by NONA BLYTH CLOUD
I’m just an old ’60s peacenik, so I believe there is no true peace without justice. Yet what is Justice? To me, it means we all get a fair chance – everybody gets something, but nobody can grab too much. And the Law is applied to everybody without fear or favor.
In these hard times, there are too many days when Justice seems unreachable.
Dead my old fine hopes
And dry my dreaming but still . . .
Iris, blue each spring
― Shushiki (1668-1725), daughter of a rice cake maker, married to the poet Kangyoku, whose mentor was Enomoto Kikaku, notable disciple of the great haiku master Matsuo Bashō.
In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery? – Saint Augustine
It is impossible to struggle for civil rights, equal rights for blacks, without including whites. Because equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air: we all have it, or none of us has it. That is the truth of it. – Maya Angelou
by Langston Hughes
That Justice is a blind goddess
Is a thing to which we black are wise:
Her bandage hides two festering sores
That once perhaps were eyes.
“Justice” from The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes –Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was born in Joplin Missouri. American poet-author-playwright, social activist, novelist, and columnist. After working his way to Europe as a ship’s crewman, he spent time in Paris, and London, then returned to the states, spending time in Washington DC, where he met Vachel Lindsay, who helped him gain recognition. He became one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance in New York City.
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
– Frederick Douglass
Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.
– Coretta Scott King
“Justice Denied In Massachusetts” is Edna St. Vincent Millay’s response to the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian immigrants who were anarchists convicted of murder and robbery in 1927. Harvard law professor and future Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter argued for their innocence in a widely read Atlantic Monthly article. And he was not alone in his opinion. Like many other liberal artists of the day, St. Vincent Millay thought their convictions were based on political and xenophobic prejudice. But more than this, she saw this miscarriage of justice as part of a growing complacency in American society, taking liberty and justice for granted.
Justice Denied In Massachusetts
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Let us abandon then our gardens and go home
And sit in the sitting-room
Shall the larkspur blossom or the corn grow under this cloud?
Sour to the fruitful seed
Is the cold earth under this cloud,
Fostering quack and weed, we have marched upon but cannot conquer;
We have bent the blades of our hoes against the stalks of them.
Let us go home, and sit in the sitting room.
Not in our day
Shall the cloud go over and the sun rise as before,
Beneficent upon us
Out of the glittering bay,
And the warm winds be blown inward from the sea
Moving the blades of corn
With a peaceful sound.
Stands the blue hay-rack by the empty mow.
And the petals drop to the ground,
Leaving the tree unfruited.
The sun that warmed our stooping backs and withered the weed uprooted—
We shall not feel it again.
We shall die in darkness, and be buried in the rain.
What from the splendid dead
We have inherited —
Furrows sweet to the grain, and the weed subdued —
See now the slug and the mildew plunder.
Evil does overwhelm
The larkspur and the corn;
We have seen them go under.
Let us sit here, sit still,
Here in the sitting-room until we die;
At the step of Death on the walk, rise and go;
Leaving to our children’s children the beautiful doorway,
And this elm,
And a blighted earth to till
With a broken hoe.
“Justice Denied In Massachusetts” from Collected Poems (Edna St. Vincent Millay), © 1956 by Norma Millay Ellis – HarperCollins Publishers
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) was born in Maine, graduated from Vassar College in 1917, and published her first book of poetry that same year. She became a well-known poet and playwright, with a strong feminist sensibility. She was the third woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1923, for The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver.
Every social justice movement that I know of has come out of people sitting in small groups, telling their life stories, and discovering that other people have shared similar experiences. – Gloria Steinem
Justice and judgment lie often a world apart. – Emmeline Pankhurst
by Rudyard Kipling
Across a world where all men grieve
And grieving strive the more,
The great days range like tides and leave
Our dead on every shore.
Heavy the load we undergo,
And our own hands prepare,
If we have parley with the foe,
The load our sons must bear.
Before we loose the word
That bids new worlds to birth,
Needs must we loosen first the sword
Of Justice upon earth;
Or else all else is vain
Since life on earth began,
And the spent world sinks back again
Hopeless of God and Man.
A People and their King
Through ancient sin grown strong,
Because they feared no reckoning
Would set no bound to wrong;
But now their hour is past,
And we who bore it find
Evil Incarnate hell at last
To answer to mankind.
For agony and spoil
Of nations beat to dust,
For poisoned air and tortured soil
And cold, commanded lust,
And every secret woe
The shuddering waters saw.
Willed and fulfilled by high and low.
Let them relearn the Low.
That when the dooms are read,
Not high nor low shall say:-
‘ My haughty or my humble head
Was saved me in this day.’
That, till the end of time,
Their remnant shall recall
Their fathers old, confederate crime
Availed them not at all.
That neither schools nor priests,
Nor Kings may build again
A people with the heart of beasts
Made wise concerning men.
Whereby our dead shall sleep
In honour, unbetrayed,
And we in faith and honour keep
That peace for which they paid.
“Justice” from Kipling: Poems, 2013 pocket edition from Everyman’s Library
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) English author, poet and journalist; born in Bombay, India to British parents. In 1871, he and his 3-year old sister were put in the care of a couple in Southsea, England, and didn’t see their parents again for five years. At 12, he went to the United Services College at Westward Ho in North Devon. At 16, he returned to India to become a journalist, and also filled seven volumes with stories about his experiences in India. At 24, he came back to England, and quickly became a literary celebrity. He married an American, Caroline Wolcott, and moved to the U.S. in 1891, where he wrote The Jungle Book and most of Captains Courageous, which added even more to his popularity. In 1899, the family moved to Sussex, England, where he wrote Kim, Just So Stories, and Puck of Pooks Hill. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907. Because his work was so associated with the zenith of the British Empire, which was already declining by the time of his death in 1936, literary and historical opinion about Kipling’s work is deeply divided. He remains a consummate storyteller, and much of his work continues to be popular with the reading public.
Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as first it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens. – Plato
- Blind Justice
- Corn damaged by frost
- WWI battlefield, shelled in 1915
- Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis ― photograph by Kerem Yucel
Word Cloud photo by Larry Cloud