Law and Order 美国的法律与秩序
What does it mean to obey the law? That depends on where you are. Different cultures have very different views of obeying the law. In some cultures, law-abiding citizens try to keep the letter of the law. That is, whatever the law says, they do. In other cultures, good citizens live by the spirit of the law. They see the law only as a general guideline. Often they obey the law only when someone official is looking. The situation in America fits into the first category. That doesn't mean all Americans keep the law. But American culture teaches people to respect the law--even to the smallest detail.
守法的定义是什么? 那要视你身处何地而定, 不同的文化对守法有不同的看法. 在一些文化中, 守法的公民会试着完全遵守法律的字面规定, 也就是说, 不管法律怎么规定, 他们都会照着去做. 而在其它文化中, 好公民则按着法律的精神来做, 他们视法律为一般的准则, 通常只有在执法人员会看到的情况下才守法. 美国的情况是属于第一种, 但这并不表示所有的美国人守法. 但是美国的文化教导人民要尊重法律--即使是在很小的细节上.
Driving habits illustrate American respect for the law. A driver will usually stop for a red light, even when there are no other cars around. People treat the lines marking streets and roads as definite boundaries, not just decora-tions. Vehicles yield to those with the right of way-particularly pedestrians. Actually, though, drivers don't always keep traffic rules. For example, many drivers ignore freeway speed limits. But Americans generally drive with careful attention to the rules.
美国人的开车习惯说明了他们对法律的尊重态度. 开车的人通常会在红灯前停下来, 即使四周没有其它的车也是如此. 人们视街道上的标线为绝对的界线, 而不只是装饰而已. 车辆会让路给有权先行者 - 尤其是行人. 然而, 事实上, 开车的人并没有遵守所有的交通规则, 举例来说, 很多开车的人根本不理会高速公路上的速限. 但是美国人在开车时通常会小心地留意交通规则.
History gives several clues to explain American attitudes toward the law. The U.S. Constitution, the basis for all laws in America, reflects many historical influences. The Magna Carta, or "Great Charter," was one. King John of England was forced to sign this document in 1215. It placed the king under the authority of the law. No longer was the king law; rather, the law was king. America's Christian heritage has also shaped how people view the law. For one thing, the Bible reveals God's unchanging laws which people must obey. It also teaches people to respect human authority as established by God.
过去的历史可以提供点线索来解释今天美国人对法律的态度. 美国宪法是美国所有法律的基础, 由它反映出很多历史性的影响. "Magna Carta"或称为"英国大宪章"就是一例, 英王约翰在一二一五年被迫签署这份文件, 它把国王置于法律的权威之下. 国王的命令不再成为法律, 相反的, 法律才是最高的权威. 美国的基督教传统也影响了美国人对法律的看法. 首先, 圣经显示了上帝不改变的律法, 这是人们必须遵守的, 它也教导人们尊重上帝所设立的执政掌权者.
Of course, not everyone in America abides by the law. Crime is a growing problem. For that reason, law enforce-ment officials will never be out of a job. Police officers have their hands full trying to arrest lawbreakers. Detective agencies spend countless hours trying to figure out unsolved crimes. Nevertheless, most Americans still like to believe that the "long arm of the law" will eventually nab the bad guys.
当然, 并非每个美国人都守法, 犯罪是一个日益严重的问题. 正因这个原因, 执法人员永远都不会失业, 警察手上堆满了逮捕罪犯的工作, 侦探社花上数不清的时间想办法解决尚未侦破的案件. 尽管如此, 大部份美国人仍相信"法律的长胳臂"终究会逮到坏人的.
But even bad guys in America have the right to a fair trial. When a person is brought to an American court, he is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Many ancient Eastern systems, in contrast, viewed an accused person as guilty until proven innocent. They used torture and other extreme measures to find out the truth. The American system tries to protect the rights of the accused. Still, the system is far from perfect. Court cases involving celebrities like O.J. Simpson can become media circuses. Skilled lawyers sometimes use minor issues to get their clients set free. And prison inmates may live even better than many poor citizens.
可是, 即使是坏人, 在美国仍享有接受公平审判的权利. 当一个人被带到美国的法庭时, 在证明有罪之前, 会先假设他是无罪的. 相反的, 在很多古老的东方体系中, 在证明被起诉者为无辜之前,都视他为有罪, 他们用严刑拷打其它严厉的方法来找出事实的真相.美国的司法系统试着要保护被起诉人的权利, 但是这个系统离完美尚有一截. 像辛普森这种知名人物的法庭案例, 反而成了媒体的马戏; 有技巧的律师有时会用不重要的论点帮客户脱罪; 而监狱里囚犯的生活甚至可能比很多穷人还要好.
No one believes a perfect legal system is possible. Yet every society has laws. Whether people follow the letter of the law or just the spirit of the law, they recognize the need for laws to keep order in society. Without them, chaos would result. If every man were a law unto himself, no man would be free.
大家都认为完美的法律系统是不可能的. 但是, 每个社会都订有法律. 不管人们是完全守法还是只遵守法律的精神, 他们认同以法律来维持社会秩序的需要. 没有法律, 社会就会变得杂乱无章, 如果每个人都有自己的一套法律, 就没有人能享有自由.