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  • Andre Lamartin

Scales of Justice

Justice is the righteous treatment of human beings, the fair adjudication of disputes and the lawful judgment of alleged offenders in accordance to equitable universal standards set by democratically elected governments. Nowhere have I seen this concept applied to the level of perfection demanded by Justice. In many cases, authoritarianism nullifies it completely. In other cases, the simulacrum of democratic governance conceals disparities so great that justice becomes just another good bought and sold in the marketplace. Such is the fallibility of human justice that it sometimes becomes an oxymoron. This is the lesson a child taught a man.

As a child, a relative took me to a fast food restaurant that served the biggest hot dogs in town. Our dinner was interrupted when a homeless child stopped by our table asking for food. The unforgiving life of the streets had emaciated his body, mind and soul. His eyes projected a downcast desolation that no child should ever know. A life scarred by an abomination that corroded his very soul. A disillusioned child is a broken man forever longing for a home, searching for a safe place where he can finally grow young. The child before me had already grown old. My smiles were his tears, my joys were not his own.

My relative commanded me not to share my food. The child´s family brought him there to elicit pity nearly nude. Tomorrow he would beg again, never once attending school. To encourage this kind of behavior was to perpetuate the never-ending cycle of abject poverty. One that could not be resolved with donations. My heart told me to share. The law told me not to spare. I settled the dispute giving him a small portion. This solution satisfied no one. The child´s hunger was unabated, my conscience remained heavy, and my relative angry at the disobedience. What became of this child I know not. But this was a moment I never forgot. Some are born to sweet delight. Some are born to endless night. This I learned not from William Blake. This I learned that awakening night.

When law school later taught me the myriad laws that protected the young, this moment came to mind. The man did not hesitate to voice the concerns of the child. Between what the law states, and what reality dictates, there is the abyss of daily Brazilian life. One that engulfs children and adults alike. Black letter laws that rarely see the light of day. Invisible to the naked eye, morose in every way. The violence that rules the streets is but a consequence of this fact. The dreams described in statutes always fade to black, as the ink of daily life becomes a bloodstain left in red.

Justice is not an end, but a means in itself. To bring about the reign of peace that would spare us all from hell. Ending the war of all against all over the same piece of ground, when there is more than enough to go all around. I should have given that child all I had that day. So much more did I have, than he could ever take away. A family, a home, and love to guide me along my way. All he sorely lacked, which I could not replace. A man should always listen to what a child has to say, the language of the heart sometimes fades along the way.

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