Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Incarseration, Part 2

One of my buttons is, in case you haven’t noticed from reading my posts, is the gap between the promise and reality of the USA, and how I see that gap widening. Yet even with that, I’m wanting to take responsibility for and deal with that gap from a centered, spiritual place, by practicing the presence and getting out of the way, daring to live as if grace were real – betting it all on black, if you will.

This morning I read a review of the book, Beyond Vengeance, Beyond Duality: A Call for Compassionate Revolution, by Sylvia Clute, a call for revamping the American judicial system and got my buttons pressed big time! What an opportunity to practice the presence! The USA has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners. One out of every hundred Americans is currently in jail. For adults in their twenties, its one out of fifty three. One of every fifteen African American males is incarcerated. For African American males between 20 and 34, its one in nine. Are blacks really so different from whites? Some would say yes. But I doubt it. God is in them to the same extent It is in everyone else. What we have here is a failure, not only to communicate (Cool Hand Luke), but a failure, among other things, to live out our American ideal of equal justice under the law.

Hispanics are also disproportionately affected. The cost of incarceration is staggering. Imagine what else we could do with that money? Why, we could fight more foreign wars that really have nothing to do with preserving the existence of the US, maybe even finally attack Iran and North Korea! Sorry for the sarcasm, it just slipped out. Each year an inmate spends in prison costs roughly one teacher’s salary.

One of the ways Clute suggests we deal with this is spiritual. We can transcend the perception of duality and otherness. Even practising this in our individual lives can help. How we punish and even the belief in the usefulness of prison terms as a punishment (do they really do what we want them to do?), reflects our core values. By closing the gap between our espoused values and our behavior, by working to make our core values real both in our individual lives and our community lives, we can release the current structures based on duality, separation, fear and blame and transform them into structures based on grace, pracising the presence and getting out of the way.

It might be cool to continue jailing people as we currently are, if it worked. But it doesn’t, does it? So why are we still doing it? Who’s benefitting and who’s afraid and who doesn’t want to take responsibility for building a world that works for everyone?

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