The following is from a paper I wrote while in college in 2003. I have updated it, somewhat and corrected some initial errors, but otherwise, I present it as it was originally written. Take it for what it is worth.
Justice: An Opinion
What is justice? When we think of “justice,” what are we thinking about? Is it an ideal as Plato said in The Republic,” or is it something that is a physical thing that can be bought or bartered for?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines justice this way:
Justice n 1: the administration of what is just (by assigning merited awards and punishments) 2: JUDGE 3: the administration of law 4: FAIRNESS
While the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition defines it this way:
Justice 1: The quality of being just; conformity to the principals of righteousness and rectitude in all things; strict performance of moral obligations; practical conformity to human or divine law; integrity in the dealings of men with each other; rectitude; equality; uprightness. 2. Conformity to the truth and reality in expressing opinions and in conduct; fair representation of facts respecting the merit or demerit; honesty; fidelity; impartiality; as, the justice of an description or of a judgment; historical justice. 3. The rendering of every one his due or right; just treatment; requital of desert; merited reward or punishment; that which is due to one’s conduct or motives. 4. Agreeable to right; equity; justness; as, the justice of a claim. (Justice)
Strict performance of moral obligations. Honesty. Equity. Integrity. Powerful words meant to inspire us to believe in a greater truth. An ideal, as Plato, Socrates, and Thrasymachus have said.
But, what is it to the common man? The common citizens of America sees justice, I think, as a weapon to be used against the upper classes, criminals, or those who would wrong them. Or, perhaps, a shield to protect themselves from those who would trample their own rights, though this seems to be less and less the case with the removal of rights granted by the Constitution. Fear has become a motivating force in America and this force has neutered the American sense of justice. One simply has to look at the many instances of Americans rallying for justified torture. Or the removal of rights for the GLBT community. This fear of the unknown, of difference, has effectively neutered us all.
Most especially, however, arresting someone because they “might” be supporting international terror organizations. “Guilty until proved innocent” is a miscarriage of justice, and of basic human rights that cannot be ignored.
But what is justice to me? I define justice as an ideal that cannot be so easily thrown aside. It is a blind judge of moral, ethical, and lawful laws and guidelines that cannot, and should not, be ignored. An instrument of the law, as well as a guideline for the enforcement of those laws, justice serves all who come before her.
“. . . with liberty and justice for all.” (The Pledge of Allegiance) Justice is an American, a human ideal that separates us from common animals. Without the laws to guide us, and the justice they levy, what hope do we have to make it out of our primitive origins? Despite our many accomplishments, we are still a primitive peoples. We have wars to settle petty religious debates, or because one group is less fortunate that another.
I don’t think we, as a supposedly enlightened society, truly understand the concept of justice any more than any other society or species, should any exist beyond our own petty, broken world. If we did, do you think that would have so many people crying out that they have been discriminated against or they are being treated unfairly?
Think about it.
Commentary is, of course, welcome.