Thursday, July 28, 2011

With Liberty and Injustice for all?

A few months ago, my 8-year-old cousin asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  When I told him I wanted to be a lawyer, he made a disgusted face and said, “All lawyers do is get bad guys out of jail.” I couldn’t help but smile, because that’s exactly what I thought as an 8-year-old. As a child, I would have never considered being a lawyer; law always looked so corrupt. In my mind, lawyers were rich old men in suits like the man who lived across the street, and they all lied to get their money. (And as Mom always said, lying was bad.) But like they say, you can’t help who (or what) you fall in love with. And I, well, I fell pretty hard for law.

I don't know what it was exactly, but I think the first thing that attracted me to law was the way all the lawyers I met spoke about law – with romanticism, respect, and complete faith. And through them, I’ve developed a similar respect for the law, and the way it guarantees equal access to justice for all men and women, regardless of race, or color, or age, etc. But that’s what you learn in the classroom; that’s the way the law was designed. In reality, however, the application of law is far from equal.

If you dig deep down into the issue (not that you have to dig very far), you find that people wrote the law, and people have been shaped by their own biases and preconceptions. So it logically follows that these prejudices will flow through into the policies that they design, and the legislation they support.

Why, after 9/11, have the airport security screening policies of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) evolved to promote racial and religious profiling against men and women who wear turbans? When people standing in line at airport security constantly see people that wear turbans go through mandatory tertiary screening, a negative stereotype is created, and profiling by the federal government is just reinforcing that negative image.

Why aren’t there laws accommodating articles of faith in places like schools, courtrooms, and other public places? By denying access to courtrooms, men and women are being denied their constitutional rights of due process, and basic rights such as free exercise of religion.

Why is Hungary so close to passing a Religion Law that will contradict all European Court of Human Rights decisions by essentially de-registering three hundred minority faiths from status as religious organizations, subjecting all members of minority faiths to a possible ban on their religious freedom and a rejection of religious rights solely based on discrimination?

How can laws promote discrimination and inequality? Wasn’t the law meant to prevent injustice?

I can’t help but think that my 8-year-old cousin was onto something when he scrunched his nose at the mention of law. The law, as beautiful as it is, has a nasty underbelly. People will always scrunch their noses at the mention of law for as long as there are corrupt people in this world, but I won’t give people the chance to scrunch their noses at me. All I know is that I’m not going to be one of those rich old ladies who lie to get all their money. All I hope is that I can be part of the effort to attack the law’s underbelly and stand up for the little guy, because in the end, the law was meant to provide justice for all.

No comments:

Post a Comment