Thursday, June 12, 2008

HAVE YOU EVER COME UPON A BAND OF MARDI GRAS INDIANS IN THE STREETS OF NEW ORLEANS?










My lands are where
my dead lie buried.
Crazy Horse







The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it.
Chief Joseph


NEW ORLEANS REBUILDING REALITY CHECK: 7TH WARD - ANNETTE, ST. ANTHONY STREET




"Adversity introduces a man to himself."

— Unknown



The firm, the enduring, the simple, and the modest are near to virtue.

Confucius
(551 BC - 479 BC), The Confucian Analects





Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.
--Helen Keller




So long as we live among men, let us cherish humanity.
Andre Gide (1869 - 1951)





Blessings. Prayers for the suffering.

HISTORY REMEMBERS: ..."the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it" - -Martin Luther King Jr.



"A living wage depends on whether you are asking for it or giving it."
-film dialogue
The Farmers Daughter



There have been some heavy matters attaching themselves to your planetary sisters heart and mind these last months. It has to do with with how I perceive rebuilding monies being distributed "on the ground," so to speak.



SAINT CHARLES STREET - NEW ORLEANS 2008


As I drive around the city I am constantly aware of where I see rebuilding or "renovating." (That is why I am here in New Orleans...) What kinds of businesses are coming into neighborhoods? Where do I see houses that have been yet to be gutted? How many rows of houses on streets sit hauntingly empty. How many homes can I count on a given street which could be "affordable housing" which are sitting empty? I am painfully aware of the unfairness to the children in the area's where I see children walking and play in streets where the devastation to the houses is all around them like open wounds. Often the smell of mold permeates the air... There are areas where the smell of the mold permeates whole neighborhoods - especially in the hot, marshy, summers. (This past Sunday June 23, 2008 I was photographing Tupelo behind St. Claude and Claiborne and the mold was so bad that my eyes were burning and watering so intensely that I had to cut my session short). That hurts - when I see children walking through neighborhoods that are still devastated and even their playgrounds, many of which haven't been fixed up for them are painful reminders that in this city all children are not treated equally. I get really angry inside and think, "this is really unfair" when I see children walking on these streets to and from school and know and have seen a different reality within this very same city for other children in New Orleans, in neighborhoods where parents have more resources to work with. I ache with anger and my feelings of powerlessness to stop the cycle. How will they're childrens, childrens lives especially after what too many of these children have been through in the aftermath of Katrina and most of all the days spent on roofs, highways, hotels, the Superdome and other buildings - seeing death and devestation all around them, and far too many children (and their parents) not getting the counseling needed to heal the profound suffering they endured and watched their parents, other family members and other children go through. Their were children in trees, children who died in their schools, in their homes... How can their be such indifference. My mind and heart just don't (won't) get it.

It bothers me deeply, how I see areas that already have money - "getting more" - for tourist related "renovations". Often in areas that suffered no water damage (Katrina wind and tree damage - no flooding).

Coming on the 3 year anniversary of our nation's most remembered, large scale destruction {250,000 homes flooded in one fell sweep - that's home's, not individuals} due to the levee failure related flooding - not Katrina hurricane damage - I watch in amazement as neighborhoods spruce up their ante bellum mansions for the tourist riding on the streets cars to gaze upon their beauty and wealth, as nearby neighborhoods continue to struggle for volunteers, funds, or just to get through rebuilding paperwork, financing, working and surviving. I get really angry when I see areas with an abundance of trees, continue to get more trees, whilst whole neighborhoods and communities which could benefit from the shade of trees - have none. *

(*your planetary sister stands corrected. She has found that whilst no infrastructure has opened along St. Claude St. in the lower 9th - they have put in some flowering trees! And a street sign! - watch the slide show from Sunday June 22, 2008 - you decide...)



