Justice Is All About Rights

If a child is hungry we have an obligation to see that he or she gets food. While people may be inclined to be unjust, society has arranged it so we have rights, which further justice.

When I became a police officer one of my objectives was advocating justice for people. It's a popular social concept; after all, nobody supports injustice. I now realize that although most people praise justice, many have not attained it. Justice still remains a "hope".

Fundamentally the rich are unjust to the poor, the powerful are unjust to the weak, the poor and the weak are unjust to each other.

The most important element to remember about justice is that it is all about rights and obligations, e.g., if a person has a right, others have a duty to honor it. If I have a right to life you have an obligation not to kill me; if you have a right to your property I have an obligation not to steal it; if hungry children have a right to food we have an obligation to see that they get it.

In one way or another we are all obligated to the rights of others because we share our humanity. Over time society, through government, religious institutions and the courts, has arranged things so that individuals and groups respect each others' rights. In so doing, justice can be measured and judged.

In my desire to advocate for justice I found that it would be lacking if we are not just in our own hearts.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Pam DeFiglio December 05, 2012 at 07:57 PM
I am grateful that the United States and many other democracies have made great progress in the last century in ensuring people, including women and minorities, have rights. It doesn't mean that justice exists yet for all, but it's progress. I hope we all live to see the day when non-democratic regimes grant their people full rights.
Jac Charlier December 06, 2012 at 03:55 AM
Thanks for the interesting blog post, something you do not see too often. The article seems to approach justice from a legal framework i.e. rights, obligations. There are other understandings of justice such as social justice, criminal justice, economic justice, etc...that offer a different perspective on this word. In fact, the word itself, depending on the language in which it is used, can mean anything from justice (right vs. wrong, the law) to mercy and compassion. Again, thanks for posting about such a critical issue for our democracy, indeed for all people.
Pat Craig December 06, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Justice is defined as the quality of conforming to law. When you talk about the "justice system" you are speaking about a "process" and not a quality. Justice is not about "fairness" it is about following rules, (laws). Rights are certain "natural", (or if you prefer "God-given) things.The application of the process of "Justice" is like the application of ANY law, (ie. the laws of nature). For example, the natural law is that a body will be attracted to the core of a larger body, (the "law" of gravity). It has nothing to do with emotion, or fairness. Nature doesn't care whether or not it is fair that a suicide goes "splat" on the pavement. The "law" is applied impartially. Governments don't grant "rights". What governments do is grant "privileges" or "licenses". Rights cannot be abridged or taken away, privileges or licenses can. It was President Gerald Ford who said; "Any government that can give you everything you want, can take everything you have." I believe that the original poster has confused "justice" with "morality", which is a horse of a completely different color. “Morality” refers to a code of conduct that applies to all who can understand it and can govern their behavior by it. The term "social justice" falls under morality and not justice. It is a subjective thing and the original poster was correct in stating that it won't work until it is practiced internally. Justice can be legislated, Morality cannot.
Park Ridge Taxpayer December 10, 2012 at 05:13 PM
To follow on Pat Craig's comment: Mr. Giovannelli either confused "justice" with "morality" -- or perhaps "rights" with "responsibilities".
Jac Charlier December 11, 2012 at 04:30 AM
Pat - Thanks for the posting. Justice is indeed about fairness if your definition does not precede from a legal point-of-view. Justice as confirming to the law is only one understanding of justice. It was legal but unjust to declare that African-Americans were property and that women could not vote. Both conformed to the law, both went against fairness. Social justice, economic justice and political justice have little to do with legality but are about fairness (different than equality). As for impartiality, attempted by humans, probably not achieved too often but absolutely worth pursuing. Governments do indeed grant rights. Our own rights are contained in the Bill of Rights, without which each state in our great Union would have its own rights for their citizens. Our own rights have changed over time and will likely continue to change. Think, for example, about the Patriot Act which has changed government's rights in the last decade alone. Different cultures and governments have different rights. Natural law, while a powerful concept to support or oppose something, is based first on the belief that their is some universal reference point which directs things and that a person believe in that universal being. While I believe it, others may not and so the support fades away. Whose truth then? Yours or mine or somebody else's?


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