Insurrections have been staged in the past, even if we ignore the founding of this country. The Whiskey Rebellion is the first that comes to mind, followed by the Civil War. Even Occupy Wall Street or various attempts to break free from the global capitalist order could be interpreted the same. Justice is equality under the law, equal ability to participate in a system. Recent comparisons could be drawn between the WTO protests on April 16, 1999, Occupy Wall Street, 2011, Black Lives Matter, and January 6, 2021. Is there justice?
“the law is clear that First Amendment activity may not be banned simply because prior similar activity led to or involved instances of violence… The proper response to potential and actual violence is for the government to ensure an adequate police presence and to arrest those who actually engage in such conduct, rather than to suppress legitimate First Amendment conduct as a prophylactic measure.” (Collins v Jordan, 1997)
I find myself in agreement with the Pope about the right of man to steal life and a chance at redemption in this life from another human being. A state which has gotten things wrong so many times in the past has even less right. However, we do find that most crime is committed by people who have a prior conviction of some form. Since that is the case, then isn’t the primary responsibility of the state the protection of the innocent and most vulnerable among us? Rehabilitation is a difficult goal to achieve on occasion, but evidence of success may be necessary in order to ensure the safety of the community to be re-entered.
“Fear and resentment can easily lead to viewing punishment in a vindictive and even cruel way, rather than as a part of a process of healing and reintegration into society. Nowadays, ‘in some political sectors and certain media, public and private violence and revenge are incited, not only against those responsible for committing crimes, but also against those suspected, whether proven or not, of breaking the law…There is at times a tendency to deliberately fabricate enemies: stereotyped figures who represent all the characteristics that society perceives or interprets as threatening. The mechanisms that form these images are the same that allowed the spread of racist ideas in their time.’ This has made all the more dangerous the growing practice in some countries of resorting to preventative custody, imprisonment without trial and especially the death penalty.” (On Fraternity and Social Friendship, Pope Francis, 134-135)
It can be difficult to see people as connected to ourselves the further they are from us and our community. How can someone from New York or Delaware understand how we feel in rural communities all the way across the country? It takes a willingness to unify as a culture, community, and people. This country was founded by outsiders, and continually refreshed by immigrants who find themselves outsiders in their home country. Even so, all societies try to maintain themselves. To do otherwise is cultural suicide.
“The aim for all these outsiders, however, is to incarnate their authentic selves, while recognizing that spreading their ideas among ‘the normal’ may require compromise. It’s a type of co-optation that keeps us constrained by allowing us to loosen our strictures - but only slightly, within limits that keep dominant powers safe.” (Republic of Ousiders, Alissa Quart, XV)
Most people are outsiders to some group, whether that be something like a school clique or political party or gender or what have you. When one feels isolated from the social structure, it can feel like a party that is keeping you down and out. When one finds oneself unable to participate by means of barriers erected to favor one group or another, it can seem an insurmountable climb to achieve the good life. If that is the case, then why would one wish to support the hierarchy? Why not just burn it down and hope that what grows from the ashes is better than what was there prior? It takes a kind person to open the gate and let the outsider become an insider, and to appreciate the diversity of opinion and background any individual can bring.
“What is the good life? An individual life cannot be comfortable and easy or creative unless it is in harmony to some degree with the society in which it lives. The individual must have a sense of community with the state. That is where we began. And that today is impossible. We tend to think of the good life in terms of individual well-being, personal progress, health, love, family life, success, physical and spiritual fulfillment. The whole point is that far more than we are consciously aware of, these are matters of our relation to society.” (Modern Politics, C.L.R. James, 109)
Very few crimes, if any, deserve death, and death in prison seems to me a death sentence. You are supposed to have earned it, typically by ending the life of another, or treason, or some other extremely harmful act. If justice is served, then all people who do the same or similar actions receive similar punishments. Burning and looting buildings would have the same punishments, regardless of the external identifying factors of perpetrators. Sometimes it seems that the hammer comes down harder on people based on the political climate of the day.