How in the hell did the word “justice” get weaponized? The very idea that being a social justice warrior is somehow an insult is the height of American absurdism. Sure, there are times when people are overzealous about the battles they want to fight. There are times when “wokeness” seems more like a competition than a communal goal. But it’s hard to fathom how citizens clamoring for more justice — even when that word itself is permutable — would be anything but a net positive.
What’s the alternative? Less justice? Social justice pacifists?
The fact is, today’s elections are hugely important. Seismic in nature. And there are massive issues at stake. Some of these matters are clearly political in the traditional sense — ballot measures, zoning laws, tax usage, etc. They affect our future in the long term but have a limited scope short term.
Meanwhile, other races clearly conspire toward some bigger idea. They are building blocks for our self-held visions of what it means to be an American in 2020. They are political, but only in the sense that life is political. In these cases, the issue at stake is, inevitably, one of justice. Social justice. Economic justice. Racial justice. Gender justice. Sexuality-based justice. Environmental justice.
As such, voting for the candidate or ballot measure that you believe helps bend the path of history toward more justice is a solid governing philosophy. Especially if you haven’t followed politics closely leading up to the election. It’s a Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder, reminding you to vote with some idea in your head of what you believe is right or wrong. On overarching thesis to guide you.
Because our pursuit of justice is intrinsic to our collective success. It’s a founding pillar in the superstructure of our young nation — where empathy, a sense of fairness, and a belief in the importance of equality meet.
This conversation may seem partisan, but it ought not to be. No one side owns the notion of creating a more fair and equitable world. No political party has the exclusive rights to such lofty principles. Yes, the issues themselves are highly politicized. But if you’re on a quest for a more fair world, well… if we all had to go all in on the same idea and trust it to guide us in the right direction, justice would be the one.
Do you think that people should be allowed to express their genders as they so desire (personal justice)? There are elections in Massachusets and New York where that’s at stake. Do you believe in common-sense gun control and that current gun restrictions should be enforced (communal justice)? There are elections in Colorado and Georgia where this matter is front and center. Do you think that birthright citizenship is important to the fabric of our nation (justice for everyone)? Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke are running against one another and are diametrically opposed on the topic. Do you believe that only unanimous juries should be able to convict someone and send them to prison? Well, there’s an amendment up for vote today in Louisiana — one of only two U.S. states where a 10-2 jury vote can send someone to prison for life — that could bring an end to that Jim Crow-era policy.
Again, none of this to say that only liberal talking points can center on justice. You can think that any limitation of the Second Amendment is unjust. Or that abortion is unjust to unborn fetuses. There will always be a debate over what truly leads to the realization of our very highest national ideals. But as a ground zero, a refuge to guide your voting when you’re uncertain, justice is solid.
Especially for young people. Most Millennials and Gen Zers believe in the work of Black Lives Matter (racial justice). They want a government commitment to sustainability (environmental justice). They care about women’s rights (gender-based justice). To paraphrase an ex-president, these aren’t red state/ blue state issues, they’re United States issues. They’re issues that help you define who you are. And there are candidates out there who stand staunchly against all of them.
Today, anyone who feels a personal stake in the success or failure of our nation will vote. It’s an act of rebellion and sign that you’re invested in making our laws and leadership better. It’s a testament that those who claim to care about our country’s direction really do. When you reach the polls, there will be issues that you know your personal feelings about and others where you aren’t so certain. In these latter cases, when you don’t have the time to track down voting records of every candidate or the minutiae of every ballot measure, ask yourself about justice. Ask yourself about what leads us toward a more equitable world for all people.
“In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems,” Albert Einstein once said. “For issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.”
If you need a moral imperative to guide you as you step into the voting booth, you could do a lot worse.