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Blind Justice by Michael Barton Miller, Ukiah County Courthouse, Mendocino, California

"We might usefully navigate using a guiding star without ever expecting to achieve it."

In LateStatusQuo, things have already fallen apart, though a society tends to engage as if they haven't. Yet. Revered traditions have become parodies of their former selves though almost everyone continues to play along. Once lofty aspirations have already evolved into mighty myths capable of sustaining themselves in spite of the clear absence of fresh confirming evidence. Disconfirming evidence itself becomes the enemy. People are judged by whether they're for or against us, and even mild support receives punishment as inadequately vigorous. The rule of law might still reign supreme, but subsequent rulings have successfully undermined the intention of equal justice upon which the law was originally drafted. The still revered 'equal justice for all' clause of the Pledge of Allegiance is amended to append 'worthy of equal justice,' for whole subclasses of once-equal aspiring citizens have become legally disenfranchised to make adequate room for those who deserve justice. Everyone else gets legally damned.

A man in Alabama might receive a decades-long prison sentence for stealing a loaf of bread while a shyster investment banker who bankrupted thousands receives a 1% slap-on-the-wrist fine as part of a deal with prosecutors which included no public admission of guilt. Some lives clearly don't matter.
A wealthy accused receives every possible benefit of even the most implausible doubts while an indigent defendant receives a fine amounting to several lifetimes' earnings, with jail time imposed for inability to pay, and room and board charged while incarcerated to ensure that he'll never again see the light of day as a free and clear man. When someone of means appears before the court, his attorney chastises the court for unduly persecuting the poor fellow. When someone of little means appears before the court, a hastily-appointed public defender apologies for the defendant before pleading guilty as charged, asking for consideration for time already served.

Nothing better illustrates LateStatusQuo in action than our current President, a man for whom a checkered past would represent a significant upgrade of his legal history. He's been repeatedly found guilty on overwhelmingly credible charges yet escaped any personally damaging judgment. The fines might seem huge by most people's standards, but amounted to pocket change for him and proved no deterrent from his deliberately incurring future infractions, which have continued unabated from his earliest days. He might actually qualify as the most persecuted man in the modern history of jurisprudence had he not willfully violated the law without once receiving anything more than a mild talking to, which he never once took to heart. He doubles down instead, further extending his envelope, double-dog daring the courts to try to rein in his excesses. In LateStatusQuo, the rules turn backward and upside down.

My old reliables seem much less reliable now. Perhaps encroaching old age speaks for me, since I know The much-vaunted System has been running thanks to the benefit of spit and rusty bailing wire since The much-vaunted Founding. The current regime in China insists that the new status quo involves unending foment without outright rebellion, that a properly-running society should be eternally on the edge of chaos. So much for domestic tranquility. Here, The much-vaunted Haves reportedly fear losing status at their high school and seem willing to induce chaos to sustain their imaginary superiority. Anyone asserting their superiority seems to undermine their argument by making their assertion. A true superior would not have to make so much noise reinforcing his claim made increasingly dubious by the smoke and mirrors he employs.

What can someone like you depend upon during LateStatusQuo, when what once passed for civil society slips into incivility as its norm? I can reassure you that civility will not quietly slip into place to create a New (and vastly improved) Status Quo. I can promise you without a shred of malice that we might reasonably anticipate considerable chaos just over the hazy horizon. This condition might rightly terrify us all. When Reconstruction deliberately degraded into wholesale Deconstruction in attempting to recreate an irredeemable Old Status Quo, better did not result. Our judicial system took a beating it's not yet recovered from as the law was summarily shifted from upholding rights and righting wrongs to maintaining privilege and wronging rights. A few continued to fight back, often at onerous cost, pursuing a dream which seemed unachievable, but only because it was. We could argue, civilly, about whether aspirations could ever become more than a guiding star. We might usefully navigate using a guiding star without ever expecting to achieve it. During LateStatusQuo, I'm called upon to keep my blindfolded eyes focused upon that star.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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