Reading this verdict, I feel a rush of surprise, a shock that’s too startled to be relief. Injustice towards the powerful is mostly assumed. Our systems are set up to protect men from the onslaught of women. This has been true since even before the days of Artemisia Gentileschi, who painted the rage of the injustices done to her into the hands of Judith and the head of Holofernes.
Raped without recourse to any sort of legal system—it’s been the fate of too many women. Including Artemisia. No avenue for her own voice other than her art. It’s a poor consolation prize for justice.
Growing up in a tight, close-knit, loving family, I absorbed with mother’s milk that I would Be Okay, that there would always be adults in charge, that virtue was the order of the day.
Virtue is not the order of the day, I learned fairly quickly. Much more quickly than I would have liked. This realization develops in tandem with the growing knowledge that the adults in charge are not gods: they are not always right and certainly aren’t just. If the measure of an adult, in the eyes of a child, is to be someone who cares for others before yourself, than the large majority of adults are falling short, and always—unfortunately—have.
Some people believe, Dr. King was one of them, that the arc of history bends towards justice. There are those who are optimistic enough to believe that progress is a net positive. I do not know that this is true. It seems to me that history, as such, will always lead to unjust executions, to oppression, to the powerful growing more powerful, sated on the universe’s entropy.
But history includes within it triumphs of something different than just humanity. History includes within acts of, dare I say it, grace. Events that leave their footprints in history, that changes its direction. This, I think, is what we hope for, not that progress will save us, but that grace will interrupt our progress.
History may be written by the victors, but there is still room in it for those whose voices are silenced. Every once in a while, the scales are peeled off our eyes and we can see deeds done in darkness come to light.
The feeling of being without justice, like Rose McGowan, is something I have felt. To have your tears unheard, to have a man plead his case in your court, for him to insist on his side of the story, with no room in his ears to hear yours, and certainly no room in his heart to be moved to conversion by it. This is a darkness that I know. And to see justice—in slight measures, in such pitiable, small, infinitesimal yet essential measures—meted out to others. It is, in a way, given back to you.