AN INJUSTICE ANYWHERE THREATENS JUSTICE EVERYWHERE.
This paraphrases a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. The meaning hasn’t changed – I have just reduced it to six words to qualify for the Six Word Saturday challenge hosted by Debbie Smyth’s Travel With Intent.
We talk so much in the U.S.A. about freedom. Freedom is sort of our motto; it’s a word used casually without thinking too much about it. But what is freedom, really? Yes, there are the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. But without justice, what is freedom?
The Pledge of Allegiance we all learn in elementary school ends with the phrase with liberty and justice for all. (Also six words, btw. 🙂 )
Perhaps we need to focus on justice instead of freedom. Because justice includes freedom – justice allows the judged to be as free as anyone else in society. And without justice, one is not really free. Think about it: A law is passed giving everyone 18 and over the right to vote, regardless of gender, race, creed, etc. Yet when a certain group of people is denied the right to vote by voter suppression methods, then that group in reality doesn’t have the right to have their voice heard through voting. This was a problem in the Jim Crow South when blacks were obliged to take a test or pay a tax when they went to register to vote. Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 put a stop to that, officials in some states have lately found new ways to deny the vote to certain groups. Sure, a lawsuit can be filed, but it may not go into effect in time for people to vote. During a pandemic, do citizens really have the freedom, the right, to vote if they must do it in person instead of by mail?
I got to thinking about this while reading an Op Ed in our local newspaper, The Daily Herald. Quoting the writer of this editorial, Keith Peterson*: “in many countries the term freedom did not resonate in the ways that it does in American hearts. More often than not, the word that resonated was justice.” Justice is about setting to right a history of wrongs.
Today there was a news item that Donald Trump, through executive order, has modified an Obama-era health care law by excluding transgender people from the guarantee of health care. In other words, if a transgender person goes to the ER, the medical staff does not have to give that person treatment. A transgender person then has the right to sue the hospital or doctor for refusal of health care, but how practical is that when the person needs immediate medical treatment? (By the way, today is the anniversary of the Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre and this month is LGBTQ Pride Month. I do not think Trump’s action on this particular day was an accident.)
Some people would like to ban Muslims from this country or have defaced or vandalized local mosques. The worshippers of those mosques are afraid of violence against them because of epithets written on a wall of their mosque. Where is their freedom to worship? It depends on litigation and prosecution – in other words, justice.
The protests against police brutality in the last two weeks all over the U.S.A. and all over the world have had an impact: many cities are already rethinking the organization and training of their police forces.
Justice sometimes takes time, lots of time. But we must demand it. Freedom and equality depend on it.
*Keith Peterson lives in Lake Barrington, Illinois. He served 29 years as a press and cultural officer for the United States Information Agency and Department of State. Quote taken from Keith Peterson, “World is watching us for justice” in Daily Herald (Northwest Suburban Edition), June 7, 2020, p. 12 sec. 1.
All photos downloaded from Google Images.