A few months before my arrival, a young man from Canada had come to India, and he had shut down factories employing child labourers. He had campaigned in Canada, and was able to come to India for the subsequent raids, wherein the government of India, watched by the rest of the world, closed the factories.
And as only an 18 year old can, full of smugness and knowing, sure she had all the answers, I commented that this was a good thing.
"I realize that you do not understand, cannot understand. It is not the same to be a girl child in Canada as it is here. Here, in my country, a girl child is another mouth to feed. She is a dowry to pay, and a set of hands that will marry, and go and work for her husband's family. She is another mouth to feed, and when you are the poorest of the poor, she is a burden. We are not like this, you must understand. Ranjeneen and I do not live like this, we do not believe this, but we are not hungry either."
"Where do you suppose", Veevic asked. "Where do you suppose those children went, when those factories, making shoes for the world, closed? I will tell you. The boys, perhaps they found other work, because they must work, or they will starve. The girls? Working is what kept those girls from death! The employers, at least sometimes would pay for the medications for pneumonia, the parents would not and could not. They cannot take food out the son's mouth, the son that will support them in their old age. The girls, if they could not find work, they are prostitutes, or they are dead. Perhaps not cold in their grave yet, but their days, they surely are numbered. Your young man shut down our factories, but he did no good for our children."
I am thinking about justice. I am thinking about Vincent Li, and a young man called Tim, who was brutally killed, dismembered, and cannibalised. I am thinking about Vincent, who in a psychotic episode believed that the voice of God was telling him to do these things. I am thinking about Tim's mother, who is trying to understand what has happened, who is asking for justice. She does not disagree that Vincent Li is terribly ill, but wants him to be locked up for the rest of his life. She wants someone to be accountable for her son's gruesome death.
I am thinking about a young girl named Ashley Smith, who died, broken in her mind, when she wrapped a ligature around her neck, while Corrections Canada officials watched, told not to interfere. Her family is asking the Government of Canada to release the names of those who watched their daughter die, those who gave the orders to allow her to wrap a ligature around her neck, to not intervene. They are asking for justice.
And finally, I am thinking of a soldier named Marc Diebe, that we sent to Afghanistan, so that we can all be free, and so that, please God, the Afghans can be free.
And in this all, I am wondering - what is the true nature of justice? How do we give it to others? How in the world do we give it to Tim and Ashley's families. I think of these things, I watch the movie, and I hear the words of the Ash Wednesday service.
I invite you therefore, in the name of the Lord, to observe a holy Lent by self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving,and by reading and meditating on the word of God. Let us kneel before our Creator and Redeemer.
Joe Walker had a blog entry yesterday, highlighting what it is to be teachable. He asked, compared between a faculty member and a student, if there could be equality of opinion. The student says yes, the faculty member says no.
My answer is to remember back to that night in India. To remember my terrible arrogance - shameful ignorance that just kept talking. To remember my disgusting conceit. And to remember Veevic's astonishing kindness. His patient explanation. Two people, with an equal right to their opinion.
The issue is not equality of opinion. Here, in Canada, as in all democracies, we all get to have an opinion. No, it's not about equality, rather quality.
We all have an equal right to an opinion, but it does seem to me, some 12 years after that night, that the right to an opinion is a fearsome thing, a thing of great weight. It seems to me, the right to an opinion requires us to form one of quality. It is of no use to our world when we have a great quantity of opinions on anything and everything. Rather, what might enable us to give justice is the quality of our opinions.
There are 29 days left in Lent, I am supposed to be observing a time of penitence, fasting and self-examination. A time to remind me that what I may be sure of - it is such a tiny portion of what I think my knowledge is. A time to remind me of the virtues of humility and examination.
A time to think of, to seek out, to ask for Justice.
I do not think Lent will be long enough for me.