Law and Order is not the normal state of a society. Only highly functional societies have working law and order. The phrase sometimes used is “rule of law”.
The rule of law is when there is a written system of laws that applies to everybody equally. If the laws are not applied equally then the system starts to break down. Unfortunately even in good societies it is possible to subvert the rule of law based on the actions of law enforcement, prosecution and judicial employees.
If the cops turn a blind eye to crime based on who is committing the crime the rule of law starts to break down. If the prosecutors fail to bring charges or bring reduced charges based on who is committing the crime then the rule of law starts to break down. If the judges give out punishments that are based on who is committing the crime then the rule of law starts to break down.
This can even extend into the corrections facilities when who committed the crime affects how they are treated.
This happens in both directions, under arresting and over arresting, under charging and over charging, under sentencing and over sentencing. It happens.
Our current society has a feeling of the rule of law breaking down. An old man is attacked behind the counter of the store, he defends himself, he’s arrested and charged. A suburban couple fears for their lives and property and stand armed are arrested and charged. A young man is chased by a older stronger violent man intent on taking the young man’s weapon defends himself and is charged and arrested.
On the other side of the equation are all the criminals with long lists of arrests, charges and convictions that are still out committing crimes.
Of course there are the “An’t don’ n’ting” where it is very questionable as to how much nothing wasn’t done. Unfortunately these situations are often used to make still more people feel that the rule of law is breaking down.
When the rule of law cease to exist the people band together to enforce the laws they think should be enforced. This leads to strange fruit hanging from southern trees.
Lynchings were the results of people enforcing the laws that they felt should exist in the way they felt they should be enforced. The cattle rustler hanging from a tree was a lynching. The murdering scoundrel pulled from the town jail to be hung from the nearest street post was a lynching. The black man pulled from his horse and hung for daring to look at a white woman was a lynching.
The white men moving south bringing the sounds of freedom hung from trees were lynchings.
When law and order breaks down, strange fruit come to hang from the trees.
Nina Simone’s version with graphic images: