Tuesday, September 29, 2015

All I Can Do Is To Choose, Today, To Be Unafraid

Last week in a post about zero tolerance policies, I mentioned that Seattle's city council was set to vote in favor of a resolution that would call for an end to the practice of incarcerating children and replace the practice with policies that focus on prevention and "restorative justice," with a goal of zero youth incarceration. Yesterday, the resolution passed unanimously, as it should have.

"Shackling humiliates young people, recalls past trauma and limits their access to justice," Maryland Public Defender Paul B. DeWolfe said. "All of this is antithetical to the rehabilitative mission of the juvenile court. This reform will make it easier for the court to do what it's designed to do: Help kids get on the right track."

I don't know whether to be happy or depressed by the news. Of course, it's a good thing that we appear, at least in some corners of the country, to be taking these sane and reasonable steps toward rehabilitating rather than merely punishing our children, and especially those of color who are disproportionately represented here, but they are such pathetic, baby steps that it's hard to feel good about it. 

How did we get to a place where we fear children so much that we must jail and shackle them? This is not a problem of children, but a problem with all of us. Maybe it's just an offshoot of the general culture of fear in which we live, this place where fear-mongering racists like Donald Trump can become one of  the leading candidates for President; where our government was guided for years by the "Cheney Doctrine," the delusional concept that if there is even a one percent chance of something bad being true, we have to respond as if it's a certainty; where we have more prisons than colleges and universities; where elementary school aged children are routinely restrained and confined to isolation rooms in schools; where our courts shackle and jail our children.

The US incarcerates a greater percentage of our population than any major nation on earth, by far, including such places as China. Our cops kill more citizens per day than most nations do per year. Are we really such an evil, violent, irredeemable people?

I don't think so, but we have certainly fallen under the sway of fear, and while we're all victims, our brothers and sisters of color are bearing the brunt of our fearful hysteria. It's a fear fed by racism and profits.

I'm not writing this today because I think I have a solution, because I don't. I often have to take a break from the current events because the news is essentially a list of symptoms that prove our nation's mass delusional paranoia. I often have to take a break from television programs and movies and popular books because they all seem to show me false machismo masking deep fear or simple yuck-yucks designed to distract me from it. I often have to bury myself in my work, in my preschool, in my family, where trust and hope and love are the norm, because otherwise I become filled with an impotent outrage.

In Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first inaugural address he said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." It has never been more true than it is today.

All I can do is to choose, today, to be unafraid.

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