I was reading an old book recently, The Snarl of the Beast by Carroll
John Daly. It talks about the adventures of a private-eye named Race
Williams, who you might say is the father or grandfather of all us other
private-eyes. It was Race that was the most hard-boiled of us, perhaps,
a guy that had no problem with using his .44 or hitting people across
the head if that's what it took. It was Race that set down the Private-
Eye code, you might say, the idea of a guy that does what he thinks is
right even if it isn't exactly what is on the Law Books. As Race puts
it,

"The police don't like me. The crooks don't like me. I'm just a halfway
house between the law and crime; sort of working both ends against the
middle. Right and wrong are not written in the statutes for me, nor do I
find my code of morals in the essays of long-winded professors. My
ethics are my own. I'm not saying they're good and I'm not admitting
they're bad, and what's more I'm not interested in the opinions of
others on that subject. When the time comes for some quick-drawing
gunman to jump me over the hurdles I'll ride to the Pearly Gates on my
own ticket. It won't be a pass written on the back of another man's
thoughts."

Pretty tough stuff. Not that I would agree with him across the board, of
course, but like I said he's kinda like our grandfather — the old kinda
crazy granfather that you listened to when you were a boy with a little
bit of fear and a little bit of fascination.

There's a scale to the world. Things either balance or they don't
balance, and they usually don't balance. My thought is that sometimes
the Law is fine, but sometimes we all know it just isn't balanced.

They used to have water fountains in the south that you couldn't use if
you were Black. That was on the Law books, but it wasn't balanced. There
was a lot of stuff back then that wasn't balanced.

Then this woman named Rosa Parks came along. Now she wasn't Philip
Marlowe and she wasn't Race Williams. And I'm pretty sure she wasn't
packin' a .44 like old Race did. But that didn't mean she just sat there
and didn't do nothin'. No, she got on board a bus and told everybody that
it wasn't right that she couldn't sit where she wanted to, no matter
what was written in the Law Books. Now that took guts, and was as fine
of a hard-boiled thing to do as ever any private eye or town sheriff
ever did. She tilted the scale just a little bit, and you know it kinda
kept tilting after that when people saw what she did.

I heard tell of this Jewish guy once who said that the Law wasn't what
was written even in the Torah, but what was written in our hearts. It's a
matter for everybody. The Law is one thing. But justice is a matter of
the heart, of what people feel about things and how they are willing to
make things right in the world, to tip that scale, to listen to their
conscience, to do what they think is right.

So what happens when two people disagree about what is right? And what
happens if one of them just happens to have the law in their favor? The
main reason we have Law in the first place is to keep people from going
around shooting each other or hitting each other in the head when they
disagree about what justice is. It's easy for a single individual to
decide what is just and what is not just. Much more difficult for a
community, a city, a nation, a world…

Nevertheless, it all comes down to individuals. When it comes to
justice, it's a hard-boiled world.

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