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COLUMN-Let justice be blind!

Building-Bridges“I can’t breathe! These three words have come to symbolize a growing movement in the United States –– over the last few weeks –– against excessive and brutal police force. These extreme actions have resulted in the deaths of several young black American men.

But what has compounded the issue is the acquittal of the police officers involved. The argument is justice is not done nor seen to be done in any of these cases. The protesters rightfully call for justice and fairness in the system and an end to racial profiling.

These incidents highlight the fact that the United States still has many ghosts to confront when it comes ethnic and racial profiling and justice for all. Sadly, with all the gains in race relations and an African American president, there is still a long way to go, especially for African Americans.

In the last week, coincidentally, a report also came out speaking to the excessive use of torture against persons at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and in other parts of the world, by the CIA and other United States operatives. This report addresses the atrocities committed against people accused of involvement in terrorist activities, resulting, in some cases, in the death of the interrogated.

The report is an eye-opener to what some in a nation that promotes “freedom and justice for all” will do when they feel themselves above the rule of law. Those who justify this type of behaviour have argued that it helps the United States.

The reality, however, is that many of those people who were tortured were in fact innocent, having no connection to terrorist organizations. Several detainees who have now been released from Guantanamo, after spending over a decade there with no charge or trial, had no connection whatsoever to 9/11 or any other terrorist attacks.

The lack of fairness, justice and the seemingly brazen way in which innocent people are treated by those who boldly proclaim democracy, rights and freedom for all emboldens some others to go beyond the rule of law and human morality to claim justice and respect. Two wrongs for sure don’t make a right; and repelling evil with better is the higher ground. But a disillusioned, disgruntled and oppressed individual is likely to think of getting “justice”
by any means necessary.

The bigger nations in the world today need to come to grips with the causes of many of the world’s dilemmas –– from terrorism to global warming. What are the underlying reasons for many of these issues confronting humanity? No simple answer, I am sure, will be found; but a lack of justice and fairness will factor very highly in the causes.

It is quite regrettable that the history of the human race has been and continues to be one in which there seems to be the need for one to have the upper hand over the other. It is a constant battle for human beings to live in goodness with one another and not exceed the boundaries of what is fair and just.

We must all stand firmly for truth and justice, even if it is against ourselves or our own people –– a difficult requirement at times, but one that each and every human being should have inculcated and earnestly strive to practise.

In the last week, as well, the world commemorated the first anniversary of the death of Nelson Mandela. His life was an embodiment of the struggle for justice and fairness –– first, for his race, and then for all of South Africa; and, understandably, humanity at large.

His autobiography Long Walk To Freedom speaks to the life of this legend of humanity’s recent history. An important read if we are to truly understand what makes some human beings stand out above the rest –– as well as what it means to truly struggle for truth and justice, and also what it takes to be successful at such a struggle.

In the foreword to Long Walk To Freedom, President Bill Clinton recalls asking Mandela to describe his long walk from prison to president. He responded: “When you’re young and strong, you can stay alive on your hatred. And I did, for many years.”

Then one day after years of imprisonment, physical and emotional abuse and separation from his family, Mandela said: “I realized that they could take everything from me except my mind and my heart. They could not take those things. Those things I still had control over. And I decided not to give them away.”

As our small nation grapples with gun assaults and other forms of violence and physical abuse, we also must as a people seek out the underlying causes. Our struggles are different, but struggles nevertheless.

Our young people have strength and vigour. Unfortunately for some, these are misdirected, tending to appreciate the seemingly glamorous lifestyle of the gangster, rather than the architect seeking to build a country whose bounties we can all enjoy.

We can all pray, hope and struggle for peace, guidance, truth and justice for all of humanity –– and not just for ourselves.

(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace and secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association.  Email

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