Essays on Justice
The following are essays on justice that Brad began to publish in the Snohomish County Bar News monthly during 2012. The series ended when SCBA News attempted to censor Brad's essay on Jesus and justice. If you would like to know more about that censorship by the Snohomish County Bar News, click here.
CLICK HERE if you would like to read a consolidation of all twelve Justice essays.
Justice #1: Analyzing Justitia.
Concepts of justice proliferate. Justitia, seated in her toga, fitted with blindfold, and armed with scales and sword, suffers multiple personalities. Justitia, the marble statue, promises impartiality (hence, the blindfold), deliberated equity (hence, the scales) and onrushing vengeance (hence, the sword), all packaged in a sturdy, sane-looking woman. But Justitia is an immigrant with a history. She found a first incarnation in Maat, the Egyptian female deity representing truth, balance, order, law, and morality. On her scales, Maat weighed a decedent’s soul against the feather of Maat. Souls unfreighted by evil failed to tip the scales, and won eternity. If laden, Ammit the god-lioness devoured defective souls, who exit the Hall of Two Truths mid-bowel, to become toxic compost in Duat, the Egyptian underworld. Later, Justitia found limestone existence in Isis of Egypt, as well as Themis and Dike of Greece, before Romans legions captured her. Justitia’s tenure in the Eternal City worked narcissistic vindication of aristocratic privilege, seasoned with contempt for slaves and commoners. The Brits taught Justitia some morals and religion, but fractured her sanity. America gave English Justitia a visa, ill-aware of her ranting demons. So, who is Justitia, really? Can one catch a glimpse of a sane Justitia amid the improbable theatrics of courts and lawyers? READ MORE.
Justice #2: Capuchin.
LADY JUSTICE, JUSTITIA, GOES TO HER FIRST PSYCHIATRIC APPOINTMENT. When Justitia enters her psychiatrist’s office, there sits a skinny monkey in a nicely-styled black business suit. An equally skinny necktie, also black, snakes down his tiny starched white shirt. The monkey removes his mini-fedora, and nestles it on a cherry end table to his right, where a half-eaten banana waits further attention, and small black box rests. The capuchin’s tail strokes his left ear.
CAPUCHIN: Have a seat, Justitia. Name’s Capuchin. Lost your toga?
JUSTITIA: Oh, the toga? I’m off today. My analysis appointment is a sick day for justice in America. Jeans and sweatshirt for me. The whole Lady Justice gig. Yuck. Everyone’s always kibitzing. If I were not made of marble, it would wear me down. . . . Capuchin, you say? Nice to meet you, Capuchin. I must say I am surprised to see a monkey working as a psychiatrist. READ MORE.
Justice #3: Rawls.
LADY JUSTICE, JUSTITIA, GOES TO HER SECOND PSYCHIATRIC APPOINTMENT. When Justitia enters, a tweedy professorial-type, suffering severe comb-over, perches on a chair. He sports eyeglasses with dated domey lenses. A black-lacquer wooden box with a hinged lid sits next to the academic. Justitia hesitates.
RAWLS: Sit, Justitia. I seldom bite. My name is John Rawls. I used to teach political philosophy at Harvard. I wrote A Theory of Justice. Then I died. By means I do not entirely grasp, I am resurrected today as your psychiatrist. You appear a solid, eminently-sane lady.
JUSTITIA: That mask is pure courthouse game-face. All my friends find me deeply confused. And lonely.
RAWLS: How so, Justitia? In what way are you jumbled?
JUSTITIA: I have been so hashed over, tweaked, ignored, and regurgitated, I never know what’s up. Lawyers and courts relegate me to the rules of civil procedure and precedent, there to moulder. Anarchists invoke me when they bomb children. Politicians pound their fists about me when getting their friends sweet deals. Most ignore my heart. My heart is stony, but not cold. READ MORE.
Justice #4: Nozick.
LADY JUSTICE, JUSTITIA, GOES TO HER THIRD PSYCHIATRIC APPOINTMENT. When Justitia enters, a tall, handsome, plainly elegant man, with a shock of graying hair and an infectious smile, rises to greet her. The black box of conscience remains on the coffee table next to the psychiatrist’s chair. Justitia leans onto the divan.
JUSTITIA: I got an email this week. You are Robert Nozick, another Harvard political professor. You wrote Anarchy, State, and Utopia.
NOZICK: That’s right. I heard you spoke with my colleague, John Rawls. He and I often come as a boxed set. You also spent a session with Capuchin, that funny little tuxedoed monkey. Tell me what you learned.
