Last night, as I was still watching the news, my friends at City Journal called to request a short piece for a symposium on the killing of bin Laden. I basically wrote down what was in my mind at that moment. Here’s the meat of it:
As jubilant flag-waving crowds gathered outside the White House, the president recalled our unity as Americans in the aftermath of 9/11 and called for us to recreate that unity now. In a democracy, where truth is meant to rise through debate and opposition and resolution leading to more debate, unity can be overrated. But perhaps we can unify around this: there must be justice. Justice is a moral necessity of the human heart. We cannot live without it.
This is a harsh truth because justice is a harsh good. It is not gentle like mercy. It is not stagnant like equality. It is not a soft, shapeless word to be slapped on bumper stickers or chanted during rallies in order to inflame one’s own sense of virtue. Justice is an exact description of a specific social interaction: the awarding to men and women of the outcome they deserve. This does not exist in nature, not in this life. It’s something we do, something we give and often, too often, when evil has been committed, it has to be delivered at the end of a gun. There is sometimes simply no other way.
There’s more here – and some other pieces from CJ’s terrific writing stable.