And in the city of New Orleans much is about race. Spoken or not spoken - "actions speak louder than words..." I haven't been down to Chalmette and Arabi lately which are predominantly a greater Caucasian population/culture so I cannot speak to these areas. What I can speak to is the predominately Black neighborhoods which I see as I drive around the streets - almost daily - as to what feels to be a sort of "collective punishment". In some areas the neglect of the communities is astounding to the other side of the spectrum of the forced introduction of large groups of white students into predominately and historically Black neighborhoods - not a natural migrational pattern which occurs organically - but what I perceive to be a mindful (covert/overt) changing of racial demographics and aspects of the rich cultural tapestry of communities when the properties become desirable - for instance the high ground in the Black Pearl. {I speak of a historically Black New Orleanian community with roots such as the Buffalo Soldiers being formed as a regiment from this area} AND Black community members and business men and women from all over the United States are also not investing in the predominately Black neighborhoods either.

In conversations I have been told that some Black community members (often who have suffered lost lives through violence) who believe the incoming White population is going to be good for their neighborhoods - they will -for the buildings not the peoples. Things will be good for the WHITE people who move in and if you have enough money, no matter your race, you can buy into the American dream of safety and private security - generally, that is one of the balancing aspects of capitalism - often this system even with its ingrained racism in the infrastructure, is only interested in your $$$, not your race or ethnicity. See, I have had conversations with both White and Black planetary brothers and sisters that still believe and reflect an inherent racism which states "Black peoples bring down property values." Shocking that 'property' value is valued more than human value.
In my expereinces what I have seen of my culture when money and property (values especially) are involved, will not be so good for the Black (and some Latino's). For some reason, the peoples of my race, seem to culturally accept Latino-Hispanics, Asian, and Indian planetary brothers and sisters OVER African American planetary brothers and sisters. Why we even have 2 separate languages to accommodate Latino's who do not speak English, but this is not true for other populations and any other language. Hey! We are a nation of people from many nations and cultures ... go figure). My birth family members immigrated here from Italy and France {@ the early 1900's - my ancestors had to learn the language and become a part of the culture, even as it - rejected them for their ethnicity - especially the Italians - called dirty and WOPS}. I feel this gives me a right - as one of a group who came to this nation as "outsiders", to speak to the inequality in how we treat different races. WE ARE ONE PLANETARY FAMILY folks. What "is going on???

There is a great book called The Karma of Brown Folk by Vijay Prasad. It's about the experiences Asians/Indians/Pakistani's in America, and how "brown folks" are often used against the "black folks" and how brown skinned peoples are more readily accepted in this nation than our Black skinned planetary brothers and sisters. This book opened a window of consciousness in me when I realized how often used politically other races have been "used" to keep Black nation planetary brothers and sisters out of the proverbial loop.

I feel deeply the anger in my heart as to what I perceive to be the ongoing racist policies of "separate and unequal" distribution of funds; how businesses serve or do not serve (invest certain populations and communities; how there seems to me to be a insidious consciousness that I perceive being played out in certain Black communities that reflects to my heart through my eyes a "group punishment" mentality. It's odd but when I perceive it or photograph what I think it looks like, it comes to my mind that it is much like what we have seen the Israeli's practice as part of psych-ops on the Palestinian peoples.

It seems like whole communities of yes, mostly Americans of African heritage, which seem as if they are being somehow punished - I don't know what happened in these neighborhoods and communities before Katrina - but collective punishment (BLOCK BUSTIN for instance) is not the solution.



THE HEARTS, MINDS, AND SPIRITS, OF YOUTHS CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE

Too many schools remain closed, activities for the youths - next to nothing, the night school not reopened on St. Claude. Much needed drug stores, hardware stores, and grocery stores not being opened in the Lower 9th. Whilst 3 important inner city supermarkets where New Orleanian locals can access fresh veggies and fruits remain - CLOSED. One previous supermarket has been turned into a NIKE shoe store (by the Rock-n-Bowl on Carrolton and Airline). Yeah, not what the community needed - the grocery store - but perfect for those driving down Airline into the city and the Superdome and back out... and of course the NIKE store is a treat for the locals - but the community needed a grocery store.

