I know you’re here for comic relief.
But considering the anguish and strife in the country the past few weeks, joking around feels heartless.
So I won’t.
Because I have a heart, and I know you do, too.
So let’s discuss.
I used to be a lawyer, and I’ve written over 30 novels, all of which are about justice. I was also an adjunct law professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where I developed a course titled Justice & Fiction. There, I taught novels about justice, like the seminal To Kill a Mockingbird. And I also consider myself a patriot who loves this wonderful country, which is founded on core ideals about justice.
Chief among them is equality.
Equal treatment under the law, regardless of race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin.
That's what I believe in.
Atticus Finch, the fictional lawyer created by Harper Lee, told us as long ago as 1960, when the book was published, that the laws of this country were not always applied in an equal and just manner. Then, the notion was considered controversial, but part of the reason the novel has endured for so long is that it rang true. Sadly, it still rings true today.
I've thought about these issues for the last 30 years, working through them thematically in my novels, and here is what I believe:
Justice is a form of love.
Love and justice make you feel the same way inside.
Connected, one to the other. Like we belong, together.
And if we perform every act with love, we will inevitably do justice.
So the distinction between love and justice makes little difference.
The human heart doesn’t bother with semantics.
Atticus Finch tells his daughter Scout: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
It’s a good definition of empathy, isn’t it?
I don’t know what it's like to be black, but I can imagine, and I have a duty to do so. Because white people must no longer tolerate injustice to black people.
How to fix it?
Last week, I saw an interview with the Rev. Robert W. Fisher, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, who said, and I paraphrase, “If you’re not listening with the thought of changing your mind, you’re not really listening.”
I agree. I think that listening is the beginning, but only the beginning.
Action has to follow, to change anything.
In the last few weeks I’ve listened and I’ve acted, in my own ways. And I will continue to do so.
We have to fix a country we all love, once and for all.
We have to change our laws, in order to do justice. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, in a 1963 speech at Western Michigan University, “It may be true that law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless.”
It’s time for America to show its great, big, loving heart.
Justice delayed truly is justice denied.
The same is true of love.
The moment for both, long overdue, is now.