Is Justice Defined by the Victor?

It is the end of October.  I am getting up to ten political emails a day now all asking me to support their campaigns.  There is usually also a spin of fear in these emails.  The most horrible thing will happen if the other person wins the election. Doesn’t matter the political party, the fear expressed is the same.  If the other party wins, our way of life, our values, our freedom will be compromised or worse stripped away.

Is this really what our democracy is about?  Is it really a warring game where the other is characterized as some evil entity prowling to destroy our values?  If you listen to the commentaries this certainly seems to be the case.

I want to believe that the arc of history is bent towards justice.  So I try not to despair when I see racism rearing its ugly head in our proposed legislation or when I see laws curtailing the rights of people.  I say to myself eventually the arc of history will bend towards justice.  Maybe it is not a smooth arc but the arc is there and justice will win out.  But then, I have to ponder on who defines this justice?

I have a definition of what justice is and isn’t.  But so do the people who are proposing legislation that I feel attacks my definition of justice.  Come November 7th, barring a repeat of the 2000 elections, we will have either elected or re-elected a President.  Regardless of the winner, some will rejoice that the arc of history has moved towards justice.  And so I wonder is justice objective or subjective?

History it is said is written by the victors.  Is justice also defined by the victors?  Just as God can be created in our image and therefore love the people we love and hate the people we hate.  So too, is justice defined.  For 236 years, this nation has defined justice according to the words of white men.  There have been horrible atrocities in our nation’s history justified by white men in power. There has been genocide and slavery of entire races of people and these actions were justified by white men. The history books declare the actions were just or unjust depending on the victors.

Had the native peoples been able to prevent the white men from stealing their lands or the South had been able to defeat the North, the history of this nation would have justified the outcome differently. Here in the South, there is still a belief that the South was treated unjustly regarding the ending of slavery.  There is still a belief that state’s rights should have prevailed.

Today, there is a fear expressed by white people  that American history will soon be written by people of color; by people who do not share our religious doctrines; by people who have a different idea of how power should be distributed.  It is these fears that are the subtext in the political campaigns this year. The fear is that everything we thought we knew to be true will be considered false and rewritten. I would like to calm those fears and state that truth is never fully told by one side or the other. Truth is always a compilation of sides. It is by understanding the subjective angles of truth that we can begin to embrace our humanity and grow in compassion and love towards the other.

It seems to me that our freedom to vote for our leaders is even more crucial than ever before. For me, our leaders need to be the ones who will embrace the multiple sides of the truth as expressed by the people of our nation and begin to create justice with this recognition of the whole.  I want to believe that the arc of history bends forever towards Justice.  I want to believe that the positions I have taken are the correct positions. But perhaps the correct position is to have some humility and recognize that Justice as it develops may not be what I had in mind.  Blessed Be.

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2 Comments

  1. WHEW! And I have just been reading The Round Hous e by Louise Erdrich in which she again takes up the Doctrine of Discovery and legal machinations against Native Americans….laws that are still on the books! (have forwarded this to newsnet)

  2. I dearly hope that you are right, Fred, that the arc of history will always bend, finally, toward justice! The implicit racism of the campaign on the side of the GOP is really scary, along with the proliferation of outright lies….


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