Repeat after me: Justice without mercy is no justice at all.
During this sad season of empty wallets and cold hearts in America, one small-town Georgia mayor understands this. It probably will end up costing him dearly.
Acting like a true Christian usually does. It was for no small reason that Jesus told His disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me."
Today, in state after state across this country, the cross we take up will look something like what Cable News Network illuminates here:
Paul Bridges leans toward his desk, picks up the phone and punches in a number with the fast, laser focus of a man on a mission. The mayor of this tiny town in South Georgia is ready for battle -- and looking for a new weapon.THE HEART of Georgia's law -- like so many others that have been, or will be, passed across the United States in these times -- is a basic indifference to the humanity of its targets. Justice is one thing, as is upholding the law. Intentional cruelty and a one-size-fits-all approach to a vast array of humanity and motivations is entirely another.
"I need some help getting a website," he said, spelling out the words of the domain name he wants for a site promoting immigration reform.
The man on the other end says he'll try to help. But that isn't enough for Bridges.
"I really don't know what your beliefs are on this issue," he said, "but I'm going to persuade you."
Bridges wants the federal government to come up with a solution that gives the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States a chance to work here legally.
"You get me an invite to that Tea Party meeting and I'm going ... I'd like to give the contrary viewpoints. Surely one person in the audience is going to be sympathetic."
Bridges is one of more than a dozen plaintiffs suing Georgia and its governor, trying to stop the state's new immigration law. They won a reprieve Monday when a federal judge temporarily blocked parts of the law scheduled to go into effect July 1.
One of those sections would criminalize exactly what the mayor of Uvalda does almost every day: knowingly driving a car with illegal immigrants as passengers. The judge also put on hold parts of the law that allow police to ask about immigration status during investigations of criminal violations.
But the legal fight is far from over. It could drag on for months and reach the chambers of the nation's highest court. It's a struggle that pits Bridges against many members of his own party and could hurt his political future. But that doesn't stop the mayor.
It is here that American "respect for the law" begins to ape that championed by monstrous regimes we once fought to the death.
Bridges sits on a wood bench in the front row of a courtroom in Atlanta, clutching a notebook. The atmosphere is tense, quiet. He is nauseous and alone.THINK about that for a minute.
Friends are waiting in a van in a nearby parking deck. The family has lived in Georgia for more than a decade, but now they are afraid to walk outside.
Bridges is fighting for them, and for countless other friends and former students. His decision to be "the mayor for everybody" led him here.
The family is willing to sit for hours in the heat so he can drive them to a shopping mall after the hearing. Uncertain how the law will affect them, they have canceled plans for the 14-year-old's coming-of-age quinceañera party in case they have to leave the country. They hope to get their deposit back on a dress.
"All rise. Court is now in session," the bailiff said.
Omar Jadwat, an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union, mentions Bridges in his opening argument, describing him as "Mayor Bridges, who on occasion helps undocumented friends come from Florida to Georgia."
U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash Jr. grills the attorney representing the state.
He asks what would happen if police pulled over an 18-year-old citizen for speeding while he was on the way to the grocery store with his illegal immigrant mother.
As the judge speaks, Bridges nods so intensely that his whole body rocks back and forth. He is encouraged by the questioning. The judge seems to see what he does: a law that makes criminals out of good citizens and tears families apart.
But he grimaces at the attorney's answer.
"It would be no different than if his mother had pockets full of cocaine, and he was knowingly transporting her to go sell it," said Devon Orland, senior assistant attorney general for the state.
Repite conmigo: La justicia sin la misericordia no es justicia en absoluto.
It is a finer line than we think between "truth, justice and the American Way" and "ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer." That line usually is crossed when scared people blame THEM! -- and then do evil, calling it good.