×
Proximate Justice, Again and AgainProximate Justice, Again and Again

Proximate Justice, Again and Again

Making peace with proximate justice?

Steven Garber
2 minute read
Like Convivium? , our free weekly email newsletter.

Editor's Note: This reflection originally published yesterday in the "Commons" at The Washington Institute, headed by Dr. Steven Garber. Reprinted with kind permission. Follow TWI on Facebook or Twitter.



Making peace with proximate justice?

Several years ago I was asked by a magazine editor to write an essay on the vocation of politics. I thought about it over a summer, and offered "Making Peace with Proximate Justice." Having watched Washington for a long time, for many years teaching political responsibility to undergraduates on Capitol Hill, the vision of "something" seems more honest than every version of all-or-nothing. When anything happens in the political world that is more just than not, it is because there is some peace made with proximate justice.

Flying back into Washington this afternoon after days in Boston and Indianapolis, seeing the standoff between the partisan voices of the political left and right, I have thought of proximate justice one more time. Both sides are eager to play their blame-games, shouting out to all who will hear, "Of course I'm right! And of course they're wrong!" Neither side is willing to give the other anything.

I don't think that moderation is itself a good, or even that political moderation is in and of itself a worthy ambition. Being luke-warm has its own curses. But wiser folk have always understood that politics is the art of the possible, especially when the work at hand is politically serious. If one can bully his way because he can, that kind of arrogance will eventually come back to bite. If one side doesn't really give a rip what the other side thinks, certain as they are that their vision and their vision alone is right, it is a dead end for everyone. Both sides show a self-righteousness that has become self-deception, unable to see their own frailties and flaws.

Does health care matter? For everyone everywhere. Are health care costs outrageous? For everyone everywhere. And healthcare is only one face of the showdown about the budget and the economics of our common life. Finding a way forward that addresses our true needs as a society is very complex, and beyond what anyone has yet imagined, or at least anyone that has gained a hearing. What do we do?

Wendell Berry has taught me that even the most complex situations, socially, economically, politically, are like marriage, and I'm sure that he is right. Most moments in our marriage reflect the deeper, harder truth that we each are implicated in the problem, and that we each have something important to say about its resolution.

The only way forward is to make peace with proximate justice. It is a choice to make peace with something, something that is honest and true, something that is more just and more merciful, even if it is not everything. All-or-nothing never works—in marriages, in friendships, in the workplace, in the church. And it never works in politics.

You'll also enjoy...

There can be no peace, after Westphalia

There can be no peace, after Westphalia

Realists would tell us that peace is the absence of war, but Epiphany reminds us that there can be no end to war, neither that within or without, apart from adoration which is shown, today, by the Magi Where there is no room for direction, O'Donovan writes, "Society is ruled by the imperative of uni...

Does Successful Leadership Require Distasteful Characteristics?

Does Successful Leadership Require Distasteful Characteristics?

But, as low voter turnout and other markers of cynicism will indicate, in our living memory Canada has not had a successful Prime Minister (success being defined as longevity here) who shied away from exercising distasteful character traits in order to cut through a difficult situation and ultimatel...

Join Convivium

Convivium means living together. Unlike many digital magazines, we haven’t put up a digital paywall. We want to keep the conversation regarding faith in our common and public life as open as possible.

Get a weekly wrap up of the latest articles delivered right to your inbox.