Lady Justice: Removing the Blindfold that is Corruption

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The idea of how justice should be has been an essential component to every civilization, dating all the way back to Greek and Roman times. This conceptualization filled the thoughts of such great minds as Aristotle and Plato, and it is for this reason that the Greeks developed the allegorical personification of Justitia, or Lady Justice, to embody the moral forces at play within the judicial system. While the judicial system as represented through the artifact of Lady Justice has played an integral role in American society, the corruption inherent in this organization demonstrates why the artifact of Lady Justice would serve as an appropriate representation of our nation in rebuilding a hypothetical collapsed society. In so doing, the remaining survivors can pursue to rebuild a model that is free of said misconduct, as they remind each other of its significance, as well as the ways that we were misguided in the previous structure.

In the mid 1800’s, French writer and historian Alexis De Tocqueville was sent on an expedition to the America’s to observe what qualities had allowed the American system of Democracy to flourish when compared to the likes of that of France’s very own form of Government. According to Tocqueville, it was the defining characteristics such as individualism, equality, liberty, Democracy, nationalism, capitalism, and rule of law, which had permitted for the country to be as prosperous as it was in this regards. That being said, this description illustrates how vital justice has been in the formation of America’s culture, in that essentially one half of these ideals are those pertaining to some aspect of justice. This fact is further bolstered in the fact the founding fathers of this once great nation found it of such pertinence, that they gave the matter its own article within the Constitution of the United states, in that the third article of this historical document guarantees that individuals charged with wrongdoing have, “The right to a fair trial before a competent judge and a jury of their peers  (U.S. Constitution).” While the  various values pertaining to justice have ostensibly formed the American lifestyle, the corruption inherent within the system since its foundation cannot go overlooked.

When discussing why he did not believe that there should be a black history month, African American actor Denzel Washington noted, “Black history month is essentially America’s history. Do you want a white history month? I didn’t think so. The best way to stop racism, is to stop talking about it (Washington).” On a rudimentary level, the statement raised by Washington identifies America’s macabre reality, in that while we pride in our sense of justice and freedom, that our history is one that is built upon the institution of slavery and indentured servitude, both of which go far beyond the context of the ideals this nation claims that it stands for. Not only that, but the paradigm of slavery has been so deeply ingrained within American society, that it was the very causation for a bill that declared one minority group in specific, namely that of African American’s as only three-fifths of a person, which was the direct result of the Civil War. Despite these facts, slavery and race relationships were still a concerning issue well into the 1950’s, and is arguably an issue that is still present today, as there are those that maintain that in today’s society, race relations have recessed some twenty years. With everything kept into consideration, it is irrefutable that the American culture that Tocqueville spoke of was that of a warped perspective that favored one ethnic group in specific, and that was oblivious to the detrimental contact zone in which it was provoking; that is, a justice well outside of the realms of any real sense of fairness or equality. Although America’s dark history provides more than ample evidence as to how our justice system is subject to corruption, the fact is further bolstered and substantiated in the observable notion that our culture has allowed for wrongdoings to be paid off through wealth, power, or one’s influential identity.

In the Harvard University collegiate article entitled, “Political and Judicial Checks on Corruption: Evidence from State Governments,” through, “The Journal of Economics and Politics,” authors James Alt and David Lassen argue, “Empirical findings suggest that the effect of an accountable Judiciary is stronger under a unified government, where the government cannot control itself (Alt, Lassen).” Essentially, the stipulation made by Alt and Lassen suggests that a more unified government and judicial branch, one where justices were elected rather than appointed, would be associated with less corruption than is observable in today’s society. Even more concerning, is that noticeable corruption in our justice system has created for a culture based on fear in today’s modern society, which has been a more recent trend following the Watergate scandal with the Nixon administration. Joseph Simon argues this point in his book, “Governing Through Crime: How War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear,” as he writes, “In this new order, values like freedom, justice, and equality, have been revised in ways that prior to the 1960’s would have been shocking, if unimaginable to the American people (Simon 5).” In today’s modern civilization, these cases of apparent corruption within the system include, but are not limited to such instances as the O.J. Simpson trial, and even more recently, the controversial FBI investigations surrounding both Hillary Clinton, and Wells Fargo banks. In all three exemplifications, those parties involved have miraculously found themselves out of more pressing legal issues as a direct result of either their money, wealth, power, or individual identity, where the average individual would not be allowed these type of special rights, and is a concern that goes against the very institution that created for the symbol of Lady Justice, and the ideology behind justice in and of itself.

Given the circumstance of a hypothetical collapse of American society, the conceptualization of justice would be an essential variable in rebuilding what is left of civilization for the remaining survivors. It is for this reason that the artifact that is Lady Justice would serve as a wonderful representation of what life was like prior too. She would serve as a reminder of importance of justice to the American people, while at the same time, serving as a precautionary warning of the ways that Justice become corrupted if left unchecked. In this way, she can once again stand for all the values in which caused for her creation back in the fifteenth century; the type of justice that is only blindfolded as to greet justice objectively, in that she is without fear or favor, regardless of money, wealth, fame, power, or of one’s identity. A justice who wields her sword of justice as a symbol of her strength, power, and her impartiality, and who bears her scales out of balance, fairness, and equality, and that is only blinded only through said objectivity through the apparatus that is justice. Hopefully, through this endeavor, those remaining may tip the scales of justice back into order, so that these values are apparent, and purified for all people. After all, one can argue that the purpose of these constructs was to make sure that there is balance, fairness, equality, order, and the likes amongst all people, so it is only right and just to see to it that they carry out their function.

A.W.

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