I had to go to court today. I was summoned as a witness for the prosecution of a man who sexually assaulted my friend. Two years later the court was finally convened to prosecute the offender and maybe bring justice to the victimized. The friend victimized is no longer even here. But better late than never right?
The Kolkata court buildings are a mess. I could not help but metaphorize my walk along the broken path, littered with trash, filled with seemingly aimless people standing in groups. After asking no less than 5 people how to find the actual courtroom, weaving through filth, a trash filled stairwell and an even more trash and refuse filled area I found the courtroom. This was the path to justice, treacherous and messy and unlikely to result in much of any actual justice.
The courtroom was quiet at first, I had arrived at 10am as required but of course the judge, the lawyers and the police had not, so I thought maybe I’ll write a blog about that broken path into the halls of Kolkata’s center of justice, the iconic and rigorously bureaucratic system of law left by the British. An almost laughable, if not so heartbreaking, reminder of colonization and of the educated wealthy India, in many ways, taking on the mantle of oppressors from their former British ones. The court paper work is in English, not Hindi or Bengali, somehow the language of the oppressor remains. The system of law was inherited from the oppressor. A system of law that lacks innovation and actual justice instead settling for a painfully slow something that is even less than the the lowest status quo. There are no computers, files are stacked to the ceilings, messy, apparently disorganized, though much cleaner than the hallways to be sure. Undoubtedly the courts suffer from a lack of financial resources and a state government that is complicit in Injustice and even a perpetrator of it. I am sitting here thinking how is justice even logistically possible here? Two years later I am being called as witness and being advised by the prosecutor to lie. I did not.
Then returns me to my own despair of the last few weeks as I see Kolkata again without the dark glasses of compassion fatigue after a break in May. And I look for justice in my own heart and I find it just as messy, ineffective and paralyzed.
“Do justice love mercy and walk humbly with God” has been tattooed on my ankle for almost 20 years and yet doing justice is still so difficult to live, to embody. My job is about justice, my whole life dedicated to seeing justice embodied in mercy for women, and yet I still struggle to reconcile my daily encounters with injustice. I am talking about day laborers working for barely enough money feed their families, I am talking about children begging, I am talking about the people sleeping outside my home on the street, the drug users who run up and grab my trash so they can see if there is anything worth recycling for money in it, and the fresh faces arriving daily in the lanes of Sonagacchi. I am talking about economic injustice, racial injustice, gender injustice, the injustice that people both passively and actively participate in toward one another. I am talking about the wretchedness of my own heart. I am complicit. There is no us and them, there is only we. There is only in what way am I complicit: with my silence, my messy paralyzed ineptitude at responding, at reaching out, speaking out to make difference.
Like I said I have a job seeking Justice, and I tell myself the lie that it is enough. I am like one of those lawyers I met today participating in system that seeks Justice but so rarely finds it within and rarely seeks it outside those walls. The injustice in my own heart broke me today, reminded once again as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “that I cannot be free until all men and women are free.” So I begin again with God to seek out the injustice within my own heart as I press into seeking freedom and Justice around me as I walk this broken path, through this mess of broken heaving beautiful humanity .
Until we are all free. May Justice reign down from the heavens as strong as a Kolkata monsoon thunderstorm.