There is a principle of Jewish law that has served diasporan Jewry well since Babylonian times. In Aramaic that rule is dina d’malchuta dina, which is translated as "the law of the land is the law." What the principle boils down to is the concept that when there is no conflict between Jewish law and local law, local law becomes Jewish law. Thus it is Jewish law not to speed while driving, not to drive while intoxicated, not to perform an act of treason against one’s country, etc. The underlying theory is that a viable government maintains and enforces law.
Back in the day, when high school students paid attention to American and world history, they learned about several anarchy movements that existed in the early decades of the last century. Those movements wanted an end to formal government, or perhaps to take steps to foster the creation of worldwide government. In any event, the participants in anarchy groups were closely monitored, and their effort was the object of much government scrutiny in the United States. Their notion was considered anathema to the public good and safety and the American government took great care to maintain its own primacy and well being. Certainly anarchists were not permitted to disrupt the day to day operation of the United States.
Advance to the early years of this century and the United States found itself the object of another movement built for many purposes, among them the disruption of the US government. That movement has been identified as jihadist and Islamist, and it tried hard to undermine America. Its soldiers crashed jet loads of innocents into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, murdering thousands of unsuspecting innocents. Yet despite all its evil and its effort to disrupt America, the government was not disrupted. Indeed it prided itself on its ability to go on, burnt and hurt but not diminished.
Today most of that government is closed. If the government is no longer operational, one wonders if its laws are. While the mail is being distributed and Social Security continues to make payments, and air controllers maintain the safety of the airways, news reports have made limited if any mention of what else is remaining operational. Are law enforcement agencies including the FBI, EPA, FDA and others working? If not, are the laws they were created to enforce still binding? Laws might be right and appropriate, but if they cannot be enforced their words are moot.
The true absurdity is that it was all preventable. While Democrats blame Republicans and Republicans ... Democrats, the real issue is not with either party’s doctrines and mandates, but with refusal of elected members of Congress to talk with each other, negotiate and govern. The President’s steadfast refusal to deal is equally wrong. Two chambers of Congress were formed to work out what must be, and to get on with organization and operation of rules and laws by which the US operates. If all that was needed was ongoing rehashing of party mandates and scrupulous attention to party discipline, the country could be run by machine without benefit of a legislative or executive branch. The elected officials of the federal government have broken faith with the constituency they serve, we the people. When crises exist and obstacles must be overcome the majority of our federal, elected officials have retreated to their homes as Congress went out of session.
When they took their oaths of office, these men and women swore to protect and defend the Constitution. They have chosen to instead take vacations. Is this breaking of their vow traitorous? It is not easy to bridge the gulf that separates the two parties, but let them begin by talking, by examining what the American people most wants, by understanding what both groups have in common. Then, perhaps the details can be worked out.
Democrats might not believe that Republicans also want major healthcare reform, but they do. They just believe that there is much wrong with the Affordable Healthcare Act that demands revising. And some Democrats have privately admitted they know of problems with the act as well.
Rather than making the US government asubject of derision on every network’s late night talk show; Congress should grapple with the act, revise it and come to a compromise that is acceptable to members of both parties and the American people. Instead these lazy officials shuttered the government.
When the government again begins to live up to its responsibility, maybe Jews will be able to again identify with the law of the land and the principle dina d’malchuta dina will continue to make sense. Until then, how about a plague on both houses of Congress and election of new members who live up to the job that draws them to Washington.