OPINION: The Law has screwed itself


I didn’t get into this business to write editorials. I hate the damn things. 

I got into this business, in part, because I thought there were way too many opinions in America, and nowhere near enough facts. That was in the long-ago year of 1990, and you can be assured that my stance hasn’t softened over the years. 

On rare occasions, however, when I think my voice might actually make a difference or, perhaps, it seems that no one else is speaking the obvious truth, I’ve got no problem wading into the sewer and throwing some mud of my own. 

So, here’s an obvious truth:

Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler is a traitor.

I don’t like to write those words. That’s not something I ever want to say about any elected official, much less one who serves in law enforcement, and least of all one I have to cover on a regular basis. 

But my wishes are irrelevant here. What isn’t irrelevant is that Spangler has betrayed his oath of office, the law he’s sworn to serve, and the whole ideal of “the rule of Law.”

Spangler did that by announcing on October 25 that he was sending a letter to President Joe Biden in which he stated that he wasn’t going to obey an “unconstitutional order” pertaining to a mask mandate to fight the ongoing pandemic.

I understand that he’s frustrated with President Biden. I’m frustrated by President Biden myself — I think he’s done a poor job so far as our nation’s commander-in-chief. But Spangler didn’t swear to serve only under presidents that he likes. He didn’t say that he would only enforce those laws that he agrees with.

Our entire system is built on the notion that everyone in it follows the instructions of those above them, and the law as written. Spangler’s deputies follow his orders. Spangler is subordinate, in turn, to prosecutors, judges, and our highest law enforcement official, the President. 

Spangler could take this issue to the courts. He could try to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court, in fact. He might even get a preliminary injunction forbidding the enforcement of Biden’s order, similar to how those parents who recently sued the school system did. That’s how the system works. 

That would be, you know, lawful. That would be proving that we are still, as the old saying goes, “a nation of laws, not men.”

Instead, Spangler has put himself on the level of every so-called criminal sitting in his jails. 

Even worse, he isn’t the only Sheriff in the United States who’s decided that they don’t have to obey a president they disagree with. I guess — maybe — that they figure that since they’re cops, then following the Law is optional. At the least, I guess they reckon it’ll gain them brownie points with certain voters who also don’t like the president.

This isn’t about mask mandates, of course, and it’s certainly not about freedom. It’s about politics, and about overturning the Constitution, and about ending the republic founded in 1784. Their preferred candidate lost an election, and they don’t care about the consequences of their political temper tantrums. 

They either don’t understand this kind of crap can lead to civil wars, or they’re too stupid to understand that a second civil war would lead to the destruction of the United States and probably the deaths of themselves and all those they hold dear.

Even if I flat-out opposed mask mandates (my opinion on them changes on a case-by-case basis), I would still oppose what Spangler has done. 

He’s got other options. Options that work within the system that our Founding Fathers created. Options that might work without endangering everything that generations of Americans have fought for.

Liberty, Freedom… those are big words. The ideas that lay behind them are even bigger. Clearly, those words are far bigger than Knox County’s sheriff.

On top of it all, Spangler’s entire position rests on a hypocritical conceit of the most repulsive kind.

Please, don’t fall victim to the lie that this is about the freedom to control our own bodies. Spangler has never stood up for that right before. In fact, Spangler (like many others in his profession) has dedicated his life to using violence against anyone misguided enough to believe they have a right to determine their own medical treatment. 

Think about it.

If we had the right to decide what medicine goes in or out of our bodies, then when a cancer or pancreatitis patient screamed helplessly for pain relief, they wouldn’t have to beg a doctor for morphine, would they? And their doctors would never be forced to say “No” because they were afraid of what Sheriff Spangler (or some other cop) might do to them, would they?

If I thought for a moment that Spangler was, in fact, fighting for that right, then I might even support him — at least to a point. But he’s been throwing people into jails and prisons for decades because he believes people don’t have the right to control their medical destinies. 

He also talks about “government overreach,” but he seems perfectly happy enforcing laws about seatbelts, driving at fixed speeds, smoking pot, etc. He can’t defend himself by arguing those laws are somehow valid because they save lives. The COVID-19 pandemic, after all, has killed more people in Knox County than all those other causes combined over the past year, and that’s in the middle of an opiate epidemic of unprecedented proportions.

The community we live in is — to use our Sheriff’s words — “still the land of the FREE.” So throw away your mask, take some dope, see how fast that sports car can go, and screw the Law.

The Law has already screwed itself.

 J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at jjstambaugh@hardknoxwire.com.

Published on October 29, 2021.