Lately the most watched shows on T.V. have been very controversial jury trials. By virtue of television cameras in the courtroom we were able to watch most of the Derek Chauvin trial, the Rittenhouse trial and the Ahmad Arbery murder trial. We were able to see and hear the lawyers, the judges and the defendants. Whether you agree or disagree with the verdicts, the trials have been a close up look at our justice system. The “truth” is presented to the jury, by the lawyers for both sides, and hopefully the end result is accountability and justice for all.
In our daily lives, outside of a courtroom, how is justice rendered? It isn’t! People get by with horrible behaviors all the time and escape any consequences for their behaviors. It’s a difficult truth to accept: life is not fair. Good guys don’t always win, and the truth isn’t always heard. Many rapes are never reported. Money can buy a lot of influence. Reputations can be ruined by gossip that is untrue. In order for justice to exist, people must be just. So I’m going to start with a definition -just: treating people in a way that is considered morally right. Oh sh*t, we’re all in trouble aren’t we? How do we figure out what is morally right, who gets to make the final decision, does “might” make right? What if you don’t get caught? I desperately want the world to be just, but I have come to accept that justice is not common, and certainly beyond my ability to make happen.
We search for a way to believe that though justice may not be evident or swift, it still happens. We say things like “You reap what you sow.” or “What goes around, comes around.”. We talk about karma: “the force created by a person’s actions that some people believe causes good or bad things to happen to that person.” I think of good karma as being earned by a person’s moral behaviors, such as doing the right thing, even if doing wrong or getting even is much more appealing. Similarly bad karma is earned by a person’s bad behaviors, even if they are not held accountable or suffer immediate consequences. In my own case, the concept of karma is motivation for me to do the right thing, and a warning to me about the long term consequences of my immoral behaviors. I may not get to bang the gavel or tip the scales for justice, or even see justice in my lifetime, but if karma is real I can believe justice exists across time and place. What pisses me off is that justice is not my job, but being “just” is.In spite of my desire to mete out justice to those who have harmed me or others, I am not being “just” if I respond out of the space of getting even or revenge. “
“An eye for an eye…”is not justice, but what is “Turn the other cheek”? I’m just not sure what to do with my feelings of “It’s just not fair.” or “How can they get away with that?” Several years ago I found some behaviors by members on the board of my HOA as being particularly egregious. I tried and tried to stop the behaviors, and I admit not always in a just manner. I was sick about my helplessness, and had tried bringing in as many other agencies to help as I thought of. I didn’t know what to do with my rage. It wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right and I was sick about it. And then, by chance, I encountered a Fort Collins City Council member who I asked for help. The next day the City acted and the HOA board was forced to rectify the horrible situation. I doubt the board members felt like they were brought to justice. They had no idea how much I had suffered and I don’t think they would have cared. An unjust situation was righted and I set the process in motion. I felt good about that. Today, several years later, just thinking about this time puts knots in my stomach. The rage can still leak out. I’m ashamed to admit that I still want the individuals to suffer, to pay for what they did. Bad Karma for them and for me.