Posts Tagged ‘justice’

Feet of Clay

10 May 2011

Dear J-

It’s strange how quickly the story on Osama bin Laden’s death has evolved, from armed resistance to a surprised old man. There are those who insist that his actions justified any klnd of actions he got (“he deserved it” is floating around lately) but for me I can’t reconcile the gleeful faces of Americans in spontaneous celebration with the country’s principles. Old Testament, sure, eye for an eye and all that but what a coup it would have been to put him on trial. On the other hand there would no doubt be cries of a kangaroo court designed to satisfy the bloodlust of an American audience forever transformed by 11 Sep 2001.

One of the books I checked out of the library this week for figgy is Golem*, which tells the story of the golem animated by a Prague rabbi. The golem was tasked with protecting the Jewish population from the mobs enraged by blood libel — the assertion that the Jews were using the blood of Gentile children in baking their matzoh. If you think about it one way it’s one of the first superhero stories, some being with awesome powers defending those unable to defend themselves, yet with some tragic flaw (the golem of the story comes across like Roy Batty in the movie Blade Runner — all too aware of his mortality, ready to find beauty in the mundane we take for granted in our relatively long lives). Yet the book is also about justice — instead of merely killing those he would defend the golem catches them planting slanderous evidence and turns them over to the proper authorities.

The longer we spend justifying our actions the less legitimate they seem. There is no absolute moral authority that we can appeal to, no higher court or impartial arbiter who could look at Osama bin Laden and not see the fate of innocents in the Word Trade Center and Pentagon writ large, of burning buildings and towering plumes of smoke. Life is not like the storybooks after all and who would we turn him over to anyway? I object to the continued dissection of his life and deeds. If we truly have gotten closure from his death what use is it to chortle over a marijuana stash or outtakes from videos never published? If there is valuable intelligence that’s one thing but releasing these details strikes me as further dancing on the grave. We are better than that.

Mike

* Golem, by David Wisniewski, was the Caldecott Medal winner for 1997 (illustrated via expressive cut paper collages). Well worth reading when you get a chance.

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Slow Lesson

1 August 2009

Dear J-

I suppose that if I see karma as being some kind of cosmic justice system I’ve missed the point; it’s not about smiting enemies, whether those I’ve held for long years or the yahoo who just cut me off on the freeway, it’s about knowing that good deeds are their own reward. Let the other guy be the jerk; I’m not the one who has to live with them or those actions, for the most part. I just tend to forget those calm words in the heat of the moment, but it’s not my job to enforce traffic laws, just to ensure that I drive safely and don’t put anyone into jeopardy, whether they’re riding in my car or not.

Some days I feel the fatalism more than others; perhaps, I think, perhaps it’s because I didn’t do this or that, maybe if I’d done things differently. It’s an excuse, like everything else. It’s more a question of taking responsibility again — the sooner I realize the truth behind serenity (accept the things I can not change, and the courage to change those I can) the sooner I can reject the rage that runs in a steady undercurrent and threatens to flood over me as a tsunami inundates the rational land.

Music or Gym 5068 -sm

Slowly, figgy’s teaching me what it takes; opportunities for patience, chances to turn from anger to answers and rewards, always rewards for the right way to handle it. I keep trying to remind myself that despite John Lennon’s reassurances, karma is not instant, neither effect nor reward. We may tote her around until our bones creak and our muscles fail; she may refuse to walk, or take a nap, or sit patiently for meals. It’s part of the compact we’ve made, and it’s the agreement we’ll keep; we may have miles and years to go, but we’ll remember everything, we’ll have to remember every lesson.

Mike

Spooky Thoughts

5 November 2008

Dear J-

Spent the dark time of the day waiting for things to get light; spent the light of the day indoors under the sickly glow of a monitor and fluorescent lights.  We hear about justice and think that the system will serve us well when we need it, but can we choose our terms and conditions as needed?  Drive the point home; ask for what you need and don’t complain about the luxuries.  Are we better off today than we were yesterday?

Answers necessarily vary by person and by degrees.  How deep is your committment to sacrifice?  How much can we truly ask of each other?  Who leads the charge?  It’s not a question of leadership through example — not everyone’s inspired in the same way — so how do you demonstrate your loyalty, how do you demand your rewards?  When you daydreamed of working while in school, is it everything you thought it would be?

I scare myself when I hear some of the words coming out of my mouth; there’s a level of competence I can’t possibly be at, and yet here I go trying to show other people how to get things done, teaching the same people who two years ago were teaching me.  If there is nothing more universal, I believe that respect begets respect; the more flippantly you treat a question, the less believable your answer.  Tonight the glow on the western horizon stays low over cobalt waters; no fog, no low clouds to kiss the hills, clarity in every sight and word and deed indeed.

Mike