And speaking of radical ideas, John Rawls had a notion that this thing called “justice” matters, enough to write a rigorous philosophical explanation of how justice is at the heart of the justification of an order based on the social contract. He writes:
Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought. A theory however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue; like wise laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust. Each person possesses an inviolability which is founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override. For this reason justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others. It does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on the few are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many.
Wow! Is he actually arguing that we ought not trample upon the rights of others, even when we are absolutely certain that a few small compromises here and there would benefit the majority of people? It sounds to me as though he is not only confronting ethical utilitarianism as illegitimate, but that he is suggesting we may want to err on the side of over-preserving rights so that we are not falling into a slippery-slope situation where we can justify depriving a few individuals of fundamental rights. Thus, maybe when someone does not always have their papers in order, we might still want give them the benefit of the doubt and allow them their freedom. Sure, it might be more fun to make a bunch of rules to hamper that freedom. But it redounds to everyone’s benefit to preserve these rights.
One of the reasons that I voted for you was your commitment to justice. I recall reading somewhere that, as your predecessor was leaving the office and not running for another term as Attorney General, you were quoted in the media as saying something to the effect that you would investigate and prosecute Governor Walker, if there were substantial allegations supporting it. I was glad to have voted for someone who would stand up for justice, no matter what, even if that meant investigating someone who belonged to their own party. Obviously, justice overrides partisanship, as it well should.
I wouldn’t want to see someone’s right to vote taken away or impaired for whatever reason, whether that be difficulty in getting to a DMV location, having an out-of-state birth document which has to be re-certified, or, as in our case, having birth documents which were once declared acceptable and later unacceptable by some bureaucrat in Madison who doesn’t like religious people who don’t fit into his world-view. African-American males living in the Milwaukee area may also fear government buildings due to their previous involvement with the “authorities” in their lives, as we are now witnessing with the recent events transpiring in Milwaukee.
Charlie Sykes makes a good point in favor of your pursuit to have the Voter ID law upheld by noting that only 96 people were affected by the Voter ID restriction which negatively impacted their right to vote. Thus, in his view, it is silly for a Milwaukee judge to create an exception and allow those who sign an affidavit that were unable to obtain an ID at their DMV location. Point taken. However, a few points need to be made to put that figure of 96 voters in perspective. First, as we saw in Rawls’ treatment above, it does not matter if it is only a few people who are being deprived of fundamental rights. That does not justify the imposition on civil liberty. Ultimately, preserving civil liberties of individuals is part of the justice which sustains the social order. Second, I’m pretty sure that Sykes’ count does not include our family and our struggle to obtain IDs without the documentation which the DMV required nor would it include those who simply gave up after being turned down by the DMV and didn’t even want to vote anymore. So, if Sykes is only counting 96 as those who would swear out an affidavit, then that is really poor accounting.
I wonder, therefore, if our taxpayer dollars wouldn’t be better disposed by spending a bit less time and energy and resources at the AG’s office in trying to publicly defend laws which are potentially abridging the ability of Wisconsin citizens to exercise their Constitutional and God-given rights on election day. I certainly don’t want to tell you how to do your job. You, no doubt, have your priorities set. But I wonder if you would reconsider them just a little.
What if you were to pursue investigation of police brutality in the Milwaukee area where African-American youths are subject to violence, occasionally even from the law enforcement officers in their lives? They are incarcerated at such a high rate here in our home state of Wisconsin that other states with less apparent disproportionate punitive systems really do put us to shame. But instead of shaming ourselves, which we could easily fall into, we can take active steps to improve this situation right now by listening to the voice of this people and actively investigating and prosecuting when allegations of ethnic targeting by police are raised. Imagine that: going to bat for the African-American community instead of working to limit their freedom to vote!
I don’t know if you had a chance to check out the Netflix program, The Making of a Murderer. It’s incredible to see such a miscarriage of justice, again, this happened right here in Wisconsin. I believe that the program raised awareness of how law enforcement can frame up a pretty solid case against someone who is socio-economically disadvantaged and who, therefore, may not be able to afford the slickest lawyers to defend him- or herself. One of the really peculiar aspects of that program is how it seems as though one of your predecessors may have glossed over some of the police corruption going on when she was called upon to investigate the Manitowoc County sheriff’s department back in 2003. Did you notice that as well? I’m guessing that with all of the media attention now given to Brendan’s release from prison due to the police persuasion and coercion that led to his false confession, this might be a great time to reopen that investigation that really seems to have been short-sighted. What an ideal opportunity to bring justice to a small, rural community where law enforcement seem to have had some kind of a axe to grind against Steven Avery!
Well, there is a great deal to contemplate in regards to these situations. Your office can become a shining example of how justice is truly blind to color and economic class and help Wisconsin to move on.
I thank you for your time and hope that you will reconsider your priorities.
 John Rawls. 1999. A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: President and Fellows of Harvard College, p. 3.
[Note: This is part two of a two-part series of a slightly edited letter being sent to Wisconsin’s Attorney General, Brad Schimel, who was elected in 2014 after his predecessor, J.B. Van Hollen, did not seek a third-term as Attorney General. Wisconsin Attorney General, Peg Lautenschlager, was in charge of the investigation of charges of corruption against the Manitowoc County’s sheriff’s department.]
Have you ever read Jane Austen’s classic, Pride & Prejudice? If you have enjoyed this classic story before and would like to test yourself to see how well your memory holds up, then you may want to check out this interactive quiz based on the classic (soon to be turned into an audio book). A more recent release is the spiritual story of Beyr Reyes entitled Renewable Energy and a new audio book which chronicles the aggression of the ultra-rich against impoverished citizens in the United States in Reverend Bern’s Occupying America. Check out these entries and more on the Facebook fanpage of Locust & Honey today.
Some video book trailers have been created for recent audio books. One of these, which was co-produced with author, Mike Freze, takes a look at the historic and apparently miraculous Shroud of Turin in an effort to gauge its level of authenticity given the forensic teams which have examined it. You can see this book trailer and listening sample today on YouTube as well as listen to a shortintroduction of this audio book here.