The Distinction Between Justice and Vengeance


          The American “justice system” does not, in fact, dispense justice. What it does is exact vengeance upon those who have done society harm. (Whether that harm is tangible, or merely a violation of some collective moral code.)

          The difference between justice and vengeance is quite important. The definition of “justice:” “just behavior or treatment”. The definition of “just” (for our purposes): “based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair.” The definition of “vengeance”: “punishment inflicted or retribution exacted for an injury or wrong.” (Source: online dictionary)

          What we have in place is rarely fair. People whose crime is basically having no money, such as homeless people, can be charged with vagrancy and asked to pay a fine that they literally could never afford. The “crime” of prostitution (which is not against Path doctrine) results in jail time on top of monetary penalties, even though, in most cases, no harm has been done. The same is true for other victimless crimes, including possession of controlled substances. (The American War on Drugs has been fought in all the wrong ways, and imprisoned the wrong people.) It’s also unfair that a single conviction will follow an individual for their entire lives. If a felon has done their time and paid their fines, let’s all agree to let it go, and stop asking that question on job applications.

          As far as morally right, that definition changes depending on who you ask, which is problematic from a legal standpoint. Some things we can all agree on. Murder, for example, is objectively immoral, but we can’t even agree on what constitutes “murder.” A vegetarian will tell you that eating meat is “murder.” An anti-choice activist will tell you that abortion is “murder.” But neither of these should be penalized as murder. Many people consider sex work immoral, mainly due to our complicated and somewhat prudish views on sex in general. But the vast majority of sex work harms no-one. (Human trafficking, of course, is immoral, as it is forcing somebody into sex work against their will, which violates their bodily autonomy.) Drug use is somehow considered immoral, so we’ve made drugs illegal, although all that really did was fill our prisons with users and let the drug lords go free. (You can be a drug user and also a productive, contributing member of society. But anyone who kills or orders to be killed other human beings, like many drug lords do, should be prosecuted as a murderer.)

          What we get isn’t justice. It is vengeance.

Reverend CJ Carlin




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