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Friday, February 24, 2006

This, I believe.

The greatest goal of mankind, the highest common denominator of civilization, is the thirst for greater justice.

The call for justice is recognized as one of the building blocks of civilization. To extend justice, people codify laws and empower governments to enforce those laws. The Law of Moses, Hammurabi's Code, Confucius' Antalects, India's Law of Manu - all of the great ancient civilizations and great religions have ever pursued greater justice. The definition of justice evolved, grew, reached for inclusiveness - but such the nature of greatness is that it constantly calls for us to reach beyond our current span and become more than we have ever been. Justice is our (humankind's) foundation of existence.

It moves a person beyond the bounds of singular love. A mother loves her child and will lay down her life unflinchingly - but if she survives the unjust taking of her child's life, she will dedicate every waking moment to the pursuit of justice. Once touched by a profound sense of injustice, even love cannot quell the restlessness that inhabits the human spirit.

Justice calls to all of us. It humbles the mighty and exalts the lowly. It cares not for station nor riches nor popularity. It speaks to us in a wee soft voice and it screams to us from the highest pinnacles of our soul. It is a crushing weight to which we demand to be harnessed.

Do not confuse justice with vengeance. Vengeance is returning an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a life for a life. Justice is realizing that the full measure of pain cannot be repaid without incurring further debt. Vengeance is a deadly spiral of increasing violence. Justice seeks an end to violence through vigilence; peace through power witheld.

Justice is a sense of rightness tempered by mercy. Its goal is not retribution, but restitution; not reprisal, but reconciliation. It demands truth, honesty, and the willingness to confront hubris in ourselves. It demands much of others, but even more from ourselves.

Justice is not - and cannot be - a fad. Justice does not move you in the morning and release you at night. It haunts your dreams. It guides your footsteps. It colors the images before your eyes.

I believe that we will never, on this earth, attain perfect justice. Yet we are not excused from striving for it. It is by no mistake that the Beatitudes place "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice" between the promise of comfort for the mournful and mercy for the merciful. It is also no mistake that it is followed as well by a blessing on those who make peace. It is a difficult thing to look for war and strive for peace, yet it is our commandment to do so.

Dr. Martin Luther King said:

...we have difficult days ahead in the struggle for justice and peace, but I will not yield to a politic of despair...This time we will really confront a Goliath. God grant that we will be that David of truth set out against the Goliath of injustice, the Goliath of neglect, the Goliath of refusing to deal with the problems, and go on with the determination to make America the truly great America that it is called to be...We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.


This, I believe: Justice calls to each of us. We cannot fail to deliver an answer; we can only choose whether our answer is to overcome our anger, pain, and sorrow and fight to right what is wrong with the world, so we can teach it mercy. We may be out-manned, out-moneyed, out-maneuvered, and out-managed - but we must not be out-lasted. I believe that greater justice means a greater life and a greater world for all. I believe most people want to make it so. I believe the fear that holds them complacent can be overcome. I believe that, in time, with effort, it will.

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