Thursday, September 18, 2008

Justice for All

I'm stealing a blog theme today from one that I read every now and again -- a recent post mulled over a quote that made me do a little fist pump.

Public intellectual (how does one get that job title?) Cornel West said this: Justice is what love looks like in public.

Exactly, exactly, exactly.

I've been working with someone for several months now who is having significant difficulty getting past dreaded "why" questions -- why did this happen to me? Why not someone else? Why do I need to (fill in cognitive strategy) when I never had to before? This is a scary brain-space to be in -- she wants to move forward but just can't.

She was the only adult to intervene in a fight among angry, disturbed children. Without hesitation, she jumped in and she got hurt while others looked on. Her life is completely different now -- all of her relationships are strained, her only safe place outside of the house is coming to therapy, she doesn't trust her doctors (or me, to an extent), she has behaviors that she can say "I can't believe I did this" but she can't stop herself.

She's been on my mind this week because she was going to court. The original punishment didn't sit well with her -- the girl was to write 500 times that she wouldn't do it again and be evaluated by a psychologist. The girl wrote it 300 times and was evaluated but didn't go for continuing services. So she is taking her back to court and going through the emotional rollcoaster of telling her story in front of her attacker in order to see justice -- not time in juvenile detention but court mandated counseling so that the girl can get the help that she truly needs. Love in public. She said, "I hope this is what will help me move on, knowing that something good is coming from it."

I think I've always had a sense of parity rather than justice, and I suppose the difference is the love. I once ambushed my sister and punched her in the stomach when I found out I had to be a part of the dopey living Christmas scenes at church but she didn't. I felt better (she didn't) but not much love in that action. I get so wrapped up in the things that I don't have that I forget to consider those who have so much less and so many more problems.

I admire those who work for justice in big ways and small ways. My mom is a personal hero -- she works everyday to get medical things paid for for people who need them. There is absolutely love in that action. I'm lucky enough to have a few others, too, who see restoration of a wrong as the right thing to do not because they personally benefit from it, but because it is the right thing to do. Justice is love in public, even if knuckleheads like me aren't always looking.

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