JUSTITIA: Both were kind to me and listened well. Capuchin taught me that justice wells up from deep parts of the mammalian brain. Dr. Rawls believes my sanity may improve if I stack society’s economic deck so those dealt losing hands get better cards in future games. I told them both about my identity struggles. I am sure you have read their notes. READ MORE.
Justice #5: Nietzsche.
LADY JUSTICE, JUSTITIA, GOES TO HER FOURTH PSYCHIATRIC APPOINTMENT. When Justitia enters, a dark-haired man of penetrating eyes waits. His profuse moustache, to which a portion of a recent meal clings, projects from his lip. He averts his gaze from Justitia. The German philosopher taps a tuneless rhythm on the black box of conscience that rests on the coffee table at his left hand. Justitia settles herself. Silence ensues. Justitia clears her limestone throat.
JUSTITIA: Are you Friedrich Nietzsche? An email said Nietzsche was coming, the author of Genealogy of Morals? Are you that Nietzsche?
NIETZSCHE: I died in psychiatric lockup. Now I find myself resurrected as a psychiatrist. I thought I was irony’s master. I am humbled.
Nietzsche resumes his silent reverie, staring at his knees. Justitia waits. And waits. Finally, she speaks.
JUSTITIA: The others have been anxious to talk. Is silence a new kind of therapy?
NIETZSCHE: I do not wish to converse with the Great Harlot. In your name, history’s giants have fallen.
JUSTITIA: Perhaps I should leave…? I do not intend to perturb you. READ MORE.
Justice #6: Jesus.
LADY JUSTICE, JUSTITIA, GOES TO HER FIFTH PSYCHIATRIC APPOINTMENT. When Justitia enters, a smelly, dark-skinned, oily man sits in peasant clothes, waiting for Justitia. His eyes lock on hers, and a supple smile tickles his face. The man rises and kisses Justitia’s cheek. Oddly, his gesture seems appropriate. Justitia sits.
JESUS: I was elsewhere. Now, I am here. I do not know why.
JUSTITIA: This is my psychiatric appointment. You are here to help me. Did you not read the previous sessions’ notes?
JESUS: I cannot read. I do not write. Are you unwell, Justitia?
JUSTITIA: Not exactly. I am confused …. No, that is not entirely correct either. I am troubled in my heart, by an absence. I can tell I am missing something, but cannot put my finger on exactly what that something is.
JESUS: I have observed the hearts of friends closely. Perhaps that is why I am here. Tell me of your heart.
JUSTITIA: I am a statue, just carved rock. But I also dwell in every person’s feelings. So, a lot of folks’ agendas get attached to me. I get confused over what I am about, in my deepest self. I feel like I am missing something. I have my toga, the sword of retribution, the blindfold of impartiality, and the scales of equity. But a piece is missing.
JESUS: Tell me what bothers you most.
JUSTITIA: That’s a good question. I am most bothered when I peek from behind my blindfold and it seems that my sword falls more heavily on poor people than rich, more on dark people than white, more on men than women, and more on immigrants than citizens. I am also bothered when I find heavy little magnets on the bottom of my scales with the names of gigantic businesses on them, making my scales tip against common people. I remove those magnets fastidiously, but they just keep showing up. Oh, yes. I am nonplussed when god and I get saddled with drumming up rationale for the most recent war.
Jesus laughs. READ MORE.
Justice #7: Confucius.
LADY JUSTICE, JUSTITIA, GOES TO HER SIXTH PSYCHIATRIC APPOINTMENT. When Justitia enters, a ramrod straight-backed Chinese man, impeccably dressed in fine silks, waits. His long salt-and-pepper hair has been pulled severely to the back of his head, and dangles in a braided queue. The gentleman rises and bows silently. His hand subtly points to the divan for Justitia.
CONFUCIUS: I am K’ung Ch’iu of a venerable Chinese family. Your people call me Confucius.
Justitia lays her blindfold, sword, and scales on the floor next to her divan. She reclines, sighing.
JUSTITIA: You wrote The Analects? The work is still widely read. You’re famous.
CONFUCIUS: I am humbled. I must note, gracious lady, that my students wrote most of that book. My fame is perhaps now limited to fortune cookies. As during my life, most who read me, forget me…. I have perused your session notes, though there were none from that peasant, Jesus. Tell me how this process is going for you so far.
JUSTITIA: Jesus urged me to hope that Yahweh of Israel, his god, will intervene dramatically to set straight the jumbled pieces of this fractured world. I guess I have to say, I am just not that religious…. It seems to me that righting the global social world is a messy job that belongs to the human community. Their greatest challenge, actually. Mankind is presently wandering dazed in a bramble of ill-deliberated change and rampant overpopulation. Malthus vindicated.
