School day always opened with the Pledge of Allegiance. In the 5th grade I can remember reciting the words, or rather the sounds, something like this. I plej allejence to the flag….and to the republic for Richard Stands……. I wasn’t too bright. It was 1943. We were at war. Some things you just do.
Then there was that word, indivisible, which I probably said as, invisible. The most important phrase was, liberty and justice for all. Who could argue against that? After all, free speech, assembly, free press and religion were all givens. The Norman Rockwell posters on the wall confirmed it with his, Four Freedoms.
Now we are engaged in a great war, said Abraham Lincoln. We still are. If not a shooting war, an ideological one with more or less the same opponents. One nation very much divisible. It strikes me that those two words, liberty and justice, are at the heart of it.
Republicans have exploited the concept of Liberty to mean no regulations, get off my back or don’t bother me or I got mine, screw you… with Big Government as the offender. Therefore, why pay taxes? Nobody’s going to mandate that I get health insurance or clean air or safe medicine or vaccinations or take away my guns. It’s a free country, ain’t it?
The idea of justice is certainly much more than punishment as in, being brought to justice. It has to do with a social contract providing safety, educational opportunities, housing, employment, a living wage etc… Justice is an open term, subject to a range of ideas with inclusion implicit as in, justice for all.
Both words have become bloated, one might say invisible, on the tongues of politicians, invoked without much specificity. But for those of us in the thick of it the two words seem loaded, almost to be in opposition. Liberty vs Justice. Of course Liberals have not ceded the concept of Liberty to Trumpdom. We cherish the freedom of a woman to choose as well as the right for a compassionate death. Similarly a Libertarian has no argument with Stop Signs or red lights. We need to recognize the value system of our counterparts in order to have a conversation. Justice, after all, does not curtail liberty; it assures responsibility.
Whether we meet in the halls of justice or under the Statue of Liberty we must come together. Let our allegiance be pledged for this. Richard Stands would agree… whoever he is.