Perennial Pursuit of Justice
by Dr. Mario Sánchez
The famous Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal was asked why 60 years after the Holocaust he continued to haunt those responsible. As if dumbfounded by the question, he answered "The history of man is the history of crimes, and history can repeat. So information is a defence. Through this we can build, we must build, a defence against repetition."
Just last month and nearly 30 years after the end of Argentina's Dirty War where thousands disappeared and many more were tortured, those responsible for the cruelties – who are now octogenarians – were finally put on trial. Explaining why these trials are now coming to pass, an international human rights organization explained it this way: "… pursue[ing] justice for past abuses, these initiatives are the result of work by victim groups, civil society organizations, and individuals who set up a strong base of information and never stopped their fight for justice."
In 1988 President Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 that granted reparations to the Japanese and their descendants that were unlawfully interned during World War II – over 40 years earlier.
There is even now a movement seeking reparations for the descendants of American slaves. Despite how irrational this pursuit may seem, a federal appeals court has ruled that the case can go forward if the plaintiffs can in part "… prove the violation despite its antiquity."
It seems as if when it comes to justice and exposing those responsible for violating the rule of law, there is no time limit by virtue of the people willing to keep the pursuit of justice alive.
And so shall it be here on Marco Island.
This past week the acts and consequences of an aberrant decreed policy came back to haunt the city's former public works director. When an astute investigative reporter questioned the manner by which the former director was being hired by yet another public entity, he did a rudimentarily trivial search on the internet. A plethora of issues that occurred during said public works director's tenure on Marco Island came to light; the dumping, crushing and pulverizing of asbestos-containing material – less than ONE MILE from two schools, as well as the dumping of toxic effluent into the waterways and on front lawns, as well as the documented report of people becoming ill from toxic gases, as well as the building and installing of a Rube Goldberg contraption as a ruse, as well as the faux investigation of septuagenarians fraudulently accused of dumping tons of asbestos pipe fragments, as well as the genuine federal criminal investigation and subsequent findings by the EPA that the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act were violated, as well as the sworn depositions that did not match reality, as well as the Machiavellian tactics by current and former "staff", as well as the … the interminable list of abuses all quickly materialized.
Therein was the information, "the defence against repetition", the "result of work by individuals who set up a strong base of information and never stopped their fight for justice."
Is assigning crimes to the perpetrators long after the events occurred simply the pursuit of vengeance? Is the quest by the Nazi hunters and the decedents of the victims of crimes throughout the history of man some sort of machination for retribution? Unlikely, for the eternal quest for justice is so that those responsible are held accountable for the everlasting ramifications of their deeds.
Besides, such is the purpose of exposing history sans remorse. For after all, did any city councilor or any "staff" member express remorse for those that fell ill from the toxic gas? Or for the untold marine organisms that died from the effluent? Or for exposing the illegal migrants that were hired to clean up the asbestos from what is now Veterans Park – shuffling through the dirt without protection to pick up asbestos shards? Or for the residents that inhaled the pulverized asbestos pipe? Of course not, and that is why the search for justice transcends time.
As it will be here on Marco Island. The city councilors and the current and former "staff" that actively participated in the promoting, hiding and obfuscating the of hazardous contamination will be long gone when the effects may be potentially realized. That is their legacy – a legacy buttressed by myriad documents, videos, pictures and in the memories of those too few witnesses with a conscience. But as we saw this week, their legacy is not far behind, within reach, to haunt them forever.
It would be naïve to suggest that there should be truth and reconciliation hearings for finally admitting, documenting, settling and laying to rest the crimes against people and the environment that were committed by the syndicate through their marionettes on the council and "staff". A cleansing of the soul if you will as experienced by South Africa after decades of Apartheid. Such a peaceful and honorable solution on Marco Island is unlikely given that the egos are too strong, the misdeeds too profound, the fourth branch of government missing from inaction, the mob-rule mentality of vacuous responsibility being the meticulousness of their sect, while crony apologists continue to denigrate and defame those that simply reported the crimes. And besides, most people here just don't care what happened then –though the fact escapes them that what happened then is affecting that which they value now the most – money.
We are therefore legated with the impasse of instability since the culprits will abdicate morality by attempting to let time hide their actions, while there will be those of us that will forever keep the information visible awaiting judgment.
As Desmond Tutu said, "peace without justice is impossibility." Hence there will never be peace on Marco Island until those that abetted, concealed or camouflaged the harm to people and the environment fall victim to the steady, haunting intimidation of justice. And as we saw this past week, when the suffocating pursuit of justice finally prevails, justice is served cold.