Trayvon Martin and the Event of Justice

In his book The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event  John Caputo introduces the reader to the idea that words like “hospitality” and “God” contain within them an undeconstrucible event that calls into question the way we regularly use those words. In a discussion about the difference between laws and true, undeconstructible justice he says it like this:

To deconstruct the law means to “negotiate the difference” between the law and justice, where the law is thought to be something finite, and “justice” calls up an uncontainable event, an infinite or unconditional or undeconstructible demand. Deconstruction is…a negotiation undertaken between a conditioned name and an unconditional event. To deconstruct the law is to hold the constructedness of the law plainly and constantly in view so as to subject the law to relentless analysis, revision, and repeal, to rewriting and judicial review, in the light of the unconditional demand of justice (27).

What Caputo is getting at is that the laws of the land, laws that are intended to uphold and defend justice, are actually called into question by the word justice itself. Justice is an uncontainable event, something that can only be dreamed of and when we dream of it we realize that our so-called “just laws” fall short of embodying the true nature of justice. Deconstructing the law in light of the event of justice helps us to critique the status quo and dream of a more just world and as we dream of it we begin to look for ways in which we can make our dream come true.

The disparity between the event of justice and the deconstructible laws of our land is clearly illustrated by the story of Trayvon Martin. The trial of George Zimmerman allowed both sides of the story to be told.  Zimmerman was, it is said, given a “fair” trial. The final verdict of the jury to acquit George Zimmerman was given in the name of “justice.”

But the very word “justice”, as Caputo points out, stands in judgment over our entire judicial process. True justice, the event contained within the word “justice”, does not leave an unarmed black boy dead.

True justice does not lead to rioting in the streets.

The event contained within the word “justice” is not satisfied with a simple verdict that says we can all forget about Trayvon Martin now, that it’s been settled, that Zimmerman killed in self-defense and so we can all relax and go on living our lives in peace knowing that “justice” has been served.

True justice asks why opinions about the Trayvon Martin incident are sharply divided along racial lines.

The undeconstuctible event stirring within the word “justice” calls into question the notion of “Stand Your Ground” and causes us to realize that a world in which excuses are made for people to kill each other, a world in which murder is legalized, is really no just world at all.

May we not confuse our “justice” system, which is really a pseudo-justice system, with the true event of justice.

May we be haunted by the true event of justice, always aware of the fact that what we call “justice” in this nation pales in comparison with what the prophet Amos imagined when he said “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (5:24) or when Isaiah speaks of “seeking justice, reproving the rulthless, defending the orphan and pleading for the widow” (1:17).

May we never be satisfied with the ruling of a six person jury as if that’s all that’s required by justice.

Justice calls us to go deeper, to dream bigger, to continue questioning the status quo so that our laws may begin to do justice to the event stirring within the word itself.