As I said in the first sentence of the introduction of my book on judging, Wearing the Robe: The Art and Responsibilities of Judging in Today’s Courts, “The best decision I ever made in my life was choosing my parents.”
I have been the beneficiary of that so-called choice ever since. Obviously, I could have been born to a single mother with AIDS in Nigeria. But I believe that my good fortune has given me the moral obligation to help those people who did not “choose” quite so well.
So all of this gets me around to one of my favorite reminders, which is, “Who says life is fair?” My children were raised on that saying. Just ask them.
Socrates was forced to drink hemlock. Tchaikovsky was forced to commit suicide when it was discovered publicly that he was gay. Many more innocent men, women and children are also randomly killed and otherwise harmed by terrorists, hurricanes, earthquakes or diseases.
Sometimes a baseball player hits a sharp line drive that is caught for an out, and other times he duffs one that falls for a double. No, life simply is not always fair.
Nevertheless, even taking these external forces into account, each one of us is in charge of our responses to those forces, how we think and act, and the choices we make. In other words, falling back on the lament that we are victims of whatever has befallen us is a losing proposition.
But one of the things that does work is Liberty, because how we respond to what befalls us is up to us.
People who live their lives holding grudges, claiming they are victims, or adopting any other approaches centered around the concept of “woe is me” are self-defeating. Most good people often help others when they are in need, and that is a good thing. But those who play and rely upon victimization involve themselves in a losing proposition.
Instead, we are the captains of our own ships, and it is only we who bear the consequences for the life we lead, the choices we make and the attitude we take. And, if you think about it, we shouldn’t want it any other way.
(Painting of Socrates drinking hemlock by Jacques-Louis David in 1787.)