What is Justice? How can it be defined as just as a word with its meaning lost in the shadows of time? Why is it even a question that needs an answer?
I’ll tell you why. Because today we have this belief, we as Americans have reached a great height of social development. We believe we are “civilized.” How we treat other humans is, I think, an obvious measure of how “civilized” we actually are. For the record, we are ALL human beings. Being socially advanced and forward-thinking is a claim made by both Democrats, Republicans, and every other kind of political philosopher in our country. One group believes we should provide government assistance, others believe we should provide employment opportunities, and still, others have completely different views; but one thing we all believe is in the value of human dignity.
How does this involve the concept of Justice? Because the manner in which every Criminal Justice System deals with “defendants” is a reflection of our morality and our actual feelings concerning the value of human dignity. We can look to some of the famous examples of the failure of people to deal with their “enemies” in a “just” way. The infamous Inquisition. They tortured, incarcerated, humiliated, and generally mistreated the enemies of the Church. It was believed to be right and just, of course, because they were dealing with criminals and Heretics. “We must protect the people!”
Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. A madness took hold of an otherwise moral community. The accusation of Witchcraft. The accusation alone was enough to condemn you to death. 20 people were convicted and died on literally zero actual evidence. They were killed by fear and zealous conviction that their deaths were required, “for we must protect the people!”
Germany 1936 to 1944. The Nazi government took the Jews and vilified them. I need not detail the atrocities, for they are well known. This is the greatest example of how a fallen Society deals with its “undesirables.” Even the Germans admit, (with shame, to their credit) that the actions undertaken were inexcusable and inhumane.
I use these examples to illustrate the kind of society we are not, or so we say, because we are all, in truth, as guilty as the infamous inquisitors of the Gestapo Jew Hunters. We, as a society, are really embracing the very same atrocities committed by history’s most notorious societies. We justify them with the same insane and reprehensible excuse of, “We must protect the people!” You see, our country has its own heretics, witches, and Jews to punish. There is no level of degradation that is too much. Those who are convicted of crimes in this country are the enemy for whom there can never be too much punishment. Our justice system is the Inquisitor’s tool. The prison, the dungeons in which Justice is meted out.
Lady Justice. She is depicted as holding a scale and balance sheet, blindfolded and, therefore, unable to play favorites or to take into consideration anything but the facts. Justice is supposed to be the balancing of the scale. What we have in this country is anything but a balance.
The examples of injustice executed in the name of Justice are too many to be recounted. In prisons, treatment centers, by police and prosecutors, in the very Chambers over which “Justice” presides. We close our eyes and our ears to what goes on in courts, by police, and in prisons.
Why should we care? They committed crimes. They are criminals. If they didn’t want the mistreatment they are getting, they shouldn’t have committed the crime. It’s so obvious, why are we even having a discussion about this? Criminals deserve what they get.
Don’t ask yourself if they are actually criminals. Don’t think about the witch trials. You don’t want to read about the “laws” that actually say that prosecutors do not need any evidence to prosecute and convict. Now you probably don’t want to know about that, but on those few occasions where you actually hear about the inhumane treatment of fellow humans, we absolve ourselves of our guilt by simply dehumanizing them like the German citizens in 1939.
Remember that Germany was not a backward country, devoid of high culture or philosophy. They had great universities and centers of religious worship. They did not start out committing wholesale murder of their “undesirables.” It was a process. A process that began with making the legal distinction between different kinds of citizens. Some had more rights and then others. Then follows incarceration for nearly no, or actually no, reason. Then when all the prisons are full, resorting to mass murder. All the steps, taken gradually, becoming the monster we now know as Nazi Germany.
At some point, we need to realize that we, Americans, are walking down the same path as the German people. I don’t mean as Hitler or Himmler, but the folk of Germany, regular men and women, who allowed the atrocities to continue and care so little. They were even surprised to know that 6 million people had been murdered.
Tell me do you know how many people Valley Street Jail, in Manchester, New Hampshire has killed in the last 10 years. Do you care?