Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Word on Justice

Yesterday, Mouse wrote a blog "J is for justice". to the rescue says, "Justice: to act or treat justly or fairly." I posted a comment yesterday on her site that said:

"You reminded me of one of my favorite quotes today: Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. Merle (another blogger) said that justice follows easily when human dignity is our yardstick. That word, "easy" sticks in my throat. Did you know that the US spends more on bird food than the homeless? My mom says that's because birds are pretty and the homeless don't fly away. May justice start at my house, teaching my children to love mercy and walk humbly..."

I've been thinking about this ever since. In my opinion, justice might be obvious, but still, it ain't easy. When I was on, there were two idioms for justice. The other one was "Bring To Justice-to cause to come before a court for trial or to receive punishment for one's misdeeds: 'The murderer was brought to justice'." Perhaps when some of us are discussing justice, minds go toward this end of justice. Feeling righteous, they intend to issue punishment for a misdeed.

I am speaking of the justice from the beginning of this post, to treat fairly. Justice is such an interesting word and I've come to believe how you see Justice with a capital J depends on where you're standing, which side of it you're on. Are you responsible for giving it, or do you hope to receive it? Ever since seeing "The Golden Child", (Eddie Murphy, 1986), I believe that "justice has survived, while compassion died". "Les Miz" is another good example of justice being twisted to do harm.

But back to the quote from yesterday. The American Birding Association states that over 63 million Americans feed wild birds at home, resulting in $2.5 billion spent on bird seed, feeders, baths and nesting boxes, (US Dept. Interior 1993 survey).

Answering the question about how much the federal government spends on homelessness should be as simple as summing the total expenditures for homeless assistance programs. Homeless programs, however, do not fit neatly into one federal agency; instead they are spread across several, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Education (ED), and the Department of Labor (DOL). Perhaps this is part of the problem?

The Union Gospel Mission used $209 million in 2004 as its basis for the statement that I repeated on Mouse's site. This is an order of magnitude off: a warning sign that we're not even in the ballpark for addressing this issue. When I received this data in 2004, our household stopped buying birdseed, but left the bird feeders on our deck as a visual reminder that brothers and sisters are sleeping outside tonight. It is also visible from the desk where we pay bills.

Again, I hope that justice, treating others fairly, starts at my house, teaching my children and perhaps the occasional student to love mercy and walk humbly.


  1. Wow--so well said--& human dignity does have to be the yardstick for justice to make sense, but you're right, it's important to put our money where our mouth is, or at least take tangible action--volunteering, etc. Very good post--a lot to think about.

  2. What a fine dissertation on a word whose meaning is misinterpreted and manipulated so much. Excellent post. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.


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