Lately I’ve had the concept of justice on my mind in the musical context. The Italian word seen fairly frequently is “giusto,” and for years, I read that as “gusto.” Not that I passed over the “i” in the word, but I did more or less assume that “tempo giusto” meant something like “play it with gusto, with extra energy, a little more animated, faster.” What “giusto” actually connotes is a just or rhythmically absolute sense of the strict relationship of tone duration. I was initially wrong about “giusto,” and in what I said yesterday and what I’m about to say, I could be on the wrong track, as well. You decide.
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Yesterday on our campus, we closed down Black History Month. I have been to precisely one chapel assembly this month, but I have seen mentions of Black History Month “moments” included in chapel proceedings, and I think they’re a trifle overemphasized–especially in a place where the student body is about 3% black (and where most of the black students are not US citizens), where there is such an egalitarian ethos, and where any real effects of racism are distant, both chronologically and geographically.
The annual observance of BHM seems almost to have been ignored for a while, but at least in my current context, it’s back. Not a bad thing to remember and understand newly some of the atrocities of slavery of Africans in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. To learn about the atrocities of the early 20th century in terms of lynchings and less extreme instances of racism is appropriate, and to be inspired by the George Washington Carvers and the Rosa Parkses–those who “rose above”–of the world is probably at least as positive an enterprise. I question the emphasis on such a figure as MLK, Jr.–not because he isn’t an imposing figure in our country’s history, but because no human, no matter how great his ideas and actions were in most contexts, deserves that much attention … not to mention the alleged extramarital affairs that, if revealed in today’s news culture, would have brought him down if they were even one-quarter true.
Today’s black Americans are not, by and large, African-Americans (so I don’t typically use that descriptor, and don’t get me started on the bogus “Kwanzaa”), and I would imagine the power of suggestion is greater than their current realities in determining their psychologies around wounds from past sufferings. This is not to downplay the terrible effects of actual racism; never would I excuse any intentional or ignorant mistreatment of another human based on race (or based on nationality or gender or even sexual preference!). It is only to say that the need for justice is not determined by a racial association eight or ten generations into the distant past.
On the other hand, I have on more than one occasion been victimized by the psychology of events and personalities that preceded me by a year or three, so I do not negate the possibility that the extreme case of black-white relations in this country could have some very real effects that last for decades. I just happen to think these effects are overplayed by the media, by sociologists–and, sometimes, by Christians. Justice does not always mean going to the other extreme. Justice is … well, just … and not merely exceptionally kind and affirming.
God’s justice is absolute. I suppose it helps that He sets the rules of justice: if something isn’t just, He can devise something out of nothing in order to make it just! The ultimate salvation of His child is something that isn’t, in the fact of the matter, just. But the atoning sacrifice of part of God–the Son, the Huios, the Christ, the One and Only, the Redeemer Jesus–does the work of providing an equalizing justice.
So, “onward through the fog,” moving sometimes at lento, sometimes utilizing life’s caesuras, and sometimes, at tempo giusto or even allegro. . . .