Instead, a NIKE outlet store is placed over a much needed local grocery store at Airline and Carrolton. Yeah, I know capitali$m - without the ethics and the moral standards that take into account the welfare and wellbeing of WE THE PEOPLE after one of our nations greatest national/natural/government disasters. If one travels further east down Claiborne in mid-city the much needed Winne Dixie sits - CLOSED. Further east by Alomaster and Franklin the Winne Dixie continues to sit - CLOSED. There are no other grocery chains that WANT TO MAKE MONEY? A new Family Dollar just opened at Claiborne by Washington Streets - and guess what? It's slamin busy. If a supermarket was opened on Claiborne - yes, I would be a customer - it's easy on and off. Yet, oddly enough, Winne Dixie is able to operate a supermarket "uptown" (primarily an area that visually speaks of more white folks, students, and $$) and within blocks of another supermarket - yes, there are 2 grocery stores within a few block radius - a Winne Dixie and a Whole Paycheck (Whole Foods). {PHOTO"S: Above: Winne Dixie Supermarket (CLOSED) at Alomaster by St. Claude, New Orleans. Left - the fence is gone at this mid-city Claiborne Ave grocery store and the store remains (CLOSED}.

Okay this is where this unburdening of my heart and mind becomes my angry chant. Where I feel my powerlessness and anger, and yes shame, at the outrageous acts of racism and classism which I witness and which pierces my heart anew each time. Especially when it comes to schooling/education down in New Orleans.

And in particular the TRADE SCHOOLS - which once taught the local plumbers, electricians, tile men, concrete, carpenters, nurses, auto repair, health aids, etc. - the trades which are helping many of those who attended these schools to rebuild their own homes, the homes of immediate family members, and friends, as well as clients. Since the levee failure related flooding - the 2 trade schools that I know of, the Booker T. Washington (by the Superdome) and the Louisa Street Technical School (Desire) have been CLOSED. How is it that these schools were not immediately re-opened after the greatest national disaster in our history
- schools which would have trained thousands of men, women, - youths the skills necessary to help rebuild and maintain their city in the future.

How is it that these TRADE SCHOOLS were not reopened immediately so that the local youths could not only get training by day - but the opportunities after school and on weekends - to apprentice, or to work with family members using the skills they are learning during the day in their own homes??? In this 3 year period of rebuilding the city of New Orleans, and these men and women would have been getting important on the job training of how to take care of the shotguns - the houses their ancestors built and have maintained for years. I watch the board at St. Anna's grow with the list of names of those murdered in this city just since January 1st. We are in the second column halfway down... So many are youths. Too many, too many.

I try to drive into many diverse neighborhoods in New Orleans and I will tell you this - there is little for the youths of AFRICAN decent - male and female, to do after school. AND there are far too many children, youths, and adults who I witness daily living in incredible poverty, often living way too close to way too much violence, crime, or tribulation, whilst being deprived of opportunities to work with their hands or creatively or being an equal chance of making it with good schooling opportunities. Heck, I have been told it is so bad that some of the schools don't even have the books the children need - forget about "computer labs!"

I think there have been far too many decisions from policy makers and most of all those at brand New Orlean$ tourism headquarters since the levee failure related flooding, that are shockingly, blatantly, racist, and classist, and I feel how ashamed and angry I am as a human being, who witnesses these things and I feel my powerlessness, as I watch and photograph. And pray.


"We call our demonstration a campaign for jobs and income because we feel that the economic question is the most crucial that black people, and poor people generally, are confronting. There is a literal depression in the Negro community. When you have mass unemployment in the Negro community , it's called a social problem; when you have mass unemployment in the white community, it's called a depression. The fact is, there is a major depression in the Negro community. The unemployment rate is extrememely high, and among Negro youth, it goes up as high as forty percent in some cities."


A TESTAMENT OF HOPE
The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr.
(edited by James. M. Washington)




New Orleans Tourism Board. St. Charles Street (of course).


