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Pondering the meaning of ‘justice’
Justice. What is it? Is it a thing, a value, an idea, an ethic, a rule, an ideal? Plato tells us that Socrates sought answers by examining the opinions of passersby in Athens 2500 years ago. A variety of answers were given, even Socrates’ own. But Socrates was as unsure as his interlocutors. To do with the soul he opined. In our world, that of the west, and knowing best from sea to shining sea, most of us do not have a clue. And for those that do, it is highly skewed – that is we make of it what we wish, which is pretty much where it stood in the times of that man martyred for his piety. But it is more than a wee bit up in the air today.
Judges deal in justice. Or they are supposed to. There are judges on the bench in Macon County that do not have an inkling. Even though the North Carolina Judicial Code of conduct lays down tenets and parameters regarding justice that are not to be crossed. Impartiality is one such. Fairness is another. Not taking sides for personal or political reasons. But some judges flaunt all that when they can. When they know they can get away with it. This no doubt is not an unusual tale. Judges across the nation abuse their authority. The power of being king or queen of the courtroom goes to their heads. They have lost their way. And so have many if not most Americans. You cannot expect leadership in a courtroom – the place where, if any, justice should not be tainted.
Times are moving too quickly for the good, the true, and the beautiful to bear fruit in its kinship with justice. We are bedazzled by novelty, by mayhem, by anxiety, rootlessness, transformation, self-centeredness, extravaganza, and decimation of value that no longer has a linchpin enabling the connection between and among those values we once held most dear. To be tried is in the nature of life. To be tested is in the nature of wisdom. To break with the past with no firm and reasonable and just sight of the future leaves us only in the present. No age with whomever its people has ever lived solely there. The Zen monk is compelled by biology to escape the moment. The committed Christian too frequently forgets his aim is heavenward. Time is all awhirl around us but we know not how to trim our sails. Forsaken by those who acquire power we are left drifting in a miasma of laxity in the upholding of the just. So what is this just after all? Or before all? Is there embedded in justice some universality? Some absoluteness? Or is it merely a matter of a particular people and a particular time? Does God dispense it? Or does God leave it to man to make of it what he or she will? Humans shed blood over it. From suicide, to family, to neighbor, to country. Nobody acts without it. Event the insane act on terms to which justice refers. If it will not manifest in Congress, or the courtroom, or even the church, what machine or technical device will ever give life back to it. Or is justice only and always been a gossamer flotsam put forth by power playing among those who are positioned to avail themselves of it? Socrates died for it. Jesus did as well. Is that what justice is? Dedicating or giving your life for a cause?
Paul Steven Blank – Franklin, N.C.
Why the need for ‘good?’
America is viewed in modern culture as something not to be honored. Monuments of old and our most proud of holidays, as Independence Day – July 4th, Veterans Day, even in celebrating Thanksgiving, we seem to downplay the sacrifices of those who paid with their lives in hardship and death to where they have brought us today. Within sports, media and modern churches it’s more in tune not to mention anything of our past that seems in question. The forcing of our culture has made its impact on never reflecting or mentioning those we owe our very existence as a “free self governing, we the people,” which is found nowhere else in world history. One of my favorite quotes states, “… you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” (Phil. 4:8)
All’s a reflection of good. Honoring patriotism or love for country is a respect for those with whom we can also find fault. But its destination has been of seeking what is good for the betterment of all who are to follow. If we collectively have a good foundation that is true, authentic and a path that makes sense to those who come after us, we should honor and magnify all that we find which is good. For all goodness is from the Divine God who Himself is good. Where else does goodness come from? If we know evil when we see it, we should also know goodness. But even within this, many get blind sided and easily swayed or intimidated. Many leaders have lured their followers into racism and a dishonor of human life which is valued little, unless it furthers the state or the cause they themselves seek, even the church can slowly be guided down such a path. Because we become lax and never challenged into a true understanding of what we believe and the meaning of sacrifice towards good. When we dishonor what and where goodness comes from we lose sight of what goodness is and how or why it should be diligently fought for. Everything’s viewed with little value, even a nation that once was viewed as good, a “shining city upon a hill” once displaying to all humanity all that is good, honorable, and respectable within a foundation that all humanity truly wants and seeks, yet humanity values little of where true goodness comes from. This sharp distinction brings a time of question of who we are and for what purpose or direction we are to go. It sharpens those of us of faith and challenges those who question faith in understanding why, and “just what is it we believe.” A foundation is only as strong as we allow within our hearts, minds and soul. We need to give reason of why we follow “good,” for if there’s no reason, then evil gladly takes its place.
Deni Shepard – email@example.com
Trump dragged U.S. below ‘democracy threshold’
A word most of us are unfamiliar with, but will become commonplace in the months and years to come, is anocracy – or semi-democracy – a form of government that is loosely defined as part democracy and part dictatorship, or as a regime that mixes democratic with autocratic features.
The Center for Systemic Peace has downgraded the United States of America’s system of government from a democracy to an anocracy. I invite the reader to confirm this on the CSP website.
The United States dropped below the “democracy threshold” (+6) on the polity scale in 2020 and is now considered an anocracy (+5). In the process the United States also lost its designation as the world’s oldest, continuous democracy; that designation now belongs to Switzerland (171 years), followed by New Zealand (142 years), and the United Kingdom (139 years). The CSP adds that further degradation of democratic authority will trigger an “Adverse Regime Change event.” It is significantly important that Americans understand that this downgrade can be explicitly tied to the Trump administration’s activities during and since his term in office.
This analysis also places the United States at “high risk of impending instability (i.e. adverse regime change and/or onset of political violence)” and designates “the ongoing efforts of the USA executive to circumvent electoral outcomes and subvert democratic processes as an ‘attempted (presidential) coup'”.
It appears the American experiment has run its course as a full-fledged democracy. Approximately two and one-half centuries is quite a stretch but our era ended January 20, 2017, the moment Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.
Prior to that date, any theory proclaiming the United States would backslide this far would have been regarded as unimaginable, beyond comprehension. In retrospect it doesn’t require the skill of a brain surgeon to trace the cause of our collapse to the exact source.
The reason for our downfall isn’t rocket science and neither is the remedy. We all learned in school what democracy means; a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” We need not devise a foolproof plan to restore democracy in America, it’s been done; by Plato, “The strength of democracy is judged by the quality of its services rendered by its citizens”; also by Louis Pasteur, “The true democracy is that which permits each individual to put forth his maximum effort”; and by J.R. Lowell, “Democracy is that form of society, no matter what its political classification, in which every man (or woman) has a chance and knows it”; and Harry Fosdick, “Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.”
There is just one element missing, and this factor is entirely up to us. There was a well known Italian patriot and revolutionary who lived in Lincoln’s time. His name was Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1972) and his belief was that “democracy is the progress of all, through all, under the leadership of the wisest and the best.” It’s choice, not chance, that will determine our destiny; our lives are made up of the choices we make, and so it is with nations. We will survive or be destroyed by the people we elect to lead us. What else do we need to know?
David Snell – Franklin, N.C.