You Shall Pursue

December 20, 2012

Thoughts About Terrible Things

Filed under: Choosing Life — Tags: , , , , , — marleyweiner @ 4:31 am

So, this thing happened. And people died. Babies died. And I simultaneously want to talk about it, and I don’t really have the words.

Evil is real. People choose to do awful things to one another, to hurt each other, to kill each other. There are many reasons that we can talk about why that is, the culture of violence, entitlement, and domination that we live in. The insane level gun access in this country. But no matter where we point the blame, the fact is that evil is as much a part of human life as good is. We have violent, nasty evil impulses, and sometimes people choose to act on those evil impulses and bring horror into the world.

What can we do about this as religious people? Our job is twofold. First of all, we must stand as prophets against this madness. We must say: this is enough. We cannot stand by while our neighbors are literally bleeding. We must write, speak, call, until the world begins to heal.

Second, we must stand as a force for love in our community. I have my kids to watch out for; I have to keep them feeling safe and loved and supported even while we talk about this terrible thing that happened. I have friends, family, classmates, and we all need to lean on each other and love each other. We are  community, and the only way to stand against the evil in this world is by sharing our love for one another, over and over again until people truly feel loved and brave and whole. This is what God is for, to look evil in the face and say, there is a force greater than you, that will heal the destruction that you have wrought, that will fight tooth and nail to keep it from ever happening again.

Here is an organization that you can check out to learn more about fighting gun violence in Philadelphia.

As of today, there is legislation being proposed in the Senate for an assault rifle ban. You can contact your Senator here.

Blessings of love, peace, and healing for the families whose children were murdered. May you find support and love in this horribly dark time.

May 14, 2012

Failures of Justice: Incarcerated Youth

Filed under: Social Justice — Tags: , , , , — marleyweiner @ 2:08 am

So this article from the Village Voice made my skin crawl (warning for extremely graphic images of open wounds).

Basically, the article discusses the endemic and growing problem of violence in the juvenile wards at Rikers Island. Gangs of teenagers engage in multi-person fights, often with weapons, in order to establish a system of control of privileges such as phone access, food, and control of the television. Let me repeat that; CHILDREN are cutting each other up for access to the TV. And it appears, based on the Voice report, that prison employees are systematically downplaying the prevalence that these fights have in the juvenile population. In some cases, it appears that guards may have been encouraging these fights or using them as a means of population control.

Western culture often sees men with criminal records as less than human. These young men are seen as “getting what is coming to them,” as brutality, injury, and even rape are seen as natural consequences of breaking the law in the United States. But here’s the thing. These inmates are children. While they are serving out their sentence, the government has a responsibility to them (as it supposedly does to all prisoners) to protect bodily integrity and keep them from harm.

I am especially troubled by the overwhelming prevalence of young men of color in these pictures. Since New York City’s stop and frisk laws overwhelmingly target people of color, and, in fact, stops and frisks more young black and Latino men and teenagers than there are black and Latino young men in New York, this points to a disturbing trend wherein these young men are disproportionately arrested, and then brutalized within the penal system.

I am a religious Jew, and my sense of faith leaves me especially sickened by these images. The rabbis taught that one must be exceptionally careful when handing down capital cases, to the point that Eliezer ben Azariah said that a court which put a person to death once every 70 years was exceptionally bloodthirsty. While we are not killing these boys outright, we are sending them into custody where they are brutalized, attacked, and deprived of opportunities to make a better life for themselves upon release. We are using the prison system to destroy the lives of minors, and as a feeling person, I don’t know what the words are to express my sorrow. My heart goes out to them and to their families.

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