Just slap a white tunic with a red cross on it over my head and call me Crusader.
This was my response to Not Being a Victim. I'd been gotten before and by gosh not only would I never be gotten again, I'd work my tush off ensuring that nobody else got gotten either.
Instead of being stuck in a dysfunctional psychodrama in which I alternated between trespassee and trespasser, I set myself to the side in the role of avenger.
Then one day, in my hometown of Pleasantville, I awoke and the world was color. I realized that life wasn't a cheap melodrama in which we are locked into caricature roles. I grew to understand that instead we have complex characters, and the vantage point from which you view people and situations is everything.
I took a hard look at myself and observed that I perpetuated the cycle of violence, victimization, and victimhood by cementing myself into one role, and others into another role.
Most importantly, just as I finally grasped that money isn't the only currency, I had another developmental spurt, and comprehended that justice isn't limited to the court system and prisons aren't exclusive to large blocky structures in out of the way towns.
Justice is integral to a society. People need to know the rules, and the consequences for breaking them. People must understand that there is a line, and if you cross it, you are no longer welcome in polite company.
It's always my hope that nobody gets to the point of being removed from society. It's always my hope that we can prevent, or at least intervene, before it gets to that point. But the cracks are large, and many people fall through. This is our problem, our responsibility.
It's also always my hope that once someone has been removed from society they will accept the opportunity before them---despite its many challenges---to work towards freedom from their metaphorical prison while trapped within the literal prison.
The metaphorical prison being so much more influential to our actions, after all.
But too many people can't see that opportunity---don't get help seeing it---can't get past their own victimhood, to see the harm they rain down on others...to see how they themselves have morphed from victim to victimizer. And so the cycle continues.
Thus, we must incorporate forgiveness---a turning of the other cheek, simplistically and metaphorically speaking---to create life not trapped in the cycle of violence.
And what does turning the other cheek, forgiving, really mean?
It means turning your attention; it means viewing it from another angle; it means weighting it differently.
It doesn't mean evaluating the people and actions, designating one as right and one as wrong, and assigning reward and punishment, as justice does.
It doesn't mean accepting something as okay. It means being okay anyway, or being okay because.
It also doesn't require a grant. By this I mean it doesn't require one person to bestow forgiveness as a just reward.
Most importantly, it doesn't mean reconciliation with another person, although it does ask for an internal reconciling.
But first, we always ask, how could this have happened? Why? What can we do? and thus discussion runs circles around the key concepts of justice (which is public) and forgiveness (which is personal).
I say, when reaching for that answer about what to do, ask, "What will create a sense of hope and empowerment? And how can we keep that going, spread it further, use that to hopefully prevent...?"
In just a minute, I'm going to list some of the best bloggers around who address---in their very individual, but collectively thoughtful and eloquent, ways---ideas about justice and forgiveness.
But first, I'm going to tell you about an initiative that has recently attracted me. I learned about this through Naomi Judd. Don't ask. And if you know, don't tell. ;)
The initiative is Amnesty International's Imagine Campaign.
It should figure that I am initially attracted to anything musical, especially what is possibly one of my most favorite songs and poems ever. So while that garnered my attention---another reason why I love the tactic: the attention-grabbingness of it---it's the movement and action behind it that has held my interest:
Yoko Ono Lennon has given Amnesty International a wonderful and generous gift: the rights to use her late husband's song "Imagine" in a campaign for human rights. In her words:
"Those who know the song 'Imagine' understand that it was written with a very deep love for the human race and a concern for its future. It is about the betterment of the world for our children and ourselves. Like the song, Amnesty International gives a voice to the importance of human rights. And like the song, it has been able to effect change."
Imagine expresses the hope and idealism that inspire Amnesty International's vision: that of a world in which every person enjoys all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In its appeal to the power of imagination, the song echoes Amnesty International's faith in the power of the ordinary individual to make a difference.
That's Gandhi's influence: the power of one...never underestimate the difference one person can make.
(It amazes me that I lived in a world with both Gandhi and Mother Theresa. Who are their successors? I live in anticipation.)
Once we are all dignified with human rights, I think---truly---that we can enjoy justice, and forgiveness, and a non-violent world. Or at least one in which violence isn't the first---or last---response.
So what is the answer?
Some of the best minds around tackle this question. Prepare to have your mind blow, just a little. Mine has.
Now, without further ado, the Fabulous Bloggers responding to the call of Hump Day Hmmm's call to address Justice and Forgiveness:
Gwen at Woman on the Verge wrote This Little Light of Mine
Jen at One Plus Two wrote i choose neither
Chani at Thailand Gal wrote Cho Seung-Hui and Compassion....
Kaliroz at Fortune and Glory (after a cup of coffee) wrote Forgiveness.
Mary-LUE at Life, the Universe and Everything wrote Justice v. Forgiveness: Which is of Greater Necessity?
Aliki of World of One Thousand Different Things wrote Shame
Boogiemum wrote Justice v. Forgiveness - What I have learned…
K at After the Ball wrote Justice for Frogs
Sage at Notsosage wrote WWW XI: Ravin' Song
Atypical at Nonsensical Text wrote weighted in the balance...and found wanting
Bub and Pie wrote Forgiveness
Cece at It Is What it Is wrote ForJustiveness
Slouching Mom wrote:
Which is of greater necessity - justice or forgiveness?
Let’s pretend that Monday’s shooter did not succeed in killing himself. What would have happened? Obviously, there would have been a trial. He would have been convicted and sentenced to life in prison, if not to death. Justice would have been served to the extent that one believes that imprisoning someone is a punishment. Certainly if he had been sentenced to death, he would have been punished, although many of us would argue that the punishment in that case is highly immoral.
Had he been allowed to go free, part of the foundation for society would have been eroded, because we live together under the assumption that what holds for one person holds for all the rest. If that assumption is violated, there is no reason for people to choose to continue to live in a society. Living in a society requires certain sacrifices, sacrifices that people would be unwilling to make without the assurance that they would be treated no differently in a court of law than any other member of the society.
So justice is a necessary prerequisite for society and also helps maintain it.
Now what happens if a set of parents who lost their child in Monday’s shootings chooses to forgive the shooter? Forgiveness sets an example for other people. It shows others that human beings can transcend their individual circumstances, rise above individual pain and suffering. Forgiveness proves our humanity. Forgiveness encourages us all to strive to be more civilized and more generous, whether or not we ourselves choose to forgive.
So forgiveness helps maintain, and perhaps even elevate, society.
So which is more important? I’d reluctantly choose justice, because while justice is important to both the formation and the maintenance of society, forgiveness becomes a motivator only after a society has been established.
All that said, I’m more interested in forgiveness. Forgiveness is difficult, and, I think, rare. It requires subsuming one’s own pain and anger in favor of the common good. It is maybe the most humane gesture there is.