Years ago, in the midst of my divorce, I was sitting in therapy, again bemoaning the injustices of divorce in Minnesota. I was beyond frustrated at the lack of enforcement of court orders, at the assumption that moms are better parents than dads, and that no one seemed to think that my case was as urgent as I thought it was.
“Stop calling it the ‘Family Justice System,’” my therapist said.
“What?” I asked. “That’s what it’s called.”
“I know,” she responded, “But it’s not about justice, at least not as you understand justice. I suggest that you instead refer to it as the ‘Family Court System.’”
And so, I have. For the past five years, I’ve disciplined myself to call it the Family Court System and the Hennepin County Family Court Building (even though, as you can see in the photo above, the county has not followed suit).
As an Enneagram 8, justice is a driving force for me — maybe the driving force. (Nota bene, I don’t claim that my sense of justice is perfect, nor that I always see justice rightly.) So a lack of justice really gets under my skin — I’ve often described the process of getting divorced (with kids involved) in Hennepin County like being caught in a dream, one where you’re in danger and screaming at the top of your lungs, but no sound is coming out of your throat, and everyone just goes about their own business, unable to hear you.
I think there are a lot of people in our country who feel the same way this weekend, after the George Zimmerman acquittal. The death of Trayvon Martin has seemingly gone unpunished (however, there are more lawsuits pending against him, the federal government is considering charging him, and he will surely be a pariah for decades to come).
I am no expert in criminal legal matters. But I know what it’s like to be involved in our court system. I know the frustration of being caught in a web of legal technicalities and a byzantine bureaucracy. I know what it’s like to be completely reliant upon high-priced attorneys to wade through that thicket.
Ours is not a justice system. It’s a court system. If we can discipline ourselves to acknowledge that, it will benefit our mental health.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t keep fighting for justice. We should. Indeed, we need to, for Trayvon and for children who don’t get to see their fathers and for others who are caught in the system that is a court system and not a justice system. But we need to be realistic about the ability of our court system to deliver justice, and we need to look for other avenues of justice in our society.