CONFUCIUS: I agree. Why do you focus on human conduct, Justitia?
JUSTITIA: Because humans control conduct, at least to some extent. Humans do not command earthquakes, the sun’s diurnal transit, the generational cycle of butterflies, or even the price of tea in China. Forces beyond us govern those. But, at least occasionally, humans control their actions. I focus on doing the do-able. On good days, humans can choose useful new conduct, and by diligent practice embed new habits. READ MORE.
Justice #8: Moses.
LADY JUSTICE, JUSTITIA, GOES TO HER SEVENTH PSYCHIATRIC APPOINTMENT. Justitia arrives early, to find an empty office. From nowhere appears a wild-haired ugly little man of piercing eyes. A smell of burnt flesh wafts with his pungent body odor. Justitia begins to sit, but the hoary oracle gestures for the marble icon to remain standing. Moses juts his hands over his head. Loud Hebrew bursts from his mouth. His blessing complete, the prophet points where Justitia is to sit. She removes her sword, and stashes her blindfold and scales near her feet. The black box of conscience sits on the coffee table next to Israel’s divinator.
MOSES: I have read your file. You have been talking with some tremendously confused people. Small wonder your mind is a mess.
JUSTITIA: Perhaps you can help me. I seek guidance.
MOSES: My message is simple. The hard part lies in your will. You are stone statuary. But does your constitution match your physical stuff, or are you yet one more among billions of flabby wafflers.
JUSTITIA: I see so many alternatives! They muddle me. Shall I believe Rawls or Nozick, Jesus or Nietzsche? And there’s that cute little capuchin. The issues are many, and solutions elusive.
MOSES: Cease whining! Your troubles spring from delusions of competence.
JUSTITIA: I, sir, have been revered by a hundred billion humans.
MOSES: Idiots all. Your troubles, Justitia, are not psychological. They are voluntary. You rebel.
JUSTITIA: Me? A rebel? I have been working my stony little butt off sorting myself here…. READ MORE.
Justice #9: Locke.
LADY JUSTICE, JUSTITIA, GOES TO HER EIGHTH PSYCHIATRIC APPOINTMENT. Justitia opens the heavy oak door to find a finely-dressed Englishman with a gaunt triangular face. Prominent, thoughtful eyes peer from below a high forehead and neck-length white hair. The gentleman smiles warmly. Justitia removes her sword and sets her scales and blindfold on the end of her divan. She settles her toga on her sturdy marble thighs. Justitia had no time to change to jeans and sweatshirt this harried afternoon. The black box of conscience jostles a bit of its own accord on the coffee table.
LOCKE: My name is John Locke. I am denominated your counselor this session, though I fail to see how Two Treatises of Government and An Essay Concerning Human Understanding qualify me for this task. My education makes of me a philosopher. I am no priest.
JUSTITIA: I know your work, Sir. I am American these days. You influenced Jefferson and others.
LOCKE: Your constitution drafters wracked my ideas. Spawn oozes from their distortions.
JUSTITIA: You surprise me. Thanks at least in part to you, we remain free and loud. I have come this afternoon from protests. A menagerie of semi-employed citizens in tents makes shrill demands for income redistribution and environmental reform. A rabble of opponents, having tea it seems, rankle just as loudly about spiraling government debt and taxation and loss of liberties. My ears are ringing. America splits down her middle: urbanites against rural folk, evangelicals against secularists. Who is right? How can I decide? You have pondered my file. I am confused.
LOCKE: Indeed. You seem to believe you possess the luxury of time to deliberate. Would that be correct?
JUSTITIA: Well… I cannot decide rashly. I must find some measure of certainty before I….
LOCKE: You can be replaced, dear creature. The American people have inherent liberty to throw off your yoke. Rightful government proceeds from the people; it is their natural and inalienable right. The people therefore possess a natural right to rebellion. They form government; they can substitute another as easily. You must hear and respond. Now! Not when you feel comfortable doing so. My entire theory aims to produce government responsive to its people. READ MORE.
Justice #10: Marx.
LADY JUSTICE, JUSTITIA, GOES TO HER NINTH PSYCHIATRIC APPOINTMENT. Justitia removes her blindfold and bumps open the door with her shoulder, to avoid scraping its fine surface with her sword‘s scabbard or her scales of equity. A face framed in an integrated bush of graying black hair, moustache, and beard sits atop a stocky frame. Justitia settles herself, and scratches a bit of limestone scale from her right elbow. Marx, the German Ashkenazi Jew, smiles broadly. The black box of conscience hunkers on the coffee table, boding a pregnant intrusion.
