Thursday, January 8, 2009

Where is Justice?

     We read and hear a lot about freedom in the US. "We trust that people, when given the chance, will choose a future of freedom and peace," announced President Bush in his final State of the Union adress. Freedom is one of his favorite words. He likes to talk about the freedom we are spreading throughout the world while he whittles away at the rights we enjoy at home. But what about justice? Why don't we hear about that? Is it less important than liberty? There is a great difference between a free society and a just one. People get angry when they feel they are victims of injustice. Right-wing demagogues are masters at setting voting groups against each other, attacking immigrants, or ethnic minorities, or gays and lesbians, or liberals, or government itself for all manner of ills: Crime, unemployment, poverty, immorality. 

     But aren't they actually complaining about injustice? Why should my group be crime victims, while another group are the perpetrators? Why should my friends be unemployed while others have taken their jobs? Why should I be poor when others have so much handed to them by the government? Why should my children be exposed to immorality from which I cannot protect them? Even attacks on liberty are actually injustices: The suspension of habeas corpus, torture, wire-taps--these are all injustices because they do not affect our freedom right now, but they could affect it drastically at some time in the future. Freedom is what we have and enjoy; justice is what safeguards it. 
     Nothing infuriates a person more than a perceived injustice. Did I get a traffic ticket when I was only doing what everyone else was doing? How unfair. Did I lose my job instead of the kid they just hired to take my place? I got screwed. Did I lose my house because I couldn't make the mortgage payment? What a gyp.
     But in today's America justice is a rare commodity. True, it seems that the wealthy can get it. But what about the rest of us? We are subject to laws that don't work, taxes that take money from the poor and give it to the rich, systems that reward those who learn to abuse them.
     So I ask again, where is justice? Who has it? How can the rest of us get more?

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