Eichmann and the power of the law

The most interesting part of Eichmann in Jerusalem to me was the question of what a court can do to “prove” guilt that is simply apparent. We all know that Eichmann committed atrocities the likes of which it is difficult to even comprehend, and he did them to human beings who had done nothing to deserve them. The court knows it, the reader knows it, Arendt knows it, and Eichmann knows it. The question thus becomes where a court’s authority runs out; obviously Eichmann’s argument that concentration camps were legal when he sent people to them is moot, but that raises many other ethical dilemmas. If one court can retroactively wipe the legitimacy of an entire legal system-one not its own, even-where is the line drawn between Israel condemning Hitler’s orders as bunk and Hitler himself stripping Jews of citizenship in order to kill them with no legal culpability under German laws of his day? Obviously the answer is that one of these is right and one is wrong-I can see that because I am human. But the question of what the law can do, being that the ideal of just law is its objectivity and its independence from human presumptions of right and wrong, is a lot murkier. 

The easy answer to this is that no human law will ever be able to make sense of such questions. Eichmann and every other complicit cog in the machine of the Holocaust will serve their due justice in due time, whether or not any judge on earth pronounces them guilty. This is a somewhat comforting answer, but it is not sufficient, particularly not for a newly formed Israel with lots of wrongs to attempt to right. Though I may believe Eichmann will face his rightful punishment from a higher power than any on earth, to let him go free of any attempted justice would not be right, either. This is where I believe Arendt loses her faith in the court, and part of why she refuses to not be critical of Ben-Gurion, the lawyer, the jury and the judges. Obviously she agreed with their eventual verdict, but I think she thought it was based on the wrong evidence. His feelings on Jewish people, his rank within the government, his insanity or lack thereof, none of those things matter. What he did was wrong because it was wrong, and I think finding a way to implement that legally is a lot easier said than done, but that was the challenge that Arendt, and I, would have liked to see them succeed in. 

Presentation Versus Representation

In hindsight, the historical context from which I analyzed the US Declaration of Independence is quite lacking in comparison to the literary perspective. The most prominent thing that I kept coming back to was the emptiness of the wording used. Phrases such as “one people,” all men are created equal,” and “powers from the consent of the governed.” I see all of these as merely a presentation; they do not truly represent the “one people” of the US. These were written down to provide a sense of unification, equality, and shared power — in reality they are far from that. This entire document is put on as a sort of act to show power in writing rather than in action. While this document was written and published no actions were made to ensure what was said was enforced. This declaration presents representation where there is none to be found.

Going back to the second phrase I quoted, “all men are created equal,” there enslaved West Africans who would have disagreed. Calling upon the erasure poem “Declaration” by Tracy K. Smith, there is a line from this poem that reads “We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. –taked Captive — on the high Seas — to bear–” (Smith). The irony being that this is the exact words of the Declaration the founding fathers wrote. Yet they could not see that they too were the same as they they enslaved. In my opinion, it was an insult to write such a phrase as “all men are created equal” as a presentation to the world how just the US is, while in reality, when it comes time to represent what they wrote, such justice is merely spilled ink.

Smith, Tracy K. “Declaration.” Poetry Foundation, Graywolf Press, http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/147468/declaration-5b5a286052461.

Gender Power

Like many of the works written in the past, the role of genders matched the real-life roles. However, in The Furies, the characters did not keep their stereotypical roles of this time period in the play at all. In this play, the women had all the power, and the men were there to try and support each other.  

The first example of female power is Clytemnestra talking to the Furies about getting revenge. Through my first time reading through this, I missed the fact that the Furies were female. So, my first impression of this scene was that even as a ghost, a female still had more power than a male because she was able to give the Furies commands in their sleep. But this changed after I realized they were female.

In the end of the play, Athena is given the power to decide the outcome of what will happen to Orestes, is interesting in two ways. The first is the fact that she was going to have the final say if the votes come back a tie. If she has the power to do that, why didn’t she just do that in the beginning? I understand that she wants to give Orestes a fair trial, so the Furies don’t think she doesn’t want to hear what their side of the story, but the outcome was still the same Orestes was spared. The other way I thought this scene was interesting was because of how the play ended. After the trial, Athena and was trying to appease the Furies so they wouldn’t bring havoc to the world. This only happened because the Furies were not able to deal with Orestes the way they wanted to. But this was going to happen with or without a trial because it was Athena’s decision, so the trial wasn’t necessary.

The Furies also had a significant amount of power. They were able to challenge the ideas of both Athena and Apollo and not suffer any major consequences. The most important of the two would be Apollo since he was a male, and it is typically the male who has the power to do this.