Justice Is A Long Haul

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November 24, 2021, Grapevine, TX- “The best beloved of all things in my sight is justice.”-Baha’u’llah.

Tonight, after sundown and all day tomorrow marks the 109th observance of the Day of the Covenant, a day set aside by Baha’is to honour the life of ‘Abdu’l-Baha. This happened because He was born on May 23, 1844, which was the very day that al-Bab, Herald of the coming of Baha’u’llah, declared His own Mission to the world. ‘Abdu’l-Baha would never have countenanced anything on His behalf which would have taken even a smidgen of attention away from honouring al-Bab, on that day. He acquiesced to letting the Faithful devote one day a year in honour of His life: November 26, by solar reckoning. When we switched to observing several Holy Days by lunar reckoning, there came about circumstances when the Holy Day falls a day or two before 11/26.

The Covenant between Baha’u’llah and His followers, of which ‘Abdu’l-Baha was the chief Exemplar, is an agreement rooted in justice. Divinely inspired justice is hardly a matter of an imagined deity tossing lightning bolts at miscreants or any kind of deus ex maxina, for that matter. Like its more human derivative, true justice is a process. and a therefore a long haul.

I mention all this because there are times when a person who commits a moral failing, but not a criminal act, may be found innocent of criminal wrongdoing, by a jury of peers and continue to suffer within self and within the wider society. History is replete with such cases, and no names need be mentioned here.

There are also cases where a person, or people, are found guilty of criminal wrongdoing, by a similar jury and the wider society finds agreement-with a minority of people begging to differ. We saw such a verdict rendered today. The matter in question took a long time to resolve, as several commentators have observed, with some further allusions to the ongoing investigations into the affairs of January 6.

Justice is a long haul. The perpetrators of the murders of Emmett Till and of Medgar Evers, as well as the killers of the little girls in the Birmingham bombing of 1963, were brought to justice with all deliberate speed-but the convictions held. The alleged assassins of John F. and Robert Kennedy and of Martin Luther King, Jr. were brought to swift justice-either judicial or vigilante, but were they the sole killers-or even the actual ones, or were they just convenient scapegoats? I have my doubts, especially following the recent revelations regarding the assassination of Malcolm X.

The justice which meshes with that described by Baha’u’llah is potentially an arduous process, one that merits careful contemplation, on this Day of the Covenant, which leads us into the American Thanksgiving. That it is so, does not diminish its importance in our lives.

The Content of Their Character

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January 18, 2021-

In the decades recently passed, we have seen the most consistently proven of truths and facts dissected, disputed and set on equal footing with the most outlandish and refutable of falsehoods, all in the name of false equivalency and moral relativism. Very often, this is done in the name of preserving a social system which itself depends on hierarchy.

So it is, that the importance placed by Martin Luther King, Jr, in his 1963 speech at the Lincoln Memorial, in Washington, D.C., on “the content of their character”, with respect to the judgment people make of one another, has become the speech’s second centerpiece, after “I have a dream…” As important as character is, it is not grounds for ignoring all other aspects of a person’s being. Character, indeed, can change-and hopefully for the better, with edification and growing awareness.

Thomas Jefferson’s hidebound, fear-laden writings, which denied the ability of enslaved African-Americans to produce intellectual works, such as Phillis Wheatley’s volume of poetry, could be said to betray a lack of character on his part. The flaw, however, and other parts of his character, would later be balanced, however, by his producing the Declaration of Independence, and contributions towards the United States Constitution.

Abraham Lincoln’s anger towards Native Americans, a product of his coming of age, in a contested area of the Midwest and his assessment that enslaved people were 3/5 of a free citizen, would be challenged by Frederick Douglass, and others, leading to the Emancipation Proclamation, and a pardoning of Sioux warriors-the latter largely ignored by military officers on the ground, in the High Plains.

Character matters, yet it must be, as Lincoln also said, affected by “the better angels of our nature”. A rogue can be edified, tamed and redirected to be a person of willing service. A charlatan can be, albeit through consistent retribution for misdeeds, made to regard others in an honest and loving light. The great figures of the Twentieth Century-Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mandela, Churchill, and King himself, all had roguish tendencies, in their early years, negative qualities that were, to a greater or lesser extent, subsumed or overcome, by a draw towards advancing the common good.

So it is that, when individually assessing another person, in the age of instant judgement and cynicism, looking towards that person’s better angels becomes imperative, both for the mutual good of the judge and adjudicated and for the common weal.

The Road to 65, Mile 52: Service

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January 19, 2015, Prescott-   This morning was taken up with a short march from Prescott College, to a circumambulation of the Yavapai County Courthouse, then to a nearby Methodist Church.  At the church, there were bagels (“California-style”, which means untoasted), cream cheese and assorted fruit, with choice of hot beverages.  We then enjoyed a fine performance by the St. Luke’s Ebony Christian Church Choir, from Prescott Valley, and an address by their pastor, Reverend Michael Cannon.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s brief life of intense public service is the impetus for this day being held up as a National Day of Service, and Mr. Cannon’s admonition was for each of us to examine our own commitments.  He himself sounds like a man who lives each day in such commitment, judging from the accounts of others.

I have committed myself to acts of service to others, for some time.  Many of these are part of an organized effort.  Others are spontaneous and random, as a given day unfolds.  I don’t really see myself as selfish; nor as a hero.  Day by day, each of us can serve others, from the unsung acts of a dedicated parent, or caregiver, to the First Responder working to bring peace to a disastrous scenario.

There is one thing about service, though, that needs to be borne in mind.  It cannot be forced, nor can it be smudged by those who impose the pain of guilt on others.  Last night, several of us were given an indirect message that we were not doing enough to ease the plight of the homeless, and of a few shut-ins who live in a nearby community.  My reaction is, there is always more to be done, in a suffering world.  It cannot, however, be imposed upon us from the masters of guilt.   I trust that everyone who has good in their hearts will work, in some way, to relieve the suffering of those around them.  So it shall ever be.