Do Justice To Yourself


“No place, indeed, should murder sanctuarize.
Revenge should have no bounds.”

— Shakespeare compounding ignorance with ignorance in Act 4, Scene 7 of Hamlet

Mildred, the middle-aged mother at the center of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, is a one-woman Justice League out to avenge the murder of her teenage daughter. She’s got a spectacularly vulgar mouth, a fearless take-no-prisoners attitude, and a relentless drive to see justice done– whatever the cost to her family, her community, or her own shaky reputation and psyche.

The thrust of her character’s obsession has been embraced by the general American public with no apologies to anyone for any horror that might take place in the wake of securing revenge. American abominations abroad come to mind, with all their talk about counter-terrorism, all the thinking centered on getting even, getting back, getting those guilty of atrocities inflicted on loved ones.

Fagettaboutit, as they say in New York. It can’t be done.

Neither personal justice, nor social justice can be secured. To believe otherwise is to buy into deeply fallacious thinking. Talk at length with anyone who has sought and secured revenge, and you’ll see that no matter what they say… they are NOT satisfied. Not happy, and “closure” isn’t real on any ongoing, meaningful level. In the movies (the reel world), of course, there’s lots of satisfying revenge. But in the flesh and blood real world, revenge doesn’t cut the muster for hardly anyone. Of course, that’s all based only on several decades of anecdotal experience vis-a-vis Capital Punishment dynamics… making careful observations through my street smart NYC prism.

There is, though, Divine Justice, maybe. [Pause.] I personally believe in that.

Regardless, activists must seek social justice. They just must not expect to secure any final solution to the the injustices of this world. And it helps individuals to embrace that healthy attitude if they adopt the same perspective respecting personal justice. One nurtures the other.

Fighting the good fight has to include an unbearable lightness of being midst the abominations… in order for one to keep going… for the long haul. And all I’m saying is that I’d like to see activists relax a bit more internally as they tear down walls and bawl and brawl at their optimal pitch.

The director of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri can be happy with the high ratings his film received from critics and moviegoers at Rotten Tomatoes. But Nick Pinkerton, a truly discriminate critic — a well-respected, singular voice at the prestigious Film Comment — panned the flick. He concludes his recent review with

“…while McDonagh’s film doesn’t lack for gallows humor and pitch-dark stuff, it’s in the department of truth that it comes up short.”

The multiple angles of vision — on the personal and social planes both — are so numerous that one cannot demand justice internally. Eternal justice might kick in down the road, but we’re not able to be sure of that during our lifetimes. And so the truth we seek and seek to spread must be taken in a context of not taking our personal selves too seriously, no matter how serious the issues we are confronting. If for no other reason than we will wear ourselves out prematurely, and then not be around to do any good for the victims of this world, those most in need of justice.

Do justice to yourself.

Rachel Olivia O’Connor is a member of the Oxman Collective. She can be reached at [email protected]


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