There are people still saying that we need the prisons and kangaroo courts of Guantanamo Bay. They’re saying that the just and legal courts of the United States of America are a danger to our society.
To these people, I point to the story of Fenris the wolf.
Fenris was the child of Loki and Angerboda, both of them of the Jotun frost giant clan distantly related to the Aesir gods. The Aesir were terrified of Fenris, worried that the wolf would cause great destruction and so Odin ordered Fenris to be made a prisoner.
The Aesir called Loki a trickster, but in this case it was the Aesir who did the tricking. They told Fenris they would play a game with him, to see how strong he was, and Fenris agreed, and so the Aesir tied Fenris up with a magic cord made by the gnomes. “Try to get out of that, Fenris,” they said, “and if you can’t, we promise we’ll set you free.”
Well, Fenris couldn’t get free. The more he pulled, the tighter the cord got. The Aesir laughed at Fenris, and then left him there for a very long time. How long? Hundreds of years? Thousands?
The Aesir were happy. Fenris was contained. They felt safe, and every now and then Odin felt a twinge of guilt, but he tried not to let it bother him, even though he had given one of his eyes for the knowledge that it wouldn’t work out in the end.
Eventually, Fenris was released, and using the ages of pent up fury from his captivity, ended up destroying the world.
We may keep the people we accuse of being “the worst of the worst” in Guantanamo for their entire lives, and still we won’t be safe. As long as we break the promise of our own rules of justice, our own wrongdoing will encourage the buildup of fury against us.
We can never contain all the people enraged with the United States enough to do us harm. Perfect security can never be achieved – not even with a magic chain.
Perfect honor, however, can be achieved. We always have the choice to honor our own system of justice, even when the people who enter it are particularly terrifying to us.