Term Paper: Domestic Homicide in South Carolina

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[. . .] How can there be any consensus about either truth or justice - or the relationship between the two - in a place like El Salvador?

The answer to this depends almost entirely upon one's own beliefs about the nature of governance and of human rights. If one were fortunate to believe in the divine right of monarchs, then one argues that it is the monarch alone or the modern equivalent, the military dictator - guided by God - who has both the wisdom and the power to institute laws. Those on the progressive left end of the political spectrum argue that only the most democratic institutions possess the wisdom and the right to make decisions for the group as a whole. But as good as this sounds, Maier (2002) reminds us that is not this simple when trying to bridge the differences between "hot" and "cold" memories and to bring together a population in which most are innocent and a few are horribly guilty but many are not quite guilty but certainly not entirely innocent.

The difficulty of a single, relatively short-lived governmental body being able to restitch a sundered society can perhaps be better understood if we compare a place like Chile to the United States, where there is profound disagreements about the ways in which our society should be run. Oliver Wendell Holmes (quoted by Joseph P. Lash) argues with absolute truthfulness that we - and this we is the government of any nation - practice law rather than justice for there "is not such thing as objective 'justice'." In a democracy the law shifts from one era to the next, trying to reflect and create as great a consensus as is possible - but always leaving a large number of people outside of that consensus. And people who are left out - at least in a democracy - often take action to try to bring their own concepts of justice to bear. This will inevitably be true even in the presence of commissions that are designed to circumvent - or at least channel - such impulses.

That which is not just is not law," argued William Lloyd Garrison, and there are a number of ways in which Americans who believe that the nation's laws are not just can act to try to bring those laws into accord with their own idea of justice. Americans may participate in civil disobedience - intentionally breaking laws that they do not believe are just to bring attention to these laws and so (they hope) to change them. This was, of course, one of the ways in which members of the Civil Rights Movement acted; it is today often used by environmental activists.

But what does such a maxim mean in a place in which there can be no true justice because so many hundreds and thousands and perhaps even hundreds of thousands of people who deserve compensation for the terrible things that have been done to them are now dead and beyond the jurisdiction of a commission or a nation. What is justice for those who are beyond everything, even pity?

Neither the law nor conceptions of justice are static: They change as the culture changes, as history allows for different types of crimes, punishments and, remedies. They are rarely the same - and never the same for all of the members of a group. So long as justice remains an ideal (even when the concept of justice is acknowledged as subjective) human societies will continue to develop systems of law designed to make human society as just as possible.

But those systems will again and again be challenged by the dictators and torturers and racists - and no number of truth commissions can prevent (or at least so it seems) the next massacre. "No justice, no peace," shout people at demonstrations for a variety of causes across the nation and across the world, and while many of us have considered this to be a pretty catchy slogan it is also true that most of us have not stopped consider what exactly the implications of such a slogan would be.

The promise of the truth commission is the promise of distributive justice, a philosophy based on the idea of a strict or radical equality, which is simply the idea that every person in a society should have the same level of treatment - something that each person deserves because as a part of our human birthrights we are owed equal respect, and one measure of this equal respect is that we all participate equally in our society.

We all deserve justice. We all deserve truth. But this is not possible, for we all have different pasts and not all of us are capable of receiving justice for what has been done to us. Perhaps those of us who cannot receive justice must settle for truth - which may be enough so long as we - and the truth commissions… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Domestic Homicide in South Carolina.  (2003, November 12).  Retrieved March 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/domestic-homicide-south-carolina/1518783

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"Domestic Homicide in South Carolina."  12 November 2003.  Web.  19 March 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/domestic-homicide-south-carolina/1518783>.

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"Domestic Homicide in South Carolina."  Essaytown.com.  November 12, 2003.  Accessed March 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/domestic-homicide-south-carolina/1518783.