One thing that sets the US apart from most of the rest of the world is that when we have a problem, we feel safe in turning to the police and our justice system. Sure, there are instances where that trust is misplaced but in general, if someone is in your house, you call 911 and hope the police show up. Likewise, if someone wrongs you, you believe that when you take them to court a fair and impartial judge will weigh your case on its merit and decide based on the law.
Because we place this level of trust in our justice system, we also have high expectations for its executors both inside and outside their job. If you knew a baseball umpire spent time with a rival manager outside the ballpark, would you feel confident about a close call going your way if he was officiating a matchup between the two of you? Of course not. The same is true of judges. Of course we expect them to be impartial but we also expect them to comport themselves in a manner that affirms this confidence, even outside the courtroom. This is what makes the case of William Adams so disturbing:
Now, in all fairness, I got spanked multiple times when I was growing up. And to be even more fair, I deserved it every time. But when it happened, it was quick, it wasn’t done in anger and the anticipation of the punishment was always much, much worse than the punishment itself. This guy, though? He’s just going off. What does that say about his rationality or his ability to decide a case that makes him emotional?
That’s the thing, isn’t it? No matter how hard we try, actions always speak louder than words. And when the actions directly contradict the words, we take it personally. Eliot Spitzer was forced to resign, not because he had sex with a call-girl, but because he created a law-and-order persona with his words while his actions told us otherwise. We’re capable of saying many wonderful things but ultimately, our actions betray us.
In the end, I find the case of William Adams reassuring. Yes, he let down the people of his county but the court moved to rectify the situation when it became aware of the video. Instead of saying they would look into the issue, they made him step down while investigating. The system still works.