This is an organic work in process until the vibration is just right, expect and organic process of change, re-evaluation and the results of conversations and events I am expereincing as I am composing this posting. Thanks for your readership. Blessings.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

FOR YOUR CONTEMPLATION: ORGANIZING for FREEDOM at ANGOLA STATE PRISON



Organizing for Freedom

Prisoner-led Resistance at Angola State Prison





WRITTEN BY Jordan Flaherty
http://www.leftturn.org/
June 10, 2008


At the heart of Louisiana's prison system sits the Louisiana State Prison at Angola, a former slave plantation where little has changed in the last several hundred years. Angola has been made notorious from books and films such as Dead Man Walking and The Farm: Life at Angola, as well as its legendary bi-annual prison rodeo and The Angolite, a prisoner-written magazine published within its walls. Visitors are often overwhelmed by its size – 18,000 acres that include a golf course (for use by prison staff and some guests), a radio station, and a massive farming operation that ranges from staples like soybeans and wheat to traditional Southern plantation crops like cotton.

Recent congressional attention and legal developments have again brought Angola into the media limelight. The focus this time is on the prison's practice of keeping some inmates in solitary confinement for decades, especially two of Angola's most well-known residents – Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox. Woodfox and Wallace are the remaining members of the Angola Three, political activists widely seen as having been interned in solitary confinement as punishment for their political activism.


Modern Plantation

Norris Henderson, co-director of Safe Streets/Strong Communities, a grassroots criminal justice organization in New Orleans, spent twenty years at Angola – a relatively short time in a prison where 85 percent of its 5,100 prisoners are expected to die behind its walls. "Six hundred folks been there over 25 years," he explains. "Lots of these guys been there over 35 years. Think about that: a population that's been there since the 1970s. Once you're in this place, it's almost like you ain't going nowhere, that barring some miracle, you're going to die there."
Prisoners at Angola still do the same work that enslaved Africans did there when it was a slave plantation. "Angola is a plantation," Henderson explains. "Eighteen-thousand acres of choice farmland. Even to this day, you could have machinery that can do all that work, but you still have prisoners doing it instead." Not only do prisoners at Angola toil at the same work as enslaved Africans hundreds of years ago, but many of the white guards come from families that have lived on the grounds since the plantation days.

Nathaniel Anderson, a current inmate at Angola who has served nearly thirty years of a lifetime sentence, agrees. "People on the outside should know that Angola is still a plantation with every type and kind of slave conceivable," he says.


Prison Organizing

In 1971, the Black Panther Party was seen as a threat to this country's power structure – not only in the inner cities, but even in the prisons. At Orleans Parish Prison, the New Orleans city jail, the entire jail population refused to cooperate for one day in solidarity with New Orleans Panthers who were on trial. "I was in the jail at the time of their trial," Henderson tells me. "The power that came from those guys in the jail, the camaraderie… Word went out through the jail, because no one thought the Panthers were going to get a fair trial. We decided to do something. We said, 'The least we can do is to say the day they are going to court, no one is going to court.'"

The action was successful, and inspired prisoners to do more. "People saw what happened and said, 'We shut down the whole system that day,'" he remembers. "That taught the guys that if we stick together we can accomplish a whole lot of things.

"Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were inmates who had recently become members of the Black Panther Party, and as activists, they were seen as threats to the established order of the prison. They were organizing among the other prisoners, conducting political education, and mobilizing for civil disobedience to improve conditions.

Robert King Wilkerson, like many inmates, joined the Black Panther Party while already imprisoned at Orleans Parish Prison. He was transferred to Angola, and immediately placed in solitary confinement (known at Angola as Closed Cell Restriction or CCR) – confined alone in his cell with no human contact for 23 hours a day. He later found out he had been transferred to solitary because he was accused of an attack he could not have committed – it had happened at Angola before he had been moved there.

In March of 1972, not long after they began organizing for reform from within Angola, Wallace and Woodfox were accused of killing a correctional officer. They were also moved to solitary, where they remained for nearly 36 years, until March of this year, when they were moved out four days after a congressional delegation led by Congressman John Conyers arranged a visit to the prison. Legal experts have said this is the longest time anyone in the US has spent in solitary. Amnesty International recently declared, "the prisoners' prolonged isolation breached international treaties which the US has ratified, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture.

"Wilkerson, Wallace, and Woodfox became known internationally as the Angola Three – Black Panthers held in solitary confinement because of their political activism. Wilkerson remained in solitary for nearly 29 years, until he was exonerated and released from prison in 2001. Since his release, Wilkerson has been a tireless advocate for his friends still incarcerated. "I'm free of Angola," he often says, "but Angola will never be free of me.

