birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Fairness Divining Rod

Life is unfair -- and that’s not just what parents tell children who complain about fairness around pizza slices. This whole concept of fairness is subjective. Either we have equitable arrangements or equal divisions. Is it fairness when our needs are met? We have to have a value system aligned to agree what can be called fair.

There are so many social issues I get outraged about and especially the things with systemic inequalities, actually systems built to punish some people and reward others. That’s not fair!

Justice is process for arriving at something like peace. The concept of fairness sounds as though a divining rod could be produced from someone’s Jeep and then just can point out fairness as if it’s to be accurately located somewhere geographically. Fairness is an agreement, and so it always burns when you are told, hotly and brightly, “because that’s what’s fair!” Maybe it seems fair to someone, but the process wasn’t completed, and this is how we get people with chips on their shoulders, green with envy, and with many axes to grind.

Our justice system is not necessarily just, but having a process is a start. Equal representation is not ever possible. Pure truth may not exist. Having unbiased juries and judges is also impossible, their species being human. (But I’m not saying I want computers making judgements, although I’ve heard some people advocate for that.)

Yes, life is unfair but what we can do is treat others with respect, share instead of hoarding or stealing, and advocate for justice reform, especially criminal justice reform. I’ve learned recently that in the late 1980s, crack cocaine possession was so severe it would take 100 times the quantity in powder cocaine to receive the same punishment. This trick was to target black people with harsh punishments, as they were the primary users or dealers of crack cocaine, even though the incidence rates and drug chemistry were pretty much the same. That’s just not right! That’s unfair! Fortunately, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010, which aimed to remedy this extreme racial disparity. And hopefully it did help, but I'm guessing there are plenty of other unfair things on the books and maybe even some new bad things creeping in.


I Should Have Been a Boy!