethical arguments to target the Catholic Church. Among such arguments is the dominant one that there exist hundreds if not thousands of immoral and perverted individuals within the organization who have managed to survive throughout the decades of the institution’s existence, receiving pay and other benefits, which goes onto show that the institution is corrupted and its practices have become deviant over time. In such an environment, expecting divinity and purification is laughable and, according to such critics, the issue can only be resolved if the sexual predators are seriously punished by jail time or similar form of persecution and not merely through monetary fines.

On a completely different note, Sasha Ingber for National Public Radio reports on a decades old issue: the John Lennon assassination and how the murderer, Mark David Chapman, demanded to be released after spending 38 years following his arrest and imprisonment in 1980. He was the assassin who waited outside John Lennon’ New York apartment building to shoot him to death and ended The Beatles legacy once and for all. Although he appealed for a parole for nine times before, he was never granted such an option and not surprisingly, this time as well he was denied of such a privilege. The New York State Board of Parole denied his request on the grounds that Mr. Chapman’s release would be “incompatible with the welfare and safety of society” and that although Mr. Chapman “has only one crime on his criminal record,” such an issue “does not mitigate his actions.” Continuing with their argument, the board members states that the capability of a person to be able to consider his own life more important and valuable than another’s, to the point where he can actually take the other person’s life away, constitutes a grave threat to the general safety and wellbeing of a society. The written statement also specifically included the notion that the denial of Mr. Chapman’s request was not related to the celebrity status of John Lennon and therefore the board did not fear any backlash or adverse reaction from the public due to such fame and publicity. However, as Ingber takes reports, “days before the parole board made its decision, fans and local politicians gathered at the leafy memorial to the singer in Central Park, Strawberry Fields,” demanding that Mr. Chapman be rejected a parole and remain behind bars for the rest of his life. Similarly, John Lennon’s famous late wife and current widow, Yoko Ono has developed the habit or sending the NYSBP (New York State Board of Parole) a letter of request every time Mr. Chapman requested a parole, claiming that his release would put her safety into jeopardy. Mrs. Ono also made references to their sons with her ex-husband John Lennon and how their safety would also be under the threat of a possible attack by Mr. Chapman and even his own safety would be a question mark, considering the die-hard fans of The Beatles who still have not forgiven Mr. Chapman for his reckless act. Currently held and serving “a 20-years-to-life sentence in the Wende Correctional Facility in New York” that is “some 30 minutes outside Buffalo,” the ex-hospital security guard Mr. Chapman first became eligible for parole in the year 2000 and will only be able to apply for another request in 2020. Until that time, Mr. Chapman will most likely remain calm and silent, wishing to be set free back onto the streets of American once again, to live the final years of his life in freedom. However, the general outlook and perception of the issue forecast that he will never get such a privilege and will have to spend the rest of his life locked behind bars in Buffalo in shame and regret.

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