"This history of struggle and resistance brings a special urgency to the case of the Angola Three. Kgalema Motlante, a leader of the African National Congress, said in 2003 that the case of the Angola Three "has the potential of laying bare, exposing the shortcomings, in the entire US system."

(a note from your planetary sister: the prison industry. By law a corporation must MAKE A PROFIT - in order for a prisoner based for profit corporation to continue to make a profit - there must be a continual inflow of "PRISONERS".)


Purchasing Testimony

Wallace and Woodfox have the facts on their side. Bloody fingerprints at the scene of the crime do not match their prints. Witnesses against them have recanted, while witnesses with nothing to gain have testified that they were nowhere near the crime. There is evidence of prosecutorial misconduct, such as purchasing inmate testimony and not disclosing it to the defense. Even the widow of the slain guard has spoken out on their behalf. Most recently, their case has received attention from Representative Conyers, head of the House Judiciary Committee, and Cedric Richmond, chair of the Louisiana House Judiciary Committee, who has scheduled hearings on the issue to begin this summer. Earlier today, the magistrate in Woodfox's case recommended the reversal of his conviction. But this is more than the story of innocent men struggling to prove their innocence. The story of the Panthers at Angola is both inspiring and shocking. It is a struggle for justice while in the hardest of situations.

"They swam against the current in Blood Alley," says Nathaniel Anderson, a current inmate at Angola who has been inspired by Wallace and Woodfox's legacy. "For men to actually have the audacity to organize for the protection of young brothers who were being victimized ruthlessly was an extreme act of rebellion.

"Like many prisoners during that time, Norris Henderson was introduced to organizing by Black Panthers in prison, and later became a leader of prison activism during his time at Angola. The efforts of Wilkerson, Woodfox, Wallace, and other Panthers in prison were vital to bringing improvements in conditions, stopping sexual assault, and building alliances among different groups of prisoners.

"They were part of the Panther Movement," Henderson tells me. "This was at the height of the Black power movement, we were understanding that we all got each other. In the night-time there would be open talk, guys in the jail talking, giving history lessons, discussing why we find ourselves in the situation we find ourselves. They started educating folks around how we could treat each other. The Nation of Islam was growing in the prison at the same time. You had these different folk bringing knowledge. You had folks who were hustlers that then were listening and learning. Everybody was coming into consciousness."


Insatiable Machine

The US has the largest incarcerated population in the WORLD – twenty-five percent of the world's prisoners are here. If Louisiana, which has the largest percentage imprisoned of any US state, were a country, it would have by far the world's largest percentage of its population locked up, at one out of every 45 people. Nationwide, more than seven million people are in US jails, on probation, or on parole, and African Americans are incarcerated at nearly ten times the rate of whites. Our criminal justice system has become an insatiable machine – even when crime rates go down, the prison population keeps rising.

The efforts of the Angola Three and other politically conscious prisoners represented a fundamental challenge to this system.

The organizing of Wallace, Woodfox, and Wilkerson, though cut short by their move to solitary, had an effect that continues to this day.Prison activism, and outside support for activists behind bars, can be tremendously powerful, says Henderson.

"In the early 1970s people started realizing we're all in this situation together. First, at Angola, we pushed for a reform to get a law library. That was one of the first conditions to change. Then, we got the library; guys became aware of what their rights were. We started to push to improve the quality of food, and to get better medical care. Once they started pushing the envelope, a whole bunch of things started to change. Angola was real violent then, you had inmate violence and rape. The people running the prison system benefit from people being ignorant. But we educated ourselves. Eventually, you had guys in prison proposing legislation."

"This was a time of reforms and grassroots struggles happening in prisons across the US.

Uprisings such as the Attica Rebellion were resulting in real change. Today, many of the gains from those victories have been overturned, and prisoners have even less recourse to change than ever before. "Another major difference," Henderson explains, is that "you had federal oversight over the prisons at that time, someone you could complain to, and say my rights are being violated. Today, we've lost that right.

