“. . . with liberty and justice for all.” In my time, school kids in
the classroom day by reciting that description of the land we pledged
As we grew older, every thinking person came to know that this phrase could only be taken as a promise, not a fact of life in the
U.S. In a broad
sense, we all enjoyed liberty, but justice for all was a work in progress. My
life began in a racially segregated society and one in which women were subservient to men. Progress toward social and economic equality has
been dramatic, but much remains to be done.
Inequality and injustice go hand in hand. Who would dispute the fact that wealthy Americans who can
That does not mean Americans don’t try to be fair and impartial. I’ve served on several juries. Without exception, I thought everyone I served with sincerely tried to mete out justice. And I think we succeeded. But we did not face any racial or “rich man, poor man” issues in the cases we heard.
I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to the six jurors who found George Zimmerman innocent of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin. They apparently tried to be just. From the many accounts of the evidence presented in the trial, it appears they were correct in finding Zimmerman not guilty of murder. There was plenty of reasonable doubt about that charge.
But it also appears the jury should have convicted Zimmerman of manslaughter. Zimmerman admitted he killed Martin. There was no doubt about that. Is it plausible to believe that a big, strong man trained in martial arts had to shoot to kill an unarmed kid to defend himself? Hardly.
If justice was not blind in this case, what can we learn from the experience?
For one thing, people who value justice need to be vigilant at every level.
self-defense law, for example, deserves careful scrutiny and perhaps changes
now that we see how it can be misapplied. Concern about laws that foster
injustice should not be confined to national laws and Supreme Court decisions.
A much larger part of the justice system is local and state-wide. That’s where
people of good will can get together and have a big impact in moving America
forward in the quest for true justice for all.