I come to you today, weary and broken-hearted. Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand (and honestly, I wouldn’t blame you if you did), you’re aware of the discussion being had and the battles being fought around issues of race and law enforcement and justice as a whole.
I’ll be blunt: this is not the blog post I originally intended to write. In fact, I initially didn’t want to write a blog post at all–I’m a heterosexual cisgender Caucasian Canadian male in my late twenties after all. As the crisis seemed to escalate I felt compelled to say my piece and sat down last evening to write a blog post.
I was feeling ready to do so–I knew I couldn’t give solid answers, but I thought I could share my perspective as someone who knows and loves many people in law enforcement but who also recognized the brokenness in the system and the harm done to the marginalized and oppressed. I thought I could get people to reform the system without hating the people involved, that I could suggest some ways forward, or at least ask some questions that would further discussion.
That is not this blog post–I realized I could not write the post I originally intended. I had written a considerable amount but reached a point where I couldn’t continue–I hit a brick wall and realized that, despite my desire to avoid answers, I was still thinking I could somehow solve this. I can’t.
The truth is, this issue is so beyond me, I don’t know the right questions to ask to resolve it. Or, rather whether it CAN be resolved.
What I do know is this: I feel that the current clashes in the street are not the solution. I feel that law enforcement is a necessary and crucial part of any society. I feel that there are deep problems with the organizational culture and training of law enforcement. I feel that racial biases and prejudices are woven into the fabric of our culture, and into the psyches of groups and individuals. I feel that the law enforcement profession is becoming more and more distrusted and that there’s valid and understandable reasons for that.
Most of all, I feel that the basic question everyone is trying to answer is: what is justice? What is the just solution, how do we decide what is just, how do we practice justice? Who gets do decide what is just, who gets to enforce justice?
The simple answer for me is this: I don’t know. I don’t know where the justice is in this, and I don’t know that it’s possible to find justice in a way that will satisfy everyone.
I also wonder whether we are focusing so much on justice that we’re blinding ourselves to other avenues of discourse. Love must define justice, not the other way around–but love must also insist on true justice.
There’s an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation–appropiately titled “Justice”– where the away team discovers an idyllic planet—but the planet’s peace is based on a harsh and uncompromising legal system where there are enforcement zones designated at random and known only to the judicial figures where even the most minor offense is death. Of course, unknowingly one of the members of the away team commits an offense before he can be warned and is sentenced to death. Captain Picard faces a choice: whether to risk violating the Prime Directive or letting the away team member die. Complicating this decision is an alien who views the inhabitants of the planet as its children.
Captain Picard decides to rescue his crew member–but the alien initially prevents the away team from leaving. Picard and his crew must persuade the alien of the rightness of their decision. These are the two lines that persuade the entity:
“There can be no justice as long as laws are absolute. Even life itself is an exercise in exceptions”–Captain Jean-Luc Picard
“When has justice ever been as simple as a rule book?”–Commander William T. Riker
This episode, and indeed many other Star Trek episodes (and its sister series in many ways Star Wars), continually ask questions of justice: what is it, who can enforce it, how does one practice it, is subjective or objective, relative or absolute? But how does this relate to the subject at hand?
I submit that the work of justice is never done. There’s too many interlocking factors, biases, prejudices, identities, and practices. All we can do is keeping asking questions, keep working towards it, individually and collectively. Do I have any answers? No, not really. Do I think that there must be some way we can find a way to live in true harmonious accord? Yes, absolutely. Do I know how to do that? Absolutely not. Will I keep asking the questions and muddling through as best I can? Yes, until my dying breath.
Godspeed better days, O Lord. Amen.