Tuesday, July 6, 2021

And Justice for None

We're talking about justice and those pesky 'technicalities' that always seem to throw a wrench in our vengeance, and we're talking about how those technicalities help to maintain a justice that is just as just for the perpetrator as for the oppressed. Yesterday, we looked at how a heavier burden than necessary comes to bear on the accused as the burdens of a broken society are heaped upon their shoulders, and I said briefly that this isn't justice for the oppressed in these cases, either. 

What could I possibly mean?

What I mean is that when you become the torch bearer for an entire demographic of persons who are presumed to be 'just like you' or at least, enough like you that you can all comfortably be lumped into one group - women, persons of color, homosexuals, whatever it is - then your story gets swallowed up in the 'bigger cause.' 

Your story no longer receives justice because the justice you are due goes straight to 'the cause.' It may be a victory for 'all women,' but what about your wounded heart?

When we let social justice movements sweep up smaller stories like this, it's damaging for the victims. On one hand, it's comforting to be surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who can somewhat authoritatively speak to the reality of your experience, but on the other hand, your experience is unique - it is the intersection of your unique circumstances and background and incident. And it's extremely offensive to the soul when we pretend that all instances of a certain event are exactly the same, or at least, are enough the same that we can easily lump them into the same group. 

All of a sudden, this is not the victim in this case; she is 'just' one story among thousands. So when justice is achieved (if it even can be when we compound cases like this), that justice doesn't go to her; it goes to thousands upon thousands of others for whom this is not their story. And we hold up the victim as a champion at precisely a moment when she doesn't feel like she's won anything at all. A token victory, perhaps, but it's done nothing for her wounded soul.

Or, we should add, for thousands of other wounded souls whose perpetrators were not held accountable with this one. 

This kind of 'justice,' which is not really justice at all, just doesn't work for anyone. It doesn't work for the perpetrator, who is forced to carry the burden of a broken society. It doesn't work for the oppressed, whose story gets lost in the bigger 'cause.' It doesn't work for others whose stories have become part of the cause. And it doesn't work for society, who quickly realize they have not accomplished any actual or legitimate change on the basis of this 'victory.' It hasn't really changed anything. 

And you know why it hasn't change anything? 

Because it's not justice. That's why. 

It hasn't reset the scales because it cannot possibly reset the scales. It hasn't balanced our community because it cannot possibly balance our community. It isn't justice, and that's why we never feel like justice has been served. We know in our souls that it hasn't. 

I guarantee you that the thousands are more encouraged and relieved by one instance of true justice being served, down to the very specifics of the case, than they are by a hundred hollow victories for 'the cause.' 

That's why we have to start doing the hard work of real justice. That's why we need to stop playing this game and pretending. That's why we have to give up on vengeance altogether and pursue something better. 

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