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New Justice Happy Meal w/ Toy Gavel

I have been planning to go to Spain for a while now. I essentially decided I should go on a "why the hell not?" impulse. After taking a step back I realized that it was exactly right, exactly what I want, and I have been filling in the blanks ever since. The reasons are varied, but the one I want to discuss today is perspective. I feel like I don't recognize my country. It's the same country as ever, beautiful ideals, poor execution, just to nutshell it. Somehow, despite our reality, our history, our poor execution, I have remained mostly optimistic that we could continue to improve and grow spiritually as a nation. And by spiritually I mean that sense of empathy and social justice that has led citizens to put themselves on the line to help and to defend the lives and rights of those seemingly disconnected from them and in danger.

The story of the civil rights amendment period that interests me and confounds me still is the extent and limits of the spiritual awakening of whites. Recognizing that it took a majority or plurality of white Americans supporting or at least not standing against the amendment at a very divided time in our history, I'm forced to wonder if there is anything for which a plurality of Americans are willing to sacrifice, or at least not stand in the way of those who would. Specifically, leaving aside whether or not we would, is there any question of justice for which we will stand as a nation? In too many ways we are moving backwards, just consider that the Justice Department has endorsed the minority voter disenfranchising Texas gerrymandering and Georgia's voter ID program, which is essentially a modern day poll tax. Gonzalez has advocated for so many illegal and questionable actions by this administration. Actually it would be more accurate to say that he has found ways to interpret old statutes to justify criminal actions by this administration, from torture to seizing the phone records of Americans to threatening to prosecute reporters. When the White House is engaged in so much criminal activity, promoting legislation that divests Americans of full citizenship, and promoting normalized relations with oil dictators what does that do to us as a nation, to our identity? When our President is involved in illegal acts with no consequence we are no longer a nation of laws. When the law is so distorted or completely ignored what happens to our sense of justice?

There are two stories in the news that I think speak to that question: the stories of Orlando Bosquette and Tafari James. Bosquette was arrested for rape and sentenced to 65 years in prison. He escaped and was on the run for a decade, at times adopting the identities of men with criminal records or who were wanted by the law, sometimes admitting to their crimes. He was recapture in 1995, and through DNA evidence has been exonerated for the rape. Still he may be deported for crimes committed by his borrowed identities. Tafari James is an 8-year-old Brooklyn boy just charged with negligent homicide. He climbed into a parked school bus because he wanted to drive it, released the emergency brake. The bus began to roll eventually killing an 8-year-old girl. The situations could not be more different but they resonate for me and speak volumes about the realms they occupy in the criminal justice field, immigration and juvenile justice. This is a bad time to be an immigrant in trouble with the law. It's also a bad time to be black, young, and in trouble with the law. I've never met Tafari, but I know this kid, I've met him a hundred times. He misses school, sometimes goes unsupervised, but basically he's just a kid who makes poor choices. He is like the hundreds of 8-year-olds I've worked with. He is like me at his age. I remember my friend Scooter and I jumping into his mother's car to play. He pulled the gear and set the car rolling downhill. It came to a stop on the bumper of a parked car, but what if there had been a young child there? I don't know how either case will be resolved, or if it is even vaguely reasonable or possible to extrapolate the national sense of justice from them. But they do represent pieces of a larger puzzle. Unfortunately, from where I sit, the puzzle is impossible to see completely.


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