Manuel Hernández Ruigómez
Diplomat and Doctor in American History
The diplomat Jorge Romeu has presented, in Madrid, his book “La Corte y los soberanos. Un acercamiento europeo a la singularidad estadounidense” (The Court and the sovereigns. A European introduction to United States singularity), published by Marcial Pons. Among other positions, the author has been assigned to two North American cities for ten years: New York and Washington. This work reviews some North American characteristics through the eyes of someone who comes from a country in the same western and Jewish-Christian civilization. Therefore, the norm would have been not to be surprised. However, the author has been able to grasp the originality of the big power in the West. It is the “North American exceptional nature”, as he describes it.
Romeu makes a selection of North American singularities and, for this purpose, he uses a wide range of sentences issued by the Supreme Court. That institution is, along with the Constitution of 1787 and amendments, the big protagonist of the work. Because, if there is a significant peculiarity in the North American political system, that is the strength and independence of the Supreme Court within the framework of a real and unique separation of powers (checks and balances) in the world.
The Founding Fathers made sure none of the three powers carried more weight than the others. But it is the Supreme Court the one who indelibly establishes the position of the Federal State in any controversy. Therefore, Jorge Romeu made a good decision by using its sentences as a guide to explain the North American essence in a collection of aspects of its national reality: the central-peripheral tension; the influence of Christianity; the sacred freedom of expression; the right to carry weapons; death penalty and public health.
“It may be the influence of religion on politics what makes it so peculiar”
It may be the influence of religion on politics what makes it so peculiar. According to President George Washington (1789-1797), “it is impossible to properly govern the world without God and without the Bible”. But as Romeu proves, the matter is complex. From a legal point of view, the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the State from having an official religion and it guarantees the free exercise of religious beliefs. However, politicians -not only Trump- always use religious concepts or expressions connected to Christian beliefs in all their declarations, especially, during election campaigns. They are aware that those speech instruments get to the hearts of voters easily.
As for weapons, I believe that the freedom of carrying them is related to the maintenance of the death penalty. No western country allows carrying weapons or provides for death penalty within its legal-criminal system. Despite this, one has to try to understand the hidden logic. Allowing ordinary citizens carrying weapons entails, somehow, tolerating the individual exercise of violence. And it is obvious that, within the framework of that mindset, the most appropriate way to fight it is by punishing its illegitimate and/or boundless use with the death penalty.
This reality, inseparable from the North American essence, must not take us to despise that society or to accuse it of being primitive. Quite the opposite, because North Americans live in a constant debate about what it is and what it should be, within the framework of an absolute freedom of expression. “We need not fear the expression of ideas; we do need to fear their suppression” (Harry Truman 1945-1953). This does indeed characterize, indelibly, one of the world’s most advanced and developed democratic systems.
Congratulations to Jorge Romeu. I encourage him to continue the research path he has started with this book. It is very rewarding, intellectually speaking.
11/08/2017. © All rights reserved