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Monday, April 16, 2007

... Justice for all

Student pledging to the flag, 1899.Image via Wikipedia
The Pledge of Allegiance, which American schoolchildren learn to recite by rote, has been the focus of much controversy, especially the "under God" emendation. The controversial aspects stem from the nationalistic sentiments and the religious connotations, which are far from universally accepted in our politically correct society. But the closing tripleton of words, arguably the heart of the Pledge, can withstand the most politically correct scrutiny. And the soul of that tripleton is the singleton Justice.

In the past year there have been countless instances of perceived injustice, reflecting almost as many points of view as there are viewers of points. One that has captured virtually universal infamy is the so-called Duke Lacrosse Scandal. This case study for the seductiveness of public indignation and outrage, a reflection of the vehemence with which seemingly all points of view are held today by their devotees, offered a perfect storm of circumstances for a lynching: racial slurs and counter slurs; political and idealogical motivations; the reputation of a great university, and that of its faculty, students, and governing body; the privileges of the wealthy; the disadvantages of the poor; the perceived arrogance of the privileged class; the perceived outrage of the downtrodden; the outspoken pomposity of the self-righteous; the fabrications and exaggerations of the muckrakers; and the mad dash by everyone perceived to be at risk to cover their collective mass.

Many organizations behaved as badly as those individuals who should have known better. At the heart of this personal ordeal for the three students whose lives had been placed in mortal jeopardy, as everyone who is not comatose realizes is the common fate of those incarcerated in the jungle that is our prison system, was the guiding principle of our great American system of justice: the presumption of innocence. The correct public demeanor in this, as in all such cases is one in accordance with these students' presumed innocence until, and only if they are proven guilty in a court of law.

Many fell short of that ideal. If there is something to be learned by all Americans, if not the civilized world at large, from this sorry mess having many villains, I can not think of any more pertinent to the very survival of our way of life than the sacredness of the presumption of innocence. There has been a significant lapse in the public pledge of allegiance to this golden rule of justice. This is the time to begin the healing process by publicly acknowledging that lapse.

Post 1 ... Justice for all
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