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  • Gail Wilson Kenna

A Sad Day and Bad Memory

I try to write about whatever I promise at the end of my weekly blog. Today, however, I will switch to something that Wallace Stegner, who lived by a strict moral code, might understand. Which is my need to comment on Thursday April 25th when four Supreme Court male justices focused on hypotheticals & not the January 6th insurrection. And why, I ask, was Clarence Thomas even there?  How egregious in a flagrant and shocking way.

On Friday, April 26th, several media commentators mentioned Lady Justice related to the Thursday Supreme Court hearing on presidential immunity. These comments made me think of Venezuela’s Lady J. The first and only time I saw her was when I left Caracas in August 1995, after four years of helping incarcerated North Americans. One was a medical doctor, found not guilty in Superior Court. Yet five Venezuelan Supreme Court justices passed his case back and forth, year after year. Eight years of incarceration before this medical doctor was released and could again be a pediatrician. A special nod to then Senator Joseph Biden for having his office act on this injustice and exert pressure on the U.S. Embassy about this prisoner.

The life-size Lady Justice I saw in August 1995 was painted by a Chilean prisoner.  His large drawing replaced Abe Lincoln’s words in the lawyer’s room in Reten La Planta in Caracas. Translated from the Spanish, Abe’s English words stated… do not be a lawyer unless you can be an honorable one. In a ‘pay and you go’ legal system, these were ironic words. So why not push the mockery beyond honest Abe? Why not depict on the wall of the lawyer’s room, Lady Justice as she was in Venezuela? Peeking from her blindfold and loading the scales of justice with gold for herself.                                                                       

In 2020 I re-issued Beyond the Wall. The brilliant artist, A. Cort Sinnes of Napa Valley, took my description of Lady J and created this new cover for the second edition. Twenty years earlier, living in Bogota, Colombia, I wrote the first edition of Beyond the Wall under a grant from the Puffin Foundation in New Jersey. In the new 2020 foreword, I ended with these words. 


“A reader might ask: What does this book have to do with me?”


I answer with a quote from poet Theodore Roethke:

In a dark time, the eye begins to see. 

Yet is this true in our country in a time of increasing darkness for our Democracy?


And Lady Justice?  How at the present time should she be depicted in the USA? 

Through a glass darkly, with her back turned away from the United States of America?


I am reissuing this book because I believe Venezuela’s corrupt legal system has something to teach us. I write these words on July 4th, 2020, four months before our national election.


Now it is 2024 and just over six months before we vote again.


Next week, Wallace Stegner’s imbroglio with the Pulitzer-prize-winning Angle of Repose

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May 02

SCOTOS barely considered the case and facts at issue, instead pushing the door open for an imperial presidency. Immunity doesn't appear in the Constitution, only in the minds of the reactionary members of the court.


Apr 28

Gail--very timely and well-said. As evil forces continue to erode our collective faith in the institutions that have helped keep us safe in a hostile world, the justice system represents the last bastion in the defensive system protecting our freedoms. Last week's SCOTUS hearing was frightful especially when considered in the context of other decisions rendered by this Court. That we're using Venezuela's Court from a third of a century ago as a measuring stick for our own speaks volumes about how far we've fallen. November looms large in our future.

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