Saturday, June 13, 2020

Just This Last Time

When I first saw this picture, it caught my eye because of the mis-drawn peace symbol, the center line should bisect the circle completely. This was the sort of thing that would have raised people's ire back when I was in college; the accusation would have been that the news outlet (National Public Radio, in this case) had deliberately run the picture to cast the protestors as stupid and uneducated. Now that I'm older, I suspect that it's the juxtaposition of the sign and the Capitol building that's the draw, but I still found myself sighing. But still, I understand the intent; a semi-visualization of the common protest chant: "no justice, no peace."

Implicit in that threat there is a promise; that if there is justice, there will be peace. The question becomes: Is it believable? I can't remember where I first read this (I may have noted it in an earlier post, though), but a boot on someone's neck can be a problem for both parties involved. While it's fairly clear (and perhaps never more so than in the recent past) why having a boot on one's neck is a problem, the person who owns the boot may also have a problem. To the degree that they fear retaliation, they may feel trapped, needing to leave their boot on the other's neck today to a avoid being punished for it being their yesterday. And as each day the boot is there is added to the tally, the incentive for it to remain grows, rather than lessens, over time.

And this neatly intersects with "no justice, no peace." Because in order to be effective, even in a situation where the accused oppressor understands that they've done wrong, it has to imply "no ongoing payback." If peace is merely a state in which the tables are turned, one thinks that it wouldn't seem very peaceful. And in a situation where the accused oppressor believes that they have done nothing wrong, it's even more difficult. But in either case, "no justice, no peace" is at least somewhat predicated on the idea that once violence has been proven to work, that it will end. This is a heavier lift than I think that people give it credit for.

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