From the March-April 2020 issue of News & Letters
by Robert Taliaferro
Regardless of how democratic a form of government might seem, more often than not those entrusted with its administration tend to do injustice to many that the administrators of government are sworn to protect. This lack of justice extends beyond the boundaries of race, color, culture, gender, economics or political idealism.
In the last several months we have seen how abusively the concept of justice can be applied, not in some inner city or back country courtroom, but on national TV in the hallowed halls of Congress where the very possession of power excites a desire to use it, often poorly, regardless of what party one aligns themselves with.
We have watched one of the most abhorrent characteristics of human nature that allows those vested with power to exercise it in a manner that transcends any number of oaths that a person might take, allowing the offending parties an unconscionable authority to abuse that power as they see fit.
NOT SO BLIND JUSTICE
Because of the practice of mass incarceration in this country, we are all too familiar with the infinite permutations that any form of justice might take. We should not be surprised that Lady Justice, despite her mandate for blind faithfulness to the concepts of fairness and equality, often tends to take a peek from beneath her vaunted blindfold to see what color, creed, race, gender identity or socioeconomic status that a defendant might have, thus balancing her scales accordingly.
Yet even with the commonplace knowledge in how the justice system of the U.S. is often meted out unjustly, it is still surprising that this country—and the world—was introduced to one of the most blatant spectacles of social and cultural elitism in its history during the Senate’s impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump.
BULLIES AND CHILDREN RUN THE U.S.
We got to see both houses of Congress, in their official mandates and legislative functions, square off into their respective corners as they embarked on tirades of name-calling, truths, half-truths and blatant lies with the intent—and juvenile intensity—of spoiled children and bullies on a grade school playground.
We got to see grown men and women, alleged representatives of multicultural constituents, engage in vehemently brutal verbal tribal warfare that represents how dysfunctionally polarized this nation has become.
We have borne witness to blatant political coercion and acts of cowardice on the part of U.S. legislators of both parties, along with too few acts of courage and perhaps political suicide.
Rousseau, in his treatise The Social Contract, posited that the will of a group of individuals no longer exists when one person’s opinion prevails over the rest. “It is therefore essential,” Rousseau wrote, “that each citizen should express only his own opinion,” not mimic the opinions of others.
Failure to do so negates the contract that a representative made with his or her constituency, as they were elected not to represent just their respective party, but the diverse elements and opinions of the individuals within that party, regardless of the party’s name.
That is what democracy and freedom is all about.