Crime and Punishment?

Bastille in 1789

Bastille in 1789 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By and large I have hope for our society. I see us making progress on our attitudes, in how we treat marginalized groups, even if it is coming much slower than I am happy with.  More and more Americans are opening their eyes to the damage that wealth and income inequality has caused us. Still, every once in a while we get a cruel wake up call that we are nowhere we need to be.

I just want to state, for the record, I do not think jail is necessarily the best thing for this young man. Then again, I do not think it is necessarily the best thing for anyone but the most willfully violent of offenders. Our jails are full of young men who sold a bag of weed to the wrong person. We need to rethink how we deal with crime in this country, because warehousing people, and turning them into slave labor, is not working. It would behoove us to look rather into how we can make those who have broken our laws want to make actual amends and avoid committing a crime again. Instead the system refines our criminals and reinforces the disenfranchisement of racial minorities, in particular our black community.

I also take issue with how easily we throw young people into the meat grinder that is our justice system. I will write more about this in the future, soon, but suffice to say why anyone would think it is a good idea to take a young person still in the middle of their social development and throw them, essentially, into a state of nature escapes me. Again, this shores up the institutional racism in our society. Jail sentences are by far disproportionately handed down to young Men of Color than white men.

That said, four people died because of this young man’s arrogance and negligence. Had he been a Person of Color, or even just poor, you can be guaranteed he would spend at least five years in prison. Instead his defense successfully portrayed his privilege as a handicap. It has come to this.

It has come to an economic elite in our country so emboldened by a system that benefits that at every term that they can blatantly flaunt those benefits in our faces. No judge in their right mind would accept, for even a second, the idea that a defendant’s poverty left them ignorant of the consequences of their actions.  Yet we are expected to accept that this young man’s moral failings, his arrogance, are to be pitied. It is spitting in the face of the 99% and I really do not know how much longer they think we can take it.

I have said it before, I will say it again, I do not want it to come to that, no matter how bad it gets. If they keep up with this sort of crap though it will. There may not be a unified front for the disaffected, with Occupiers and Idle No More activists on one side, and Tea Partiers on the other. Even so, it is obvious that those who are stepped on by the economic elite in this country are becoming increasingly angry, and each time something like this happens it increases the chances of igniting the flames of an ill-conceived revolution. I don’t want that. I don’t want it because it will solve nothing, and I don’t want it because frankly in times like that people like me are sent to the gallows by would-be Robespierres.

We have a right to our anger in all of this though. We should be quaking with rage that it is ever more obvious that the wealthy in this country see themselves as an aristocracy above the laws of the “little people.” Instead of letting that rage consume us in fires of our own making we should use it as fuel to move us to take advantage of the systems we do have. The tools are there. They are kept out of our sight to be sure, by the same kind of people who argue that we should pity this boy’s easy life, but we have them. They belong to us and we should use them, every single chance we get. If we don’t we will lose them, either to a blood revolution, or by the accelerating erosion of our democracy. It has not been a perfect one, to be certain, but it is ours, and can be more perfect, if we don’t let these bastards take it from us, something this incident makes so much clearer they are all too happy to do.

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