Ferguson and the Question of Justice

By Connie D. Atkinson

Another landmark day in American history goes down in a sea of violence, partisanship, outrage, and disunity. The Grand Jury has spoken and decided no charges will be laid against Darren Wilson – the police officer who killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, on the streets of his own neighborhood in Ferguson, Missouri. No one seems happy with this verdict. What we are left with is what we started with – a great divide in our culture that seems to grow ever wider as the days roll by.

The opinions on the matter, voiced all over the country, through every possible venue, are not serene, composed, or conciliatory analyses. Opinions are polar opposites between those who are enraged at the injustice and racism apparently displayed by the System and those who are enraged that the Courts should be intimidated to make a pronouncement that is not strictly defined by the law. The division is truly horrible to witness, not only the carnage that is taking place in Ferguson, but also with people from all over the country who happen to think differently and, therefore, fall on opposite sides of the decision. Many are actually willing to break with their own relations – family and friends – over the disagreement. Too many are willing to decry their friend or relative as hopelessly racist, biased, or just plain stupid, if they do not agree with their view of the Court’s verdict.

Are we becoming a hopelessly divided nation? Are civil unrest, riots, and all-out civil war inevitable? Is this our future? Has our partisan political entities won and created a system of laws where we can never see each other as true brothers and sisters, true partners – a situation that must, inevitably, culminate in the destruction of our Union? Can the enforcement of justice cure all of our ills? Is there a crucial step missing between the political enforcement of justice through the legal system and real justice?

“What are you talking about?” I hear you screaming. What is “real” justice if not the passage and enforcement of laws by the courts that protect the vulnerable from the ignorant and evil?

But wait…looking back on history, haven’t we tried systems of laws and punishments as a way to peace, justice, prosperity, and security? Why are we still here and in the same situation? Why, with all the laws our leaders have written, both nationally and internationally, do we remain in a perpetual state of unrest, dissatisfaction, and war both inside and outside our country?

Could it be that we are missing a crucial step here? Could it be that mankind must evolve to a higher state of consciousness that precedes the application of justice in order for justice to be potent enough to effect real change and provide us the opportunity for lasting peace? Could it be that we need to become detached from our own outrage long enough to see what is just outside our line of vision?

Let’s look at the true reformers – those who have tried and succeeded in bringing about real change. Martin Luther King Jr, Ghandi, Jesus Christ – they all had one thing in common. They all focused on the oneness of humanity – that ALL of mankind were their true sisters and brothers. They focused on loving their enemies – truly, and without reservation, loving their enemies. They were so convinced that this was the true and only way to real peace that they were willing to die for their beliefs. They were willing to love and forgive their enemies and those who wronged them and they did something else – they asked their followers to do the same. We see these Great Reformers. We hear their words. We pass on their history and their words from generation to generation and, yet, we still hold on to our outrage and sense of self-righteousness, no matter the side we fall on. We don’t seem to believe that their words and admonitions can possibly work and so we carry on fighting each other and creating the same carnage over and over to gain some justice that lasts for a little while until we have to fight again.

Hey, I have a proposition. Why don’t we try love for awhile – give love and forgiveness a chance? Why don’t we try to live by the example of our most revered heroes? Somehow, I sense that they would appreciate it a lot more than celebrating their birthdays once a year. Why don’t YOU try it – and see what happens. Try loving people who disagree with you. Try forgiving those who you find reprehensible or who have done you a wrong. Try turning the other cheek sometimes. Try understanding their point of view. Try walking in their shoes for a moment. Try seeing that the recognition of our oneness precedes the effective and lasting application of justice. Try love for a change. Hell, if it doesn’t work, we can always go back to killing each other.

A small insight – from the second Brotherhood of Purity novel

It is not the fear of reprisals, retaliation or even death that restrains us from killing. War will not make the purveyors of evil wish to do right. Disregarding this simple lesson is the trap leaders and politicians fall in to when they rely solely on force as the answer. For peace knows not violence. Rather, peace starts within as a flame of self respect; a desire, and a discipline, to do that which we know to be right and human. It is the value of one’s conscience, and the actions that flow from it, that determine how we feel about ourselves and how we are seen in the eyes of those around us.