20 November 2021 | Iniustitia vincit omnes
Like a lot of other people, I have various thoughts and opinions about the stupefying verdict in Kenosha, Wisconsin. No need to rehash particulars, much less refer to the killer by name, but it’s times like this when my opinion of justice seems a lot like the poster in Fox Mulder’s basement office: I Want to Believe.
And to make another pop reference, I’m starting to feel like the protagonist in the final scene of “The Believer,” who is making his way up the stairs of his old religious school trying to get to the roof. On each floor landing, he encounters a friend, telling that maybe his interpretation of the story of the binding of Isaac was right, that Isaac had actually died on Mount Moriah. Ignoring him, the protagonist continues to the next floor. This repeats a few times and finally the friend asks him, “Where do you think you’re going? Don’t you know? There’s nothing up there."
The fading sound of footsteps and then cut to black.
These interesting times—as we witness increasing threats of political violence and the erosion of democratic values—make me feel like the protagonist. Running after this thing I want to believe in, and need to believe in. We are conditioned to accept that there is a reality to Justice with its capital letter, whether it’s the random finding of bones on an out-of-the-way trail that leads to the solving of a decades-old murder, or some universal force bending to the side of right to conclude a generational struggle. This keeps us going; it’s the thing we appeal to as we convince one another not to give up.
It also reminds me of the old Jewish saying that a man comes into the world with an “Oy!” and leaves with a “Gevalt!” The latter is a word that defies exact translation, but as one writer noted, it’s like “Help! Robbers!” A plaintive cry against the injustice of it all, but an apt description of how life often turns out. And this verdict feels like that. But it’s one bad verdict in a world full of them, and it won’t be the last.
Might there a civil suit? I hope so. Might there be federal charges on...something? One can hope for that, too. But to a large extent, the damage has already been done, eagerly lapped up by the worst among us. And it all feels like the title of this essay: “Injustice conquers everyone.” And yet, we still keep running up those stairs.
But don’t we know? There’s nothing up there.