Peace and justice nourish one another, sharing their hope for non-violence and their concern for the interests of others. Wherever exploitation and oppression are ignored, peace and justice are illusive; wherever respect and support for human life become priorities, peace and justice are reborn.
Rule-of-law and justice are not always the same. Hopeless citizens who despair of working out their life-and-death issues within unjust legal, economic and political frameworks sometimes turn to crime, terrorism, and war. What goes around comes around. Those who work for equal opportunity and peace lift up their own lives with the lives of others, growing in understanding and acceptance of human difference, and increasing the sum of peace and justice.
The Golden Rule, the historical foundation for all moral and legal systems, and the basis for the “liberty and justice for all” to which we pledge allegiance, works so well because treating others as you wish to be treated becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Peace and justice are among the highest ideals and values enshrined in our proud founding documents, which extend equal protection for the peaceful, equitable goals of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” even to “the least of these”—children, the elderly, sick, needy and handicapped, and all who struggle to rise from historical discrimination.
Angry media xenophobes and demagogues try to scare us into believing that the world is divided into a tiny deserving few of “us” vs. a vast faceless, threatening, undeserving “them,” urging us to abandon the goal of peace and justice for all, and to put power and wealth in the hands of a few self-interested fear-mongers who guilefully “guarantee” safety through militarism. Offering the opposite message are the great leaders of our past and present, urging us to love and help one another, to give and forgive, to risk peace instead of war, and to work together for respectful, supportive conditions valuing the sanctity of human life everywhere. Truly, we cannot avoid all injustice, but we can avoid adding to its sum.
Justice implies neutrality and fairness, but no judges are completely unbiased. We all see the world uniquely, based on our different backgrounds. In the face of the same legal arguments, natural, unavoidable bias is evident in the many disagreements among even our rigorously-selected highest justices.
Our current justices’ life experiences are for the most part grounded in privilege and wealth. A more balanced Supreme Court would include justices whose lives reflect struggles against prejudice, poverty or disadvantage, since, in common law legal systems like our own, justices at times “make the law” by overturning precedents, regulations and legislation, with immense implications for future generations.
Clearly we need to appoint judges with sterling records of excellence and impartiality. President Obama hopes also to nominate Supreme Court justices with a sense of what real-world folks go through, who know what it is to be a teenage mom or to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old, to have the system not work for you, to be vulnerable in the political process—an outsider, a minority, someone without a lot of clout.
In the five percent of hard cases where the legal language is not perfectly clear, and where legal procedures alone can’t lead to a rule of decision, President Obama believes that the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in a judge’s heart. May we find the peace and justice we seek there, and together with our good president, continue to nurture peace and justice in our own hearts, in our families, communities, businesses, schools, courts, churches and government, and in all our relationships with others throughout the world.
Please send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!