"Working for criminal justice is work that benefits us all, says Henderson. "Most folks in prison are going to come out of prison," he states. "We should invest in the quality of that person. We should start investing in the redemption of people.

"After decades of efforts by their lawyers and by activists, Wallace and Woodfox have been released from solitary, and have won some legal victories, but the struggle continues. Wallace and Woodfox remain behind bars, punished for standing up against a system that has grown even larger and more deadly. And the abuse does not end there. "There are hundreds more guys who have been in [solitary] a long time too," Henderson adds. "This is like the first step in a thousand-mile journey."

Jordan Flaherty is an editor of Left Turn Magazine

(http://www.leftturn.org/), and a journalist based in New Orleans.

Most recently, his writing can be seen in the anthology Red State Rebels, released this month by AK Press. He can be reached at http://us.mc593.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=neworleans@leftturn.org

A version of this article is featured in the Summer 2008 issue of Left Turn Magazine, and this week's issue of New York's Indypendent (http://www.indypendent.org/).

Please support independent media!

Subscribe to Left Turn Magazine. http://www.leftturn.org/donate.

Resources: Free The Angola Three - http://www.angola3.org/

Safe Streets Strong Communities - http://www.safestreetsnola.org/

Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children - http://www.fflic.org/

Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana - http://www.jjpl.org/

Letter From Angola State Prison, by Nathaniel Anderson, #130547 - http://www.leftturn.org/node/1155

This is a low-volume email list for Jordan Flaherty's articles and updates from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. To subscribe, email http://us.mc593.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=jordanhurricane-subscribe@lists.riseup.net.



...dedicated to my Brethern Augie who spent a good part of his 60 years of life in Angola State Prison.


THIS IS NO REBEL FLAG - DON'T GLAMOURIZE IT! THIS IS A FLAG OF INSURRECTION


THIS FLAG IS A FLAG OF INSURRECTION AND NATIONAL DISHONOUR.

AND THIS FLAG IS A CONTINUAL, PAINFUL REMINDER, THAT THERE WERE WAY TOO MANY WHITE PEOPLES WHO WERE WILLING TO DIE TO KEEP THE BLACK NATION ENSLAVED IN A FOR-PROFIT SYSTEM.

THIS FLAG IS A REMINDER OF OUR NATIONAL SHAME AND DISHONOUR.

http://www.fortunecity.com/victorian/museum/63/flags/main.html

All highlights in color and comments were added to this article by your planetary sister. Follow above links to see this article without the added "visual enhancements" of your planetary sisters hearts bias...


HEY!! WHEN WILL "WE" AS THE WHITE NATION of PLANETARY BRETHREN AND SISTERN (living in the United States of America) RECOGNIZE THAT "WE" CONTINUE TO INSULT AND DETRIMENTALLY HARM, OUR BLACK NATION PLANETARY BRETHREN AND SISTERN IN OUR INDIFFERENCE, RACISM, CLASSICISM, AND WORST OF ALL - OUR DAMNING IGNORANCE?


We are not RESPONSIBLE for the ethical, moral, human, emotional/psychological, and spiritual breaches of FOR-PROFIT $ $ $ slavery in the building of this nations often greed filled pursuit of lands and profits as well as the breach of our fundamental principles as a nation who proclaimed and proclaims - freedom and justice for all; as the decedents of European settlers who were primarily the benefactors of enslavement for profit, and secondarily, as the decendents of the Africans who sold their brothers and sisters. (This statement includes all who were also a part of the stealing and destruction of whole African communities by the unscrupulous and cruel).
$ $ $ - The Dutch West Indies Corporation was one of the largest importers of African Slaves to the American Colonies...

"We" ARE ACCOUNTABLE.


Until there is deep, nuturing, psychological as well as social and spiritual healing in this nations peoples, in regards to what our ancestors have cruelly done to hundreds of millions of African Americans (as well as other minorities) - and continue to do so - until there is economic and social justice - until there is a national consciousness that OWNS and ACCEPTS ACCOUNTABILITY of the horrendous acts committed in the name of personal gain and "for profit" ventures, at the loss of millions of African American and First Nations Peoples lives and their generations of miseries - which can only be achieved through action and dialogue - until then... we are ACCOUNTABLE and will not be released from this ethical, spiritual, and moral imperative.


