Recent Writings

What is justice?

What is justice? I suppose we could probe Plato’s “Republic” for an answer, but that would be a bit much for an op-ed piece. Perhaps we can agree as a starting point that justice is like beauty: In the mind of the beholder.

The brouhaha over Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who, by this printing, might be on his way to confirmation as a Supreme Court justice or joining other also-rans such as G. Harrold Carswell, has put American cultural norms front and center.

Carswell was Richard Nixon’s SCOTUS nominee about whom the most stellar defense came from Nebraska Republican Senator Roman Hruska: “Even if he is mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers, and they are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they?” Why pine for Mozart when Salieri is available?

I like thought experiments, taking scenarios and flipping them. Thought experiments are “devices of the imagination used to investigate the nature of things” according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. In part, their purpose is to “suggest particular ways in which both expectation and theory must henceforth be revised.”

Let’s say the victim in the alleged prep-school kegger, for example, was a boy rather than a girl. Hmm… That would suggest the good judge might have, let’s say, “other tendencies.”

It reminds one of former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards’ quip, “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.”

No question, if Kavanaugh’s alleged victim were male, he’d be gone. Scrubbed from history by the Texas Board of Education.

Statutes-of-limitations are on the books for good reason. Is it just to hold someone accountable for something that might have happened long ago without solid proof? Thirty-some years is a long time to accurately recollect details. For many, thirty days is a challenge. Two people witnessing the same accident offer differing accounts. What if the accused were underage at the time? And if stupid drunk, it’s quite possible he wouldn’t recall the event.

Aside from Senate Republicans’ perfidious behavior in their disposal of Judge Merrick Garland and the potential for placing a Trump shill on the court, there are telling issues at play with the Kavanaugh nomination including what this suggests about our culture and politics.

Should every man be worried? Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post pondered that in a tongue-in-cheek piece about a White House attorney’s quote to Politico: “If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried.”

“If boys cannot be boys,” she asks in mock retort, “then how can boys be men who rise to the highest offices in the land? If this stops being something you can get away with, then will anyone still be above the law?”

Now, that’s a thought experiment.

I can attest to the challenges and unpleasantness for a gay man to live in a straight man’s world. But not being a woman, I can only empathize about living as one in a man’s world.

The #MeToo Movement has gotten hetero guys befuddled. Like a husband that has pissed off his wife walking around the house gingerly, keeping his head low. Yes, dear. Only on a national scale. The American household is a not-so-pleasant place. Mother is pissed.

With women finally saying, “Oh, hell no!”, men are finding the ground shifting under them. Old rules, norms, and codes are crumbling. And with that, so too the social order.

But such revolutions tend to eat their own as fingers point at those deemed insufficiently pure.

The social-cultural revolution underway is reflected in our politics. It guarantees continual fragmentation, separation, and tribalism. Tomorrow’s headlines will repeat yesterday’s: SNAFU.

SNAFU is an acronym, not a word. Justice, though, is a word with meaning. But what?

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