Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks in a scary world

Let us give thanks.

Let us give thanks that we are not the parents of Michael Brown. One of the more thoughtful and moving pieces on this subject among the thousands to appear is by Charles Blow, Fury after Ferguson.

Let us give thanks, if we do not live in Missouri, that we won’t see the St. Louis County District Attorney running for Governor. Or, if we are, that we can vote against him.

Let us give thanks that we are not in prison, victims of the four-decade old policy of mass incarceration in the US, addressed as a major public health epidemic by the New York Times, Mass Imprisonment and Public Health”, which details the reasons why

…people in prison are among the unhealthiest members of society. Most come from impoverished communities where chronic and infectious diseases, drug abuse and other physical and mental stressors are present at much higher rates than in the general population. Health care in those communities also tends to be poor or nonexistent.

The experience of being locked up — which often involves dangerous overcrowding and inconsistent or inadequate health care — exacerbates these problems, or creates new ones. Worse, the criminal justice system has to absorb more of the mentally ill and the addicted. The collapse of institutional psychiatric care and the surge of punitive drug laws have sent millions of people to prison, where they rarely if ever get the care they need. Severe mental illness is two to four times as common in prison as on the outside, while more than two-thirds of inmates have a substance abuse problem, compared with about 9 percent of the general public.
Common prison-management tactics can also turn even relatively healthy inmates against themselves. Studies have found that people held in solitary confinement are up to seven times more likely than other inmates to harm themselves or attempt suicide.

The report also highlights the “contagious” health effects of incarceration on the already unstable communities most of the 700,000 inmates released each year will return to. When swaths of young, mostly minority men are put behind bars, families are ripped apart, children grow up fatherless, and poverty and homelessness increase. Today 2.7 million children have a parent in prison, which increases their own risk of incarceration down the road.

Oh, yes. Or their children.

Most of us are not. Some of us are. It is simply not ok. And it is not ok to be selfish, arrogant, so-greedy-it-is-not-to-be-believed multi-billionaires. Be successful, yes. Be rich, yes. Do not be obscenely so wealthy that it requires the destruction of the lives of millions of others.

Blow notes that
Even long-suffering people will not suffer forever. Patience expires. The heart can be broken only so many times before peace is broken. And the absence of peace doesn’t predicate the presence of violence. It does, however, demand the troubling of the comfortable

Nick Hanauer, a multi-billionaire, is less sanguine. He warns his fellow 0.01%ers in a post on that “The Pitchforks are coming for us…Plutocrats”. It’s a nice thought, that they would get what is coming to them, but I am less than confident that he is correct. It is a nice thought for Thanksgiving, though.

If we have jobs, let us be thankful. If, even better, they are good jobs, let us be more thankful.

If we have family, let us be thankful. If we have lost family, let us be thankful for the time that we had them. If we can still imagine a world with peace and justice, let us be thankful, although it may be just in our imagination.

And then, let us take a deep breath and realize that it is not just going to come, that we are going to have to work for it. Hard, and tirelessly.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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