A death contributes nothing to justice – it is a way of making less, of subtracting. And some would argue that there is something in a life that is un-killable – in terms of its meaning, use-to-narrative, and even its function if you have faith in souls.
Justice = Memory, quoting Yerushalmi in Zachor again: possession of our story and the right to bear it forward. The discovery of Bin Laden may feel like closure – but no story that’s true has an ending. It may feel as if we are restored to the heroic position in the story – but the real authority/authorship isn’t inside the story, it is the perspective outside it… justice was always ours/memory was always ours to the extent we were seeing history.
Justice is asymmetrical – we would never be able to kill Bin Laden enough to compensate for the loss of life. This is key to recovery from genocide as well – there is no fit punishment. Yet to be sustainable as a people (as a social body with memory) we need to coexist… So we have our best (and forever unsatisfying) sense of resolution in saying that this is what happened, and this is a map of ethical accountability, and what happened will be put to varying uses – what happened will be instrumental to the next thing that happened, and the systems of accountability will continue to unfold (memory is morally alive, not frozen). Memory never guarantees innocence – so much continues to unfold. Justice is the start of a process, a peace process. And peace is a way; it doesn’t stop. Mercy droppeth.
The figure of blind justice with balanced scales: we will not see balance; what balances is invisible – the ultimate steadiness/perfection is not our achievement, it is our necessary guess.