Un-proportional Justice

Sophie Adkins was ill in health, and her family wanted to do something for her as a lasting tribute. They rented a group of cabins in the Shenandoah National Park to bring Sophie’s family together one last time. They knew that Sophia’s grandparents came from a boundary that was now within the park.

While Sophie was delighted to reconnect with her extended family and have them all together, she experienced a feeling of sadness the entire weekend. She was recalling what her grandparents told her about the park.

Many of those who once lived where the park was now had been squatters. They were uneducated but hard working people who made their homes on what was now park land. They never pursued the actions necessary to obtain proper title to their land. They sustained themselves by gardening, hunting, fur trading, and part time (cash only) work for more well-to-do farmers.

The Shenandoah National Park was authorized in the administration of President Coolidge, but no funds were authorized to acquire land for the park. It was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) of the administration of President Roosevelt which provided the impetus for development of the park.

The CCC worked to acquire property and relocate existing landholders to resettlement houses. Homes were burned to prevent residents from moving back to their homes. Those who were displaced faced a future they were unprepared for. While their previous living existence was at a substance level, their new existence was less than that.

But the creation of the park provided jobs for youth during the Great Depression. The park continues to generate substantially to the tourism economy of the region. The settlers of the land that was used for the park had their lives changed forever. Was that just?

The principle of proportionality states that there should be a reasonable balance between acts and their consequences. Was that principle upheld in this case? It’s unlikely that Sophie had ever heard of the principle of proportionality, but that was what was troubling her. As she saw the beauty of the park, she also couldn’t get out of her mind the plight of those who had their lives uprooted.

Just imagine how the principle of proportionality is applicable today. Is it just for Native Americans to have their ancestral lands defiled for lithium mining operations for electric vehicles? Is it just to have poor families rooted from their homes under community redevelopment programs? Is it just to remove homeless encampments for new economic development? Is it just for the principle of proportionality to be decided by those who have wealth and power when it affects those who have no effective way to have a say in what is proportional?

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“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” – Benjamin Franklin

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