MARX: I cannot stop smiling. Your beauty so reminds me of Jenny, my departed wife—the love of my life.
JUSTITIA: I am glad for our resemblance. You still grieve. Has she been gone long?
MARX: Time is a bit confused in this psychoanalysis. My time was the nineteenth century. Before I lost her, we lost four of our seven children. She parented. I wrote and I agitated. I got us expelled from country after country. Times were hard for the Marx tribe…. But let’s talk about your family, Justitia.
JUSTITIA: There’s a topic…. My father was Chaos, and my mother Power. I am born of their union. Every member of papa’s family was an anarchist and never deigned to cooperate. Every member of mama’s tribe marched lockstep to grandfather’s whim. My parents charged me, from my earliest days, to structure human society with a balance none among their own families had ever managed. I was their hope. And I am a huge disappointment.
MARX: I doubt that. Parents seldom feel that way about their children. Your task, as a demi-god, brims with complexity. So, what of your siblings? They must be a handful at Thanksgiving dinners. READ MORE.
Justice #11: Naomi.
LADY JUSTICE, JUSTITIA, GOES TO HER TENTH AND FINAL PSYCHIATRIC APPOINTMENT. Justitia finds the door ajar. A young girl, possibly seven years old, sits in the psychiatrist’s armchair, her black leather shoes swinging four inches off the floor. The juvenile’s white linen bonnet and black ankle-length long-sleeved dress with its blue apron identify her as Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Amish. A small blood stain dampens the front left of her starched bonnet. The black box of conscience rests quietly beside the child. Justitia smiles. Justitia lays to one side her sword, scales, and blindfold, and settles herself on the divan. The woman’s eyes meet the girl’s. Both relax.
NAOMI: My name is Naomi--Naomi Rose Ebersol. What’s yours?
JUSTITIA: I am Justitia. I work in the courts and around town. Are you my psychiatrist for the day?
NAOMI: I do not know what that is. I am supposed to talk to you. Do you want to talk?
JUSTITIA: That would be very pleasant, I am sure. My email said you are from West Nickel Mines School.
NAOMI: Uh-huh. I got hurt. In October 2006. A man hurt my head.
JUSTITIA: Someone hurt your head? Can you tell me about that?
NAOMI: A bad man came to the school just after morning recess. He blocked the front door with his pickup. He had a gun. The bad man forced the boys to haul in lumber, guns, chains, and toilet paper from his truck. He made us girls line up against the classroom chalk board. He made all the boys and adults and babies leave. He kept eleven of us girls. We heard the police come in a few minutes. They had loudspeakers. We girls knew what was happening. Marian and Barbie asked to be shot first, if the bad man would let the rest of us go. The bad man shot them, and then the rest of us. All in the head. He shot some of us over and over. Blood was everywhere. Five of us died. Six survived. Some of the girls who lived are not healthy still. The bad man was Charles Roberts IV. He died too. When he saw the police would get him, he shot himself. When Mr. Roberts was hurting me and my friends, I wanted to hurt him back. I wanted to…. READ MORE.
Justice #12: Numen.
LADY JUSTICE, JUSTITIA, IS SUMMONED TO HER PSYCHIATRIC DIVAN. Justitia lays aside her blindfold, sword, and scales. No psychiatric stand-in awaits her. Alone, but not quite alone, Justitia sits. She folds her marble hands in her limestone lap. She smoothes her stony toga. The black box of conscience on the coffee table slides toward Justitia. A depression in the seat cushion of the psychiatrist’s armchair shifts. Justitia perceives a presence, but sees and hears nothing. Suddenly, a gravelly voice interrupts Justitia’s reverie.
NUMEN: Tell me, Justitia. How do you imagine god?
JUSTITIA: God is a social construct that augments cohesion in human groups. I am not religious.
NUMEN: You blather what god is and state your orientation. I asked, How do you imagine god?
JUSTITIA: You mean, like a photo….? Well, I suppose god looks like Charlton Heston in my mind.
Air swirls, rustling. Charlton Heston sits in the psychiatrist’s armchair, beaming his patented smile.
NUMEN: I bring a gift for you. And I come to hear the fruit of this psychiatric regime I orchestrated.
JUSTITIA: Are you….god?
NUMEN: I am me. People name me. Those names always mislead. Humans know nothing of me. They see my acts, but I elude them. Human confabulations about gods amuse. The very best humor is theological…. Enough of me. Tell me how goes this introspective and conversational process for you, O demi-god of justice. READ MORE.