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Whence Justice?

April 12, 2004

My brother and I began our trip to Arizona by driving through the Valley. Between Poncha Pass and Villa Grove, we passed the flashing lights of a state trooper.

I thought, “Good heavens, how fast do you have to go to get pulled over in the Valley?”


At least, that’s what Officer Sid claimed. In fact, I was going 75, which we proved later with mile markers and a watch. But, in my defense, I had thought I was going 72 at the time.

“That’s still speeding,” said Officer Sid. My wife said the same thing.

But, but … but it’s not 77. I was annoyed. How many times had I driven that fast and been tailgated and passed? Where was justice then?

The day before, traffic had been going that fast on I-25 between Denver and Colorado Springs, with cars bumper to bumper and a considerably poorer road surface. Where is justice?

There is none, my brother said; then he sipped his coffee to disguise his smile.

Whence comes this notion of justice? I mean, I broke the law, got fined, but still I felt unjustly treated. It may have been cheap rationalization, but sometimes our sense of injustice is simply indignance at the truth.

We were stopped again by a park policeman in Coronado National Monument. He was coming down a pass too fast and was even partly in our lane on the bend, but he saw fit to turn around and stop us for exceeding the “clearly marked” speed limit of 20 mph.

He said “clearly marked” several times. OK. We checked. There were signs coming down, which he should have obeyed, but not a single one going up. “I’m gonna write a letter!” I grumbled. But I got over it by dinnertime.

Justice is something we make in the world, but life is too short to pursue it at every turn. However, we Americans enjoy that opportunity. Short of living under an omniscient and benevolent dictator, American citizens enjoy more opportunity for justice than most of the people who have ever lived.

May Day also happens to be Law Day, a celebration sponsored by the American Bar Association. We don’t plan any particular celebration of it at the library, but I took note of it for the first time, even though it’s been observed since the 1950s. Perhaps we’ll review our law shelves.

We’ve added 29 law books in the last 6 months: “Nolo’s encyclopedia of everyday law,” “Preserving your wealth: a guide to Colorado probate & estate planning,” “Citizen’s guide to Colorado water quality protection.”

“Individual retirement arrangements,” “Taxes for dummies,” “A legal guide for lesbian and gay couples.”

Backordered is “Land use in a nutshell.” There’s a good topic for perceived injustice.

But as I said, justice is something we make. The first time I was ever stopped for speeding was in Howard. I was still a neophyte driver of the canyon. I pulled over.

The trooper asked, “Do you know you were going 57 miles per hour?”

“No,” I said. “As best I could tell, I was going 55.” I was secretly annoyed at his petty accounting.

I waited. The trooper just stood there. And he stood there. Looking at me. Deciding. At last it dawned on me. “Oh,” I said. “What’s the speed limit?”

“Forty-five,” he said.

“Ah,” I shrugged. Not much to say. But I got a warning. Justice, or the milk of human kindness? You decide.


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One Comment
  1. Vicky permalink

    Dear Jeff:

    My friend used to ask me that if some people always try to defame you, to put a curb to any opportunity you have pursued, and almost put you into miserable situation, and then what will you do? My reply is that I will invite them to read this book of Esther of Bible, to see what is Haman’s fateful end? His evil plot which tried to destroy Mordecai and all Jews, to the contrary, the curse came home to roost and ruined his own life.

    God has his plan and his vision is long – term, but as a human being, ours is short – term; nobody knows what is God’s plan, so, why not just leave justice to God?

    I have an improvised haiku of “justice”, and would like to share it with everybody —


    Crying for revenge?
    Better leave room to God’s wrath
    Justice in God’s hand!


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