The USA’s Founding Fathers were neither the mythically pure characters symbolized by the old cherry tree legend nor the evil black-hearts epitomized by more recent revelations concerning siring children with slaves. Instead, they were each fiercely independent, intelligent, and complex people who, together, did the seemingly impossible: negotiated a settlement on wording for a national Constitution that began with two dichotomous assumptions, (1) that all people have the ability to choose to live objectively honorable lives; and (2) recognizing that not everyone will make honorable choices. Just as it is with wise parents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, et al knew that setting oppressive policies for ALL citizens would guarantee that NO citizen could ever become a victim to many of the most common types of harm that occur in less restrictive societies. At the same time, they also realized the negative factors of subjecting a country’s citizens to such tight control far outweighed the benefits. For this reason, they sought an alternative solution by taking a cue from God and defined a system that (1) protects every citizen’s right to individually exercise their natural free will; (2) encourages good decisions by awarding citizens in a variety of ways for their good choices; (3) discourages bad decisions by imposing negative consequences on the person(s) whose choices cause harm to others; and (4) provides means for victims to recover in some way and to some extent, that which they’d been deprived of by the wrongdoer.
The theory behind this system of justice was absolutely brilliant and admirable. Unfortunately, just like the adduced advantages of God-given free will failed to enable mankind (as a whole) to learn from the poor decisions of others and evolve to the point where we no longer make bad decisions, the US Constitution and justice system have failed to eliminate crime and have likewise been unable to guarantee that every victim will even be recognized as such, much less fairly compensated for the harm they’ve suffered. Not being privy to God’s intentions, we can only surmise whether free will has worked as He originally intended or whether the “Groundhog’s Day-effect” of every human-being starting from scratch upon their own birth was an unintended consequence of the fact our intellectual and emotional experiences are only saved to a single-lifetime Virtual RAM disk rather than to a shared public “ROM” that’s large enough to accumulate every conscious and unconscious memory from each and every previous generation.
Despite this short-coming, we have nevertheless learned to accept those limitations without feeling overtly frustrated or disillusioned. In contrast, frustration, disillusionment, or even harsher emotions are all too often the reaction of many Americans who have experienced the realities of our judicial system in practice. I suspect this is not only because victims who’ve turned to that system looking for protection and justice often end up suffering even greater harm despite the built-in safeguards because those with the authority to enforce the rules failed to do so for one reason or another. Worse yet, is how often victims find themselves forced to bear a grossly disproportionate share of the negative consequences brought on by the wrong-doers’ bad acts while the real law-breaker gets to walk away relatively unscathed.
So does this means our Founding Fathers screwed-up or that our judicial system is inherently and irrevocably unjust? Personally, I don’t believe those conclusions are supportable. Accepting that no human-designed system (be it a system of justice or of anything else) can ever be expected to always work perfectly, I believe that the core presumptions, goals, and theories underlying the system of the US Constitution, laws, rules, adjudication, enforcement and remedies offers the best opportunity to make sure there is an absence of complete chaos and an absence of total oppression, all while still affording the greatest amount of individual freedom possible for all those who choose to live in any society where they are not the sole member. But Ideals and theories aside, I certainly know first hand how wretchedly our system can fail when victims are ignorant of the possible pitfalls or are otherwise powerless to avoid those pitfalls when the “The Powers That Be” (i.e. police, lawyers, judges, etc.) make poor decisions of their own which, intentionally or unintentionally and end up failing to protect the innocent and award the guilty instead.
The good news is that there IS a solution. The bad news is that the degree of success it can achieve is solely dependent upon the proportion of individuals from both sectors of our society (meaning those who are members of “the powers that be” and those who are not) that make a solemn commitment to simply and at all times, in all circumstances, live by The Golden Rule. All that is required to make our system of justice functional is to have a greater percentage of our population with the will to make such a promise and the guts and integrity to ensure that rule serves as the final, inner governor of every decision they make. What’s required to improve our system is merely a matter of changing the existing ratio to increase the number of those who are committed to giving more than lip-service to The Golden Rule. Sounds too simplistic to you? It’s simple, yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s not do-able. But don’t just take my word for it. Test my theory out by committing yourself to…
Do Unto Others
As You Would Have Them
Do Unto You
and by holding others accountable with your voice and your votes. To borrow and append a political campaign phrase (coined by the party not of my choice),
One person and one step at a time,
Together, We Can Do It!
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