Working from the Torn things towards The Right to Remain Human (2015-2018)
This body of work explores contradictions between how justice is defined and applied in the U.S. legal system verses a healthy home or community.
Some behaviors considered harmful in a family or organization, such as maintaining silence, focusing on punishment over growth, arguing to avoid accountability, and having complex rules that are difficult to understand and follow, are de rigueur in a court of law. Despite the darkest aspects of human nature being brutal, frightening, and sometimes seemingly incurable, is it possible to move away from a dysfunctional retributive legal system to one based on love? A justice system in which “the law is love” centers healing, restoration, connection, growth, accountability and harm prevention.
This artwork was begun in 2015, in preparation for an exhibit at the Alameda County Law Library in Oakland, CA, marking the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta was written to broker peace between King John of England and powerful barons rebelling against him. For members of England’s nobility, known as freemen, it called for a number of restrictions to the king’s power– among them, the right to a fair and timely trial as overseen by ones peers.
Magna Carta was subject to many revisions over the coming decades. In the 17th century, its wording was drawn upon to found the Writ of Habeus Corpus,which guaranteed due process under the law, and the Petition of Right, which limited ways government could raise money, and forbade imprisonment without trial. In 1776, the writers of the United States constitution used these principles to extend personal liberties to a broader range of citizens. The conviction that these ideals should apply to all people, regardless of race, or gender, developed only in the 20th century and is still being sought after today.
Thus has law slowly shifted, since the Magna Carta of 1215, from serving the top of a pyramid to serving an ever more encompassing circle of those who live under it.
Yet work remains to be done. The barons of the 13th century sought to protect their lives, estates, and inheritances. The writers of the US Constitution sought to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So far, our legal system has not been charged with the protection of our humanity, integrity, and relationship to each other.
The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, which protects people from self-incrimination and is the source of the “right to remain silent,” language of the Miranda Warning, is derived from the Magna Carta.
You have the right to remain silent.
Do you have the right to remain human