Respect for “the law” held by liberals and conservatives alike is entirely a consequence of their own personal stance on its validity. For example, the Supreme Court found in Citizens United that free speech protection does indeed extend to corporations, but since that didn’t sit to well with liberals (who are eager to selectively muzzle corporations they disagree with) they applaud any attempt to undermine that decision. The second amendment guarantees a right to individual gun ownership, but again liberals will hardly shed a tear when local officials defy that right with onerous restrictions. Likewise, Roe v. Wade and Obamacare are settled constitutional law (according to the Supreme Court) and yet conservatives will do whatever they can to subvert the spirit and intent of these laws. With conservatives the cognitive dissonance of unconditionally supporting cops (even when throwing grenades into a baby’s crib) but opposing taxes creates unexpected results. Last year Eric Garner chose to ignore New York’s laws regarding selling untaxed cigarettes and paid the ultimate price for his impertinent obstinacy in not bending to the will of the state (death by cop). And what did the putatively tax-averse conservative do? Rather than commending his act of tax-rebellion, they hid behind a wall of cowardice in proclaiming, “well, the law is the law and it must be followed.” I guess they’re only opposed to onerous taxes that affect them.
Religious conservatives are now all too happy to do a full 180 on the principal of “follow the law” and heap accolades upon someone who defies the law – because they happen to agree with her. Kim Davis, clerk of the court for Rowan County Kentucky, is being held up as a noble heroine for her staunch refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. There aren’t many things one can be sure of in life but of this I am most certain: had the court ruled the other way and we now had a clerk issuing marriage licenses to gay couples in defiance of that decision, conservatives would be quite vocal on the sanctity of the “rule of law” and that officials have a solemn duty to carry out the law despite their own personal misgivings.
At one time the Fugitive Slave Act, Jim Crow, and Japanese internment were law but I dare say you’d be hard pressed to find anyone today who would view people that ignored those laws as being guilty of anything other than heroism. So where does this leave us? If sometimes it really is ok to ignore the law and sometimes it (supposedly) isn’t, then perhaps the problem is not with a societal lack of unwavering respect for “the law” but rather with the laws themselves. This lack of solidarity over what constitutes valid law is merely a reflection of the fact that society is composed of individuals who don’t all agree on everything. That is ok. I have some shocking news: it is possible for people to live together and not be forced to live the exact same way.
Laws of nature cannot be broken; laws of man can. By labeling the latter with the same appellation as the former, society deludes itself into believing the two are equivalent in their capacity to govern human behavior. Man’s laws are that fiction that implies human behavior can be constrained by mere ink. And if ink alone doesn’t work then we now have our excuse to “enforce” its edicts by any means necessary. Law is not protection from aggression but rather an excuse to engage in it – “look, he broke the law, go get him!” Laws against murder, rape, or theft are not what potentially protect us from such acts, rather feedback does. That is to say, contained within the act itself is the basic natural right to reciprocally respond to it (the right of self-defense). The real and certain potential for instantaneous reciprocity is the actual deterrent that keeps criminals at bay, not mere laws.
Rules (laws) are acceptable if one has affirmatively consented to them (and consent does not mean merely being born within invisible walls), but without consent mere ink can not convey the right to aggress against others because they choose not to follow particular rules concerning taxation, social behavior, or other non-aggressive behavior.
There is nothing mistaken in thinking this law or that law is unjust and should be ignored; all non-property rights violation laws are but mere opinion enforced with guns. The real crime here is engaging in the hypocrisy of believing we must live under a rule of law while simultaneously ignoring the laws you don’t like. Don’t be a hypocrite; admit that forcing others to live according to your beliefs is dishonorable and in that moment you will have earned the right to live unmolested by the beliefs of others. If you espouse aggression against others, then don’t come crying when others aggress against you.