THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
REMEMBER WHEN THAT TERM MEANT SOMETHING?
Kinda Has An Orwellian Ring, Now, Doesn't It?
When I was a wee lad, The United States Department Of Justice were an awesome thing, oh, aye, it were. This was before we all canned to the crimes of Nixon and Mitchell and Hoover, and Reagan and Meese, Bush and Ashcroft. This was back when the FBI were Untouchable G-men who protected us from gun-totin' gangsters, nazi sabateurs and commie spies. And then they became really heroic, in the 60s.
We children watched on TV as kids just like us were refused access to public schools, because they had dark skin. We didn't understand this, being children of relatively decent, liberal parents. It frightened us to see peaceable black people being set upon by dogs under the control of... the police??? But, but, the police are our friends, right, Mom?
The Chief of Police in our little town lived right across the street. We used to play with his kids. Our Pee-Wee League baseball coach was a cop, and he didn't always let his own kid play shortstop, either. This was America the way it was, before the conservatives fucked it all up, making enemies out of friends by denying some people their rights. Rights, heck, they treated them unfair, it wasn't nice. Nice people just didn't DO things like that. Setting dogs on people. Did they? Mom?
We were scared, and even a little angry, and confused. Wasn't this great country of ours, this big imaginary place that we learned about in school, and saluted the flag of EVERY day, wasn't it a GOOD place? Well, Mom said, yes it was. We just have to make it a little better place. And some people are not nice, but the rest of us just have to make up for it. Well, what could we do? Mom wasn't sure what we could do about stuff way down there in Arkansas, or Mississippi, or Alabama, or Georgia, or South Carolina. But she knew one thing. President Kennedy would do something.
And, sure enough, he did. Those were the days when you could count on a President of the United States of America to do the right thing, no matter what. Democrat or Republican: Eisenhower had sent Federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, when I was just a toddler, to help "Negro" kids go to school. It was just the right thing to do. Any President would have done it, same as Lincoln, or Roosevelt, or those other guys whose silhouettes we cut out of construction paper in school, on their birthdays. That was their job, we figured. Protecting people from bad stuff.
Kennedy sent the Department of Justice down there. The Department of Justice. Boy, that had a nice ring. JUSTICE! It sounded like a word from the Bible. A strong word. A word that meant something. I wasn't sure what. I looked it up in my fathers's Merriam Websters Third New International Collegiate Dictionary. It was a pretty good book, better than the Bible even I figured, because it had ALL the words in it, not just The Word; and it was better organized, alphabetically. It said Justice meant
1 a : the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments b : JUDGE c : the administration of law; especially : the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity
2 a : the quality of being just, impartial, or fair b (1) : the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action (2) : conformity to this principle or ideal : RIGHTEOUSNESS c : the quality of conforming to law
3 : conformity to truth, fact, or reason : CORRECTNESS
Yup, pretty Biblical. So, here, there was this big department, which I figured was like a big store, like Macy's, only without any stuff in it, just a bunch of offices, like my Dad's, at work, full of people doing the right thing. Boy, that sounded good. This government of ours was a GOOD thing. And those lawyers and marshals and FBIs all went down there, and without firing a shot, they made those schools let those "coloured" children in. You couldn't hear what they were saying in the scenes on TV, but it must have been pretty good. Because all those mean sheriffs stood aside and let those "negro" kids go to school, without any big dogs trying to bite them, or anything.
They must have really liked school, those kids, to want to go through so much just to get in there. I was pretty impressed by those "coloured" children. I figured I could afford to get to school a little earlier, and stay a little later, since there wasn't even anybody trying to stop me. Because I knew it must be VERY important, going to school, for those kids to take so much trouble for it. And for the whole United States Government to want to go down there and help them out. I had this feeling, that if you worked hard, and played by the rules, any kid who was good in school might grow up to be President some day. Because this was America, a good country, where everybody gets a fair chance, even if they're black, or poor, or even from Arkansas. Because we have a WHOLE Department, all for Justice.
Well, that was then. This is now. The President of the United States tried to stop people from voting. And he sent a bunch of "observers," lawyers, I guess, to watch the polls. Whether they were there to help, or hinder voters, we don't know. We'll see, I guess. Maybe they'll remember the good and brave deeds of their predecessors in that Department of Justice, and do the right thing. Maybe they won't. It's pretty sad when you don't know which side they're going to be on, those people from that Department of Justice: Right or Wrong.
I feel sorry for the kids today. Especially those "coloured" ones. To have to see their parents go through all this again, even in the North. It ain't right. It's not fair. It isn't just. It's not American, the way I grew up. Back when, even voting wasn't for "Just Us."
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