High Route, Approaching March Storm . . .
On the road in the American Northwest.


Justice neither looks forward nor backward. In my view,
that would be to make the fundamental error of placing
justice in the stream of time. Justice, it seems to me, when
seen as a formative principle guiding our ethical actions,
is essentially timeless. Think of it this way: Justice is the
motionless, neutral center that balances the two sides of
the judge's scale.

Justice is about the imbalance caused by wrong action;
it is not, in my view, about retribution, or punishment, or
answering pain with pain. These are mechanical reflexes
of what might best be called the animal or brutish brain.
Justice is now, or should or must be now, a very much
higher principle. I would argue that justice is first and
foremost about truth, and about coming by means of
cool, reasoned debate to the common ground of a
shared perception of what that truth is.

An implication of this view of justice as timeless is that
great wrongs of the past, such as colonization by force,
or the wholesale destruction of natural preserves for
monetary gain, or the deliberate corruption of the
democratic process, do not just go away because we
choose to ignore them. Rather, these wrongs remain
active in an insidious way, rather like massive troubling
presences looking down on us from a spiritual or
intellectual realm, until they are somehow resolved.

Resolution comes first and foremost by squarely facing
the world camera and telling the truth. That is why I think
the current Obama White House might greatly contribute
to establishing a new trust in the rule of law not just in the
United States but in the world as a whole—an ethical
imperative if ever there was one—if they might reconsider
their evident intention to, when it comes to bringing to trial
misdeeds of past administrations, drop their understandable
but mistaken intention of "moving forward." Justice, in my view,
neither moves forward nor backward. It does not, in fact,
move at all. It simply waits, like the neutral, unbiased center
of the judge's scale, until the evidence is weighed, and
the truth is told.


See that guy over there,

under the bridge?

He was Commander & Chief.

They took away his stars.

The other guys don't like him much.

He gave the orders.

They dropped the bombs.

In Hell-on-Earth, they stand

around and share the same fire.

He's at the bottom

of their ladder of honor.

The bottom.

Hell has its rules, as Virgil knew.

The others tell him their stories.

He still doesn't listen.

They recite by heart on cloudy nights

the speeches of the commanders of Troy

as they breached the ramparts guarding the Greek ships,

that real men have a duty

to fight with the men they command;

They sing verses from Mutter Courage;

And repeat again and again Vonnegut's

healing reverse of

the fire-bombing of Dresden,

planes flying backwards,

weapons deconstructed,

laid to rest in the Earth.

He still doesn't listen.

He never did.

He gave the orders.

They dropped the bombs.

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Snow Wiki Camp,
Eagle Cap Wilderness,

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Snow Profile at
2000 m.

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Photograph by Cliff Crego © 2009 picture-poems.com
(created: I.25.2009)