5My late husband, John Dickson, began his legal career as an assistant district attorney for Cumberland County and completed it as a District Court Judge, often dealing with issues of juvenile and family law. His prosecutorial work included handling cases ranging from low-level misdemeanors in Hoke County, then part of the 12th Judicial District, to death penalty cases in Cumberland. On more than one occasion, he stoically witnessed the executions of men he and his team had convicted of heinous murders, saying he had an obligation to “finish what he started.”
I tell you this because for nearly 4 decades, John was immersed in the criminal justice system, and by extension, so were the other 4 members of our little family. It was an ongoing education for all of us on the workings of the American system of justice. We saw firsthand that American criminal laws apply to all of us, regardless of age, color, sex, position in the world, or last name.
All Americans have just undergone an unprecedented and, for some, an unwelcome education with the first prosecution and conviction of an American President, now branded for life with 34 felony convictions. A former President, revered by some and reviled by others, was charged with criminal offenses, prosecuted by a state, defended by attorneys of his choosing, convicted by 12 of his fellow Americans, and will be sentenced next month for his crimes. In this, he has been treated just like millions of criminal defendants before him and millions more to come.
Historians tell us the Founding Fathers gave Presidents strong powers and responsibilities so that they could not shift blame to others when things went wrong. They explicitly did not, however, give Presidents immunity from their actions and behaviors, including criminal ones.
From the outset of our nation, Presidents were viewed as special Americans, but not above their fellow citizens. While some newly minted Americans proposed calling George Washington “Your Majesty” or “Excellency,” even though they had just been freed from the yoke monarchy, our first President refused and decided on a simple, “Mr. President,” which is still used today. Thomas Jefferson, our third President preferred the plain, “Mr. Jefferson.”
Over more than 2 centuries, there have been occasional Presidential attempts at grandeur—think Richard Nixon’s fancy guard uniforms apparently inspired by a trip to Europe and so ridiculed that they were put into mothballs and never seen again. Most of our Presidents have, though, been far less pretentious. Dwight Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter, both raised in rural settings, liked to cook simple meals for their families in the kitchen of the White House family quarters.
More than a few have attempted overreach in Presidential powers—think Franklin Roosevelt’s unsuccessful attempt to add members favorable to him to the US Supreme Court, but never have past Presidents used the word “dictator” to apply to themselves or asserted legal immunity for criminal offenses.
What is happening in our nation today flies in the face of what the Dickson family experienced and learned in Fayetteville in the 1980s and 90s—that Americans in all our diversity, are the same when in the eyes of the law.
That means you.
It means me.
And it means Donald J. Trump.

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