For my planetary brothers & sisters in the UNTED STATES OF AMERICA who follow the ways of the Master, who are Christians of any and/or non-denomination and/or those whom are Muslim and have sanctified regard for his Holiness ... remember:


This is the system that Jesus aggravated...
--REGGAE lyrics (author unknown)



JUSTICE & MERCY: FROM GUANTANAMO BAY TO ANGOLA STATE PRISON - REFLECTING THE DIVINE PROTOTYPE



"Both justice and mercy must exist within a society of law, yet one that cares about human rights."

-Julie Redstone


"...Our view of the treatment of Guantanamo detainees and the attitude we hold toward those who wish to do us harm, rests on an inner balance that each of us carries concerning justice and mercy. This balance, which also applies to those who have committed crimes and may be incarcerated elsewhere, is of Divine origin, and contains two currents of Divine will – that which meets out justice along the lines of reciprocity, namely, "what ye sow ye shall reap;" and that which distributes mercy along the lines of "forgive them, Father, they know not what they do."

Both justice and mercy must exist within a society of law, yet one that cares about human rights.

This is not only true because such a balance is the way of preserving order and harmony within such a society, but also because the social matrix in which we live - the criminal and the non-criminal alike - is meant to reflect a Divine prototype which brings to bear upon our view of human action, a higher consciousness of what human beings are, and are meant to be.

Justice is necessary within any stable society to insure the rights of all and to prevent those who would trespass against these rights from doing so. It is a necessary deterrent, establishing a barrier which says about certain behaviors: this cannot be allowed. Justice makes necessary whatever arrangements are deemed appropriate to contain behavior that is harmful to others, and to prevent such behavior from occurring in the future.

Mercy, on the other hand, is rooted in the understanding that even criminals are souls, and as such have certain inalienable rights bequeathed to them because of their essential humanity, not because of their actions. These rights derive from the common essence that we share with others, and cannot be suspended on the basis of behavior because 'behavior' and 'essence' are two different things. Mercy contains within itself the 'principle of forgiveness',

Whereas justice is based on reciprocity, mercy is based on the need to separate the person from the action, and to accord to that person dignity, selfhood, and the right to be held as innocent until proven guilty. Mercy derives from the capacity to see all human beings as souls, guided by lower instincts in cases where there is a violation of the rights of others, but, nevertheless, still more than any individual behavior.

...Forgiveness, to be real, must rest on the principle "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." But when individuals declare that they know what they are doing and would keep doing it if they had a chance, it is difficult to say that they "know not what they do." The 'problem of forgiveness' therefore resides in this question: Under what conditions shall those who have committed crimes be forgiven and shall mercy be shown?

The answer to this question must rest, first, on an understanding that forgiveness applies to the person, not to the action they commit. An unrepentant convicted felon may be dangerous in an ongoing way and therefore need to remain in custody with future potential actions curtailed. However, treatment of the person, as opposed to the action, is a different matter.

The 'problem of forgiveness' ultimately has two answers, the answer of the human heart and the answer of the Divine heart. The human heart that is wounded or that has suffered real loss often does not want to forgive those who have been the agents of such loss, even when they are repentant. The Divine heart, on the other hand, says even about those who are unrepentant – "they know not what they do." It seeks to hold a circle of love around the soul-essence of each one, no matter what they have done. This heart understands that souls who are separated from the light of truth and from their own hearts can grow up to feel hardened and cut off from their essential humanity. This may make of them criminals on the outer level, but on the inner level, it makes of them souls who have lost their way. Pure justice might, according to certain perspectives, legitimize the deprivation of legal and human rights as a fit act of retribution. Yet, justice balanced with mercy would support the Supreme Court decision and the light that it carries, for this light has not only returned to the detainees the right to be heard in a court of law, but has also reaffirmed our relationship to the Divine prototype of justice balanced with mercy, upon which a true democratic society must stand."


--Julie Redstone

COMPLETE TEXT:
LightOmega.org