Liberty and justice. The two words every American has proudly chanted, shortly before finishing with “for all” in the Pledge of Allegiance. The two words I’ve chanted again and again, ecstatic at the chance of praising such a great nation allowing for such privilege. The two words that define America. But, is it “for all”? Even as conservatives and liberals alike tout America as a “land of equal opportunity”, I can’t help but disagree based on the same values of which they claim to be in adherence to. I believe in a society in which justice and liberty aren’t auctioned off to the highest bidder in the name of property rights.
Due to the nature of my speech, please allow me to expound upon what I mean by justice and liberty. I hold to Plato’s theory of justice, which asserts justice to be “a social consciousness that makes a society internally harmonious and good." On the flip side, liberty is characterized as being free within society from tyrannical stipulations levied by authority. Liberty and justice are two sides of the same coin forever intertwined: neither can exist without the other. They’re virtues to be hailed and yearned for. Instead, the Founding Fathers inaugurated a pendulum, in which the two virtues are forever at odds with one another for the workers, and in collusion for the wealthy.
In my freshman year, I remember a Hispanic woman revealing her story in protest of private prisons: Her family had never been rich, but one of hard work and responsibility. Hard times had fallen upon them a few months after they had their first child. As such, her husband had stolen $100 worth of DVDs from the local store in order to pay for rent. He was caught and subsequently sent to jail for a year. After he was discharged, he soon figured out that things had only gotten worse. He did the only thing he could’ve done as a recently convicted, un-rehabilitated felon; he stole $50 worth of merchandise from another store. He got caught again, and they sentenced him to 20 years in a private prison on “tough on crime” retribution.
Our villainous vermin was attempting to do what over 70% of Americans do weekly: living paycheck-to-paycheck, trying to survive. And for that, he’ll never get to hear his baby speak his first words. He’ll never get to play ball with his toddler. He’ll never get to teach his teenage son how to drive, nor see him and his special girl before Prom. He’ll never get to see his own son graduate. Meanwhile, CEOs are busy committing extensive fraud in the name of economic “liberty” and causing tens of millions of workers to lose their jobs through recessions. Oh, and they avoid any and all jail time. Is it “liberty and justice for all”, or just for those who can afford the entry fee?
"The life of a single human being is worth a million times more than all the property of the richest man on earth." This I believe. For until then, the pendulum needlessly swings back and forth, forever mocking the genius of the human race.