Dear President Trump,
I want to revisit Julius Goat’s frame for ascertaining whether we are hewing to justice. Here it is again:
“Every human being is a unique and irreplaceable work of art carrying unsurpassable worth.”
There are billions of reasons to remind you of this framing but the reason I want to focus on it today is to point out the omission of the idea of beauty. When I first encountered JG’s justice frame and was practicing saying it to myself, I kept slipping up and inserting the word “beautiful” so that I was reciting “Every human being is a beautiful, unique, and irreplaceable work of art carrying unsurpassable worth.” The inclusion of the word “beautiful” may seem benign enough and as though it fits right in with “unique” and “irreplaceable” and “unsurpassable worth,” but it doesn’t. I started realizing my mistake when I thought about paintings and how sometimes they are widely considered beautiful and sometimes they are not and that many that are not are still considered extremely valuable. I also realized it is not uncommon for me to think a particular piece of art is beautiful that someone else can’t stand. When I shifted to what it would mean about people to have the word “beautiful” in the justice frame I thought it might be ok to use the word in the gushy, gee, we-are-all-beautiful-in-some-way sort of way, but even that is problematic. You see, beauty can be debated, as in “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” If we were to insist that absolutely everyone has some beauty in them, however hidden, it wouldn’t be too hard for someone to come up with a solid example of a truly hideous, despicable person with absolutely no apparent beauty who would then be outside our frame of justice. But this isn’t acceptable. Even ugly people are unique and irreplaceable works of art of unsurpassable worth. We might never want to spend time with them, never want any attention from them, never want any of their vanilla ice cream, but we cannot deny them their right to exist and live their life as themselves.
May we all be safe and secure in the knowledge of our unsurpassable worth.
May we all be happy to see one another as unique and irreplaceable.
May we all cherish each precious human being’s health and well-being.
May we commit to true justice for all.