Obviously, taking the dictionary definition(s) literally, it still begs the question: from whose point of view?
If it were so easy to determine who is right and who is wrong, we’d hardly have all those dragged-out court cases and all those riots in the streets and all those innocent people languishing behind bars, sometimes for the rest of their lives.
Sometimes people forget that there can never be justice on just one side of the situation. If one person is right, that most likely makes the other person (or side) wrong. Notice I said “most likely.” Both sides can be “right,” even though they appear to be at odds with each other, yet it is seldom that either side would want to concede that possibility and work with it from that angle. Usually, one or the other of the sides involved will react in one of several standard ways, using verbal abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, reputation abuse, and/or material goods abuse.
In the case of parting spouses, one is often seen as “the bad guy” while the other is seen as “the victim,” creating a sense of injustice in the “victim” even before they get to the actual day of parting. It may well be that one is “the bad guy,” but from whose standpoint? And how should that be addressed in a court of law?
Although this column is about a much grander scale of justice than that for separating spouses, let me just mention something I heard many years ago when it comes to divorce: “If both parties want the divorce, they better agree on a reason for the divorce.” Back in those days, you needed to have a reason that would satisfy the courts, whether you felt it was the actual reason or not. So if a lawyer felt that the “reason” for the divorce would bother the wife (for example), the lawyer would suggest the wife not show up in court for the hearing.
Was it “just” to be granted a divorce upon a lie? Was it “just” to not be granted a divorce for a truth that would not have been accepted as “good enough” for the courts? Is it possible that justice was served regardless of the lie in order to allow two people who might otherwise have killed one another — while also endangering their child’s life — to legally escape that possible or even likely outcome?
And that scenario, from the past, would still be only the tip of the whole Justice iceberg.
From cradle to grave, there are many situations that cry out for justice. As a child, we have to leave justice in the hands of our parents or guardians, although we don’t always feel satisfied that justice has been done. As we get older, we have to call upon everything we’ve learned or believe in order to weigh our outcomes against the so-called standard of Justice. We often may feel short-changed, even if and when Lady Justice actually feels vindicated.
Fast forward to Ferguson. And a question. Who is in favor of injustice? Please raise your hand. What? No hands? Of course not…
Oh, wait a minute… is that really a hand I see going up over there? Yes! And it seems to belong to someone who KNOWS he is wrong, KNOWS he was not fair, and KNOWS that if he were found out, there would be a penalty or punishment attached to his action. Why on earth would HE
want justice? That would be the end of what he’s got going! So apparently there ARE those who don’t want justice! They just don’t want anyone to know that they are quite content with the injustice that serves their purpose and interest since justice — for them — could be anything from a ruined reputation to prison time to death.
Just to be clear, there are no different versions of justice, just different versions of the stories that lead to justice being either perverted and ignored, or brought to light. The bottom line in justice is that if a party was wronged and the situation in some way needs to be made right, the wronged party, dead or alive, must be vindicated and the offending party, dead or alive, must either pay the price of the vindication and suffer the penalty for the injustice, or have it recorded in the annals of history and in the courts that he (or she) was indeed the offending party. Right brought to light on the one hand, wrong paying the price on the other.
Mercy is indeed a wonderful attribute to be there for us when we need it. But if everyone was granted “mercy” willy-nilly, any old time, for
any old crime, even when the offending party or parties have no feelings of remorse or regret and it is easy to see that their limpid apology — if indeed one is ever brought forth — isn’t worth the energy used to speak it, how would justice ever see her day?
Surely those on the side of justice know that Justice is ending up with the right verdict, for the right reason, addressing all the right people, to further the right outcome — all the while keeping in mind that to balance those scales, the person or persons who created the scenario that set injustice in motion in the first place must be dealt with in such a way that we can honestly say, “the punishment fits the crime.”
So while we may all have different ways of answering the question, “Just what exactly IS justice?”, we all think we know how injustice feels. But since we all can’t be right all the time if we all have different viewpoints, are we willing to let ALL the facts surface and listen to all the stories before we discount or condemn those who bring them forth?
Anything less than that is not justice.
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.