Give Each His Due – Thoughts on Equality and Justice

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Thus begins the second paragraph The Declaration of Independence, issued on July 4, 1776, illustrating the ideal before demonstrating the ways the British government failed to uphold it. American citizens have zealously defended the concept of ideals ever since.

An ideal is not a pie-in-the-sky idea

where people who lack real world experience live with their puppies and unicorns. Ideals speak to the longing inside us, the sense that there is more than this, there is a better way. When we encounter things in this world that open that ache inside us to a knowledge of something bigger than ourselves, these are the transcendental. They are the true, the good and the beautiful.

The sense is not a passing emotion, an illusion in smoke, but an inkling to the thing that is actually true. Reality exists, whether or not I acknowledge it.

Equality is part of that reality, that all persons are created equal. They are equal in some deep mysterious way, whether or not I choose to recognize it, and whether or not I act accordingly. The fact, just, is.

Equality is

“the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities. ‘an organization aiming to promote racial equality.’”

The Oxford English Dictionary

This definition implies cooperation among members of society, which I would refer to as equal treatment under the law. However, we are equals, whether or not the law and its treatment would have it so.

Since this reality, justice, then, becomes the virtue which, according to Aristotle “man renders to each one his due” (Summa II.II.58.1).

He does not merely “render” it, that is “provide or give” but renders it “by a constant and perpetual will.” This justice, this act for receiving his due is willed and desired and brought about by choice. The equality exists, but it is the action of justice that seeks to make sure the equality that exists is manifest in society.

When one’s equality to others is not manifest, then the desire of justice and one’s focus will shift to the unequal treatment in order to bring justice about. A focus on one group does not mean equality it not supported, but that justice demands effort in the face of this inequality, and effort requires words and maybe slogans.

I cannot get there without some external set of ideals and beliefs that exist beyond my own making. I cannot get there if I decide what is right and wrong by my own mental effort. I cannot get there if “anything goes” so long as I harm no one.

I need a system of belief that make sense, that is in touch with the reality, that exists whether or not I recognize it or act accordingly, I need a system of belief that will help me understand and interpret the present action in our country.

Not everyone acts according to these ideas, and there is a reason for that.

“One of the greatest gifts we can give someone is to actively listen to their story and to try to understand their experience. It’s another way of saying, ‘You matter. You are loved.’”

Julia Hogan, LPLC

Their actions maybe incomprehensible to me, their position may be incomprehensible, but they have a story and an experience. The act of listening to it, to respecting it as equally as I would want my story and experience listened to, will take us to the next level in this ideal we are trying to reach, in which all persons are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights, right no one bestowed on them, they possess them simply because they, as persons, exist.

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