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Law and order can be very unruly

Ancient written laws help quell chaos, but savage beast still shows up in modern society

Debates of mask mandates
Debates of mask mandates were contentious but laws often cause controversy.(olaser / Getty Images)

By Norma Adams-Wade

Law and order began somewhere.

History has it that some ancient guy named Hammurabi, king of Babylon in the late 1700s B.C, created the Code of Hammurabi — the earliest known set of written laws that still influence us today.

Actually, I should not be so flippant as to call him some ancient guy. He was, after all, a king and due all the proper salutations and respect.

The main point is, we non-lawyers really don’t know King Hammurabi. Yet, like the Biblical Ten Commandments — also written on stone like the king’s code — we the people today still are governed by laws Hammurabi influenced — especially his long-ago view of fairness and justice needed to remove chaos from society.

The second point is that here we are, thousands of years later, still bickering over our laws.

Lawmaking is not pretty. Indeed, it’s often brutal. But we humans still cling to majority rule as a way to curtail chaos among the masses. The laws mandating mask-wearing were particularly contentious during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are always fights about laws and practices.

Do you begrudge the laws that mandate these practices?

  1. Wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle, in states that require it.
  2. Hooking your seat belt when riding in or driving a car.
  3. Stopping at a red light at night when no one is around but you.
  4. Following the speed limit on a freeway even though others are driving 10 or 15 miles over the limit.
  5. Wearing clothes in public, even though you may be a practicing nudist at home.
  6. Keeping your dog on a leash at the park or while walking on the street.
  7. Not parking in accessible parking without a permit.
  8. Not parking on your neighbor’s property without permission.
  9. Not driving after drinking more than the legal limit.
  10. Not taking towels, sheets and robes as “souvenirs” from a hotel room.
  11. Getting permission to use someone else’s Wi-Fi connection.
  12. Not placing bets in an office pool unless it is legal in your state.
  13. Stopping and taking out your license if a police car follows you with lights blinking.
  14. Not throwing trash out of the car window and onto the street or freeway.

Do you practice or resent these basic courtesies?

  1. Males opening the car door for a female
  2. Males allowing females to go ahead of them through a door.
  3. Males pulling out the chair for a female who is about to sit at a table.
  4. Knocking or ringing the doorbell before entering someone’s home.
  5. Blessing your individual plate of food when at a restaurant with others.
  6. Avoiding cursing loudly in a public place where others, especially elders, may hear you.
  7. Avoiding passing gas in a crowd or public place.
  8. Helping an elderly person step off a curb.
  9. Pulling to the curb when a funeral procession passes.
  10. Holding a small child’s hand while walking in a crowd.
  11. Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze around others.
  12. Washing your hands after using the potty.
  13. Not leaving the trash in a friend’s car after eating fast food in their vehicle.
  14. Volunteering to take your dirty dishes to the sink after a friend invites you over for a meal.

So, where does mask wearing fit among these vexing laws and courtesies? Got any ideas?


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