No Justice, No Freedom
When justice is stripped of her blindfold – and her scales are tampered with.
The opening credits of the Perry Mason television drama featured a statue of justice as a blindfolded woman raising aloft a pair of scales. This common visual metaphor captures the two critical dimensions of justice: balancing the punishment with the crime, and the equality of all under the law.
Four years ago the Obama administration and rogue partisans in the FBI and DOJ abused their powers in order to keep Donald Trump from being elected, and then to hamstring and sabotage his administration. Now we are nearing the end of the investigations into those crimes, and the truth long obvious to many will finally be confirmed. But if the verification of these crimes is not followed by indictments and the malefactors put on trial, our political system will be seriously damaged, and we citizens will lose faith in the integrity of our justice system and its role in protecting our political freedom
Like freedom, our view of justice as embodying fairness and balance has not been universal to all peoples. They may have had laws, but those laws were not necessarily just. Our notion of justice arises from the creation of constitutional states that first took form in ancient Greece. Before then, power over others was a personal possession of rulers based on their assumed superiority of wealth or birth, and as such was unaccountable to the masses. These rulers made the laws and enforced them, but they were not always subject to the same laws nor were they enforced fairly. Like governing, applying justice, then, was a function of the ruler’s status and privilege, or his alleged connection to the all-knowing gods. Justice, like political power, resided in men, not in laws equally applied.
The constitutional city-states of ancient Greece invented the transformational ideas that political power should be separated from flawed mortals and enshrined in laws and institutions that men managed and applied, but always remained the possession of the political community that outlived any particular man. By the time of the Athenian democracy, citizen males whether rich or poor, illiterate or educated, brought indictments against malefactors, made prosecution and defense speeches, and sat with several hundred “jurors” to adjudicate innocence or guilt, and determined the punishment. That they did so at times wrongly or corruptly, merely confirms their flawed humanity.