Opinion: For sake of the American Way, enough is enough

GUEST VIEW

2021 is notable for many events to include life-saving medical advances to treat COVID-19. The two most long-term implications may be the insurrection of January 6 and efforts to demand, not just strive, for equal justice under the law.

Accountability is the common theme. Whether you are an attorney providing ineffective assistance of counsel in a criminal case, a doctor more interested in riches than in upholding the Hippocratic oath, or a sworn officer who wants to be both the prosecutor and judge, our citizenry is demanding true justice for all Americans.

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October 19, 2016 - Atlanta - Sam Olens photographed in his attorney general's office. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Credit: bandres@ajc.com

October 19, 2016 - Atlanta - Sam Olens photographed in his attorney general's office. BOB ANDRES  /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Credit: bandres@ajc.com

caption arrowCaption
October 19, 2016 - Atlanta - Sam Olens photographed in his attorney general's office. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Credit: bandres@ajc.com

Credit: bandres@ajc.com

It was my high honor to assist and represent public safety officials during my years in public service. While law enforcement officers richly deserve our respect and support for their invaluable contributions to civil society, they must be held responsible when they break the law. As Minnesota’s Attorney General Keith Ellison recently affirmed, “We want you to uphold the highest ideals of safety, and when a member of your profession is held accountable, it doesn’t diminish you. In fact, it shows the world that those of you who enforce the law are also willing to live by it. That’s a good thing. It restores trust, faith and hope.”

Thank goodness for the eventual release of the video that displayed Ahmaud Arbery’s murder, as justice delayed is justice denied.

With the upcoming November 2022 general election and 2024 presidential election, I am far more troubled by the hyper-partisan division of our country, to include claims that the prior presidential election was “stolen” or that only one political party supports law enforcement or the rule of law.

Enough is enough.

It is not trivial to state that our democracy is at stake. The “Big Lie” is tearing our country apart, with some educated citizens more interested in ideology and outcome than the wonder of a truly pluralistic representative democracy.

Whether one is raising their family in metro Atlanta or rural Georgia, we all want a better world for our children. But is “the lie” significantly diminishing that likelihood? The fight between supporters of former President Trump and mainstream Republicans, and the fight between moderate and progressive Democrats, is a cancerous disease hindering our ability to improve that sought-after improved quality of life for future generations.

Alexis de Tocqueville was right when he declared, “There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.” When some elected officials encourage political discourse on successionist theories based on race and ideology, a threatened civil war cannot be disregarded as an idle threat. Accountability is the common theme.

If we really want our country to be great, let’s treat everyone respectfully, with fairness and integrity. One’s personal liberty is not more important than our general welfare. Can we please accentuate our similarities and clearly defined purpose under our Constitution? Or are we going to witness the destruction of the rule of law in favor of one’s dogma at everyone else’s expense?

We are not red states and blue states, we are the United States of America. I continue to believe that so much more binds us as a nation than divides us - if only we didn’t need to win every small battle. Democracy is at its best when the government and her leaders obey the law or are promptly held accountable for such callous misbehavior. As former President Reagan so eloquently stated: America is that shining city upon a hill, a home that would be free, with all kinds of people living in harmony and peace.

I pray that we can once again strive for that unparalleled future. Enough is enough.

Sam Olens, now a partner at law firm Dentons, is a former Georgia Attorney General and former chair of the Cobb County Commission.