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george hancock stefanIn a recent edition of the Asbury Park Press, a brief article was tucked away in the middle that stated that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh would not take the traditional walk after his ceremonial investiture on the court because of security concerns. It is customary for a new justice to walk down the 44 marble steps in front of the building, accompanied by the chief justice. Other newspapers noted that this would be the first time in the history of the United States Supreme Court that a new justice did not take the ceremonial walk.

Regardless of your position on the newest justice, the fact that in the United States we cannot protect our judges on the Supreme Court speaks volumes about where we are as a nation. What exactly were the security concerns of our police officers and those that have been entrusted with our protection and the protection of our political and judicial leaders? Were they concerned that they could not have controlled the crowd that would have gathered in opposition? Are our security forces so weak that they would not have been able to handle a crowd of hundreds or thousands that might have gathered to protest a justice of the land? Or is there a possibility that a Supreme Court justice could be assassinated on the steps of the court after he has participated in his investiture ceremony? Did they believe that someone driven by hate or a perceived noble cause would be willing to end the justice’s life?

As someone who became a United States citizen in the mid-seventies, I always appreciated the presidential transition. I love to watch the President saying farewell to the White House staff and then taking a helicopter to one of the main airports to travel to their new home. We are a nation of laws and so we are not afraid that a revolt will take place or a government will be overthrown by one group or another. The person who has been newly elected moves in and the person whose term came to an end moves out peacefully. The White House and institutions like the Senate and Supreme Court are places to which we send people and give them the authority to govern over us.

The Balkan Peninsula where I grew up has a history of assassinations between 1850 and 1950. Kings, princes, presidents, ministers, and justices where assassinated by one group or the other. The lynchpin for World War I was the assassination of the Archduke of Austria by a man named Gavrilo Princip. People can argue that the war might have started without the assassination, but it did start that way. Many years ago, I met an elderly man who told me that he still keeps the assassination list with his name on it. It was put together in the late thirties and his name was on it because the government at that time wanted to get rid of hundreds of intellectuals who were in various leadership position. This man was not even in politics—he was the leader of a fledgling religious denomination.

If our security forces cannot protect us when we walk on First Avenue and our politicians and justices cannot complete their ceremonial recognitions, then we have changed too much and not for the better. In the world that God created when there were only four people, God says to Cain who hated his brother so much that he was planning to murder him: “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7) In the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us that murder is not strictly in the deed, but we sin when we become so angry that we want to eliminate the people that we do not like.

May God change the hearts of the people in this nation, so we do not move in dangerous directions. May He turn us around to be able to disagree strongly without ever having the desire to eliminate the people we oppose.