Most of us have seen depictions of Lady Justice, a female figure holding a sword in one hand and the scales of justice in the other. Portraying Justice as a female figure dates back to ancient Greek and Roman images. In Roman mythology, Justicia (Justice) was one of the four Virtues along with Prudence, Fortitude and Temperance. Themis, who was known for her clear-sightedness, was the Greek Goddess of Justice and Law. The scales represent impartiality and the sword symbolizes power. Somewhere along the line a blindfold was added to emphasize Lady Justice’s evenhandedness and lack of prejudice. Personally, I like her eyes open. I think justice is best served when we see clearly and are simultaneously open-minded about what we see.
Not long ago a friend of mine became an auntie of a precious little baby boy. Everyone in the family loved the child and wanted the best for him though they were concerned because his parents were scarcely more than children themselves. A few months later the unthinkable happened –the baby was found dead in his crib. An autopsy deemed the cause of death undetermined and so toxicology tests were ordered while the family waited, holding their breath. A couple months later the cause of death was reported as “unsafe sleeping circumstances” –meaning that the baby had suffocated in the large bed pillow upon which he slept.
The father, already seen as a looser because he was immature and irresponsible, was blamed immediately because he was the one present when the death occurred. Even if it was innocent negligence, the family found it hard to swallow –let alone give him the benefit of the doubt though it could have just as easily been the young mother to find her lifeless child. Stricken with fresh grief “like he died all over again”, the family is struggling with how to cope with such enormous loss and the accompanying anger, and to find and offer forgiveness.
When needless tragedy happens, the human hearts seeks to make sense out of what, in fact, is senseless. We feel a need to blame someone, shame them, and punish them in order for justice to be served. And surely there is fault and neglect and any number of other missteps that can be drudged up if we continuously troll the bottommost part of the occurrence. Just think about the unfathomable and unprecedented disaster in the Gulf of Mexico –we can’t quit thinking about it! And news broadcasts are broiling with anger, blaming, shaming and cries for punishment.
In the process of seeking justice, will we intensify and immortalize our accompanying anger until it so poisons us that it shortens our lives and ruins any future happiness for ourselves and our families? Can we remain clear-sighted, evenhanded and unprejudiced as we seek answers, solutions and recovery? Will we allow ourselves the necessary balancing of Prudence, Fortitude and Temperance?
Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just. ~ Pascal
300 year old statue of Lady Justice overseeing the "Well of Justice" at Frankfurt´s Roemer Square, Germany