March 1, 2022

Russia, Ukraine & the 2 Elements that are Often Missing when we Talk about Justice.

The word justice is being thrown around a lot these days. 

And it seems like headline news stories calling for this elusive justice are creating larger divides in an already divided world. I know I’ve had to put my magnifying glasses on to better look for this blurry concept.

Justice is defined by the Oxford English dictionary as a just behavior or treatment, as in “a concern for justice, peace and a general respect for people.”

With that definition in mind, let’s focus those glasses of ours on a few of these prominent new stories:

Kim Potter, a veteran white police officer was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison for the death of Daunte Wright, a young black man, during a traffic stop. Potter claimed she accidentally pulled out her Glock 9mm service pistol instead of her Taser. During sentencing, the judge called this a tragic mistake. Many others contend that this 26-year veteran police officer would have known the difference between her pistol and her Taser before firing. No matter which side you take, the judge decided the taking of Wright’s life was only worth two years of Potter’s life.

The second headline doesn’t involve the taking of a physical life but the ruining of two people’s life dreams. Black Olympic sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was expected to participate (and win big) in the 2021 Tokyo Olympic summer games but was eliminated from competition due to a positive test for cannabis. Kamila Valieva, a 15-year-old Russian figure skater, who was expected to win it all in the 2022 Being Olympic winter games tested positive for a performance enhancing drug but was allowed to continue in the competition. Many are sighting Valieva’s age as justification for her being allowed to compete, while Richardson and her fans call out hypocrisy.

And the latest issue to grab the world’s attention is the Russian invasion and attack on Ukraine. There is a long, violent history here. Ukrainians are fiercely protecting their freedom and independence, and the Russian government claims it is invading to protect and secure its borders. I don’t pretend to know enough to expound on this subject. It is clear, though, that justice is not being served for the Ukrainian people as the world watches them heroically fight for their lives or for the Russian people who are bravely standing against this barbaric invasion.

As we all sit comfortably in our armchairs, watching it all unfold with an obsessive compulsion to see what happens next—akin to watching the latest popular Netflix series—we are all forming opinions, taking sides, and judging the participants. And rightly so, as the collective judgment of the world will undoubtedly have a residual effect on all of us.

Wright’s family and friends will grieve and miss him and spend the rest of their lives contemplating what he would have accomplished if he had not been killed that night.

Neither of the Olympic athletes took home a medal, and the dreams they sacrificed so much for will never be realized.

And the Russia/Ukraine conflict will see thousands of innocent people killed and create economic uncertainty around the globe.

Was or will justice be served in any of these situations?

Do the standards our society uses to determine the value of a person or a nation’s life and dreams need to be reevaluated?

Are we too quick to judge before hearing all the circumstances and choosing sides?

And as we judge, are we truly, as the dictionary defines, considering the hope for peace and respect for all those involved?

These are the questions that haunt me as I try to determine what I think justice should look like. These are the things that keep me up at night.

“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as judge in the field of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods.” ~ Albert Einstein.


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