(motto of the District of Columbia)
(pron = yoo-STIH-tee-ah OHM-nih-boos)
comment: My daughter and I had a conversation recently about what is "fair". We
disagreed. Her definition of fair was identical treatment in two different
situations (I buy her a car when she turns 16 just as I bought her sister a car
when she turned 16). My definition of "fair" was a response that fit the
Car buying and parental angst side, our conversation reminded me of this
phrase--justice for everyone, and how even that phrase can mean so many things
to different people.
I must confess that I have been deeply influenced by several strands of wisdom
that are with me to this very moment on the meaning of "justice". As a
seminarian at Emory University in the 1980's, I read the works of H. Richard
Niebuhr whom I will not try to quote perfectly, but from whom I learned to
think about "responsibility" as the ability to respond authentically to a
particular set of circumstances.
>From the still revolutionary documents of the Second Vatican Council,
particularly The Church in the Modern World (though, I fear, terribly ignored
these days by the Church and others), I learned that justice means that
everyone gets what he/she needs not only to survive, but to thrive.
>From the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, I saw the insistence that
this same idea, getting what individuals need to survive and thrive, could be
articulated in very concrete terms: a right not only to food, clothing and
shelter, but to an education, to adequate health care and the freedom to move
across borders in order to pursue justice.
>From Buddhism, particularly the work and teachings of Thich Naht Hanh, I learned
that we are not isolated individuals, but that finally we are all part of a
connected web. To reach out and offer comfort and aid to another is to brinng
comfort and aid to myself, because, we are not separate selves.
>From modern environmental and neo-pagan groups, I have learned to view the earth
as a living organism, and all that grows on her as part of her body. What is
justice for a tree that kept the air clean and the soil in place for 100 years
when a new strip mall goes in? What is justice for fish whose rivers our lawn
fertilizers runs into? What is justice for the family who sits down to a fish
Justice work--it can literally begin anywhere we want it to. And it is never
(Used with permission)
Latin Proverb of the Day is now available on the web.