03 May Justice
On the flight from JFK to Stockholm I watched Clint Eastwood’s movie on Richard Jewell. If you’re not familiar, Jewell was a security guard with Atlanta’s Summer Olympics in 1996. While on duty at Centennial Park, he spotted a suspicious backpack under a bench, brought it to the attention of the police who brought their bomb guy who discovered three pipe bombs. The bombs detonated before the area was cleared, scores were injured, and two died. In the investigation that followed, Jewell went from a hero to suspect in a week’s time. Jewell likely had a learning disability and was obsessed with police work. In his spare time he read, discussed, and thought about police work. He’d also been fired from his campus security job, and a police department because his obsession had become unhealthy. When the FBI and media looked into his background they immediately assumed him guilty. Jewell’s story is tough to watch because justice seems to slip through the hands of practically everyone that’s supposed to protect and honor it.
Watch “Richard Jewell” and think about how you felt when you read the news that Jewell went from hero to prime suspect overnight. Remember how the press treated him? His mother? Were you also guilty of assuming Jewell was? It’s easy to demand justice, and in today’s world, it’s almost a requirement for many employers. But do you really want justice for everyone or just someone? Because if we demand justice for that guy, surely someone could demand justice for my, or your past transgressions. I don’t know about you, but that’s something I could live without. Imagine a third party wanting justice for every mistake I’ve made as a son, student, husband, father, neighbor, Chef, or business owner. No thank you.
What you, and I really desire is mercy. I want my sins and mistakes forgiven, I want to be unbridled from their weight and be able to look forward to the new day and know that yesterday’s grievances are already in the past, and I’d bet you feel the same way. When I was here in March, my desire for justice burned inside of me. And I hated everything even remotely Russian and that hatred and desire for justice sent me to my associate rector for therapy. This war feels so very medieval and if you believe we live in an age of enlightment, this brutal act of aggression juts out of humanity’s “kindness matters” labeled timeline like an iceberg in a pond. However, I believe justice will eventually catch up to Russia and it may not happen on my, or your schedule.
In the meantime, I can offer mercy in the form of a sandwich and a bulgur wheat salad. I can help carry luggage up and down the stairs of a train station, and offer a sympathetic ear or a warm hug when a Ukrainian physicist breaks down in tears on the train. What I can offer is mercy. Maybe I won’t see justice delivered to Russia or Putin, maybe I will. At times the world has been, and will be a terrible and frightening place and there’s little we can do.
Jewell received mercy from attorney Watson Bryant and eventually justice did come to Richard Jewell. It just didn’t happen on his schedule. The wheels of justice will eventually catch up to Putin, and for now I’ll have to be content with making sandwiches while we all wait for justice.
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