“Justice is done,” soundbites the President. The President, along with the entire world, appears to have confused justice with punishment. This confusion goes way beyond the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Whenever a crime is committed, there is talk about bringing the perpetrator to “justice.” But what people actually desire is some sort of punishment that seems to be commensurate with the harm done.
In fact, according to Dictionary.com, justice means:
1. the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause.
2. rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason: to complain with justice.
3. the moral principle determining just conduct.
To me, justice means fairness. As a verb, it might mean to restore fairness, or to make right. If someone smashes your car, justice might mean that person giving you a new car. It’s hard to say what justice would mean in the context of a mass murder like the terrorist attacks of September, 2001. Putting someone on trial for the crime would be a step toward justice, but it wouldn’t bring back the dead. Neither would killing the perpetrator, or killing a lot people whom we associate with the perpetrator – that would be revenge, which is a type of punishment.
I’m not arguing the rightness or wrongness of revenge killing. It certainly appears to bring happiness to a lot of people. I’m not saying that it’s not justified, or that it doesn’t fit into some larger scheme designed to eventually reduce violence. But I am saying that it is not justice, it is punishment, and it is not what a society that understood justice would be clamoring for or celebrating in the name of “justice.”
Click the flower for my unsolicited advice to President Obama regarding Afghanistan: