Author Topic: DM29 Crime and Love  (Read 15058 times)

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Offline Daen

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DM29 Crime and Love
« on: September 12, 2022, 01:04:23 AM »
My last Musing touched on how faith is ostensibly about love, but how for many people, it ends up being more of a punishment, especially for kids. This one is another side of the same coin. It has nothing to do with religion or faith, but rather our society's understanding of crime, and how we punish it.

If I were to walk up to an average American citizen, and ask them why we have a criminal justice system, I bet you could probably anticipate what they'd say. The most common responses I've heard from people I know- before we really got into discussions about it, that is- is pretty simple. To most people, we punish crimes in order to benefit everyone.

Let me break that down a bit. We (in this case I mean America, but I'm sure it applies to other nations as well), arrest criminals to protect everyone else from harm. We put them on trial to show everyone why they were arrested, and why they can't be allowed to roam freely. We also do that to give them a chance to defend themselves, allegedly. We're not doing so hot in that score, recently.

Then we incarcerate them. Again, an average citizen might say that we do so not just for our benefit, but for theirs as well. We lock them up to protect us from their criminal behavior, yes, but we also do it to help them get better! To rehabilitate them, and eventually reintegrate them into our society again. Right?

I know, I know. Plenty of supposed criminals don't get arrested at all, but instead are choked, crushed, or just plain shot. I'm getting to that.

This idea of a society punishing crime in order to benefit the criminal is an extension of the parent-child relationship, isn't it? I mean, whenever I misbehaved as a kid, my parents punished me. They did it out of love, so that I wouldn't grow up to be a chronic misbehaver. I sure didn't believe that at the time, certainly. "This hurts me more than it hurts you? Yeah, right! I'm the one being spanked here!" Still, I believe it now. Any parent worth their salt loves their kids, sets a code of behavior for their kids to follow, and punishes them when they violate that code.

Unfortunately, the idea that our government, and more specifically our criminal justice system, loves us... is just plain ludicrous. For one thing, we made up the concept of government, in the same way that we invented the concept of money. It's not a person, and we can't expect it to behave like one. For another, there is no familial connection between our government and us at all. It didn't give birth to us, or hold our hands when we scraped our knee, or help us with our homework. We were the ones who created IT!

If you're a parent, would you willingly accept any punishment that your child felt you deserved? Regardless of how punitive or ridiculous it might be? No, of course not. You have all the power, and they're just posturing and blustering to get attention, like kids often do. Like our government does.

We have the power here, people. Collectively, we can force our so-called leaders to actually represent us. Not just with how they treat criminals (and to be clear, right now they treat the vast majority of our criminals horribly), but with everything else as well. Working together, we can make them listen to things that the majority of us would like to have. Like universal healthcare, or debt forgiveness for student loans. Or to stop shooting us just for being black.

Yeah, I said I was getting to it, and here I am. The disconnect between how the average American might view the criminal justice system, and how it really is, is most obvious if you're black. It's for African Americans that our so called laws are the most hypocritical. It's for that subsection of our demographics that is poorest, that our claims of being the greatest nation on earth ring the most hollow.

We have to face facts here. Our government doesn't love us, and can't love us. That's certainly not why it punishes us. The purpose of punishment- be it community service, incarceration or execution- isn't to better the criminal at all. It's just to sweep them under the rug. Criminal justice isn't about rehabilitation anymore, if it ever was. It's just about punishment.

Now, there are a lot of different directions that we can take in order to fix this. The most obvious are private prisons. We have to get rid of them, like yesterday. Business has no place in criminal justice, because it's business. Any businessperson running a private prison is going to do whatever they can to maximize profit and minimize expenses. That's bad enough when it's something like outsourcing clothing production to sweatshops, but it's no different here in this country in prisons.

We can change our laws to get rid of obsolete, obviously-racist policies like mandatory minimum sentences, and we can overhaul our police departments, to make sure that people with histories of racial violence never work in law enforcement, ANYWHERE, ever again.

Most simply, we can stop electing people who run on 'tough on crime' platforms. Being tough on criminals clearly hasn't stopped people from committing crimes! It's just made us as brutal as the overseas authoritarian regimes we like to complain about! How about electing people who run on 'reducing recidivism' platforms, or 'fixing the financial inequalities that lead to most crime' platforms? Instead of just putting another band-aid on our pus-filled, infected, national wound, and then sweeping that band-aid under the rug and saying we're all fine here, what say we actually get some proverbial antibiotics in here?? We have to fix the problem, not the symptoms!

sigh

As usual, I got a little preachy there. This started out as a contrast to Faith and Punishment, but it ended up being pretty similar. In the same way that Ali didn't have a choice in being a Muslim, and I didn't have a choice growing up as a Christian, we didn't choose the world in which we now live.

Like everyone else, though, we can do something about it. With everyone else, we can make the changes that the vast majority of us recognize need to happen. We can force our so-called leaders to do the right thing, or just replace them with someone who will. We can force businesses to stop prioritizing profits over peoples' lives, or just recognize the people running them as greedy and unworthy of being listened to at all. We can show those parts of our society that view racial divides as a good thing, that we won't stand for their behavior. Historically, people with that kind of attitude back down when it becomes obvious how outnumbered they are compared to actually decent people.

How we treat our criminals is a particularly vivid message to the rest of the world, about just how horrible we can be, deep down. I, personally, am not at fault for the state of the American 'justice' system. Still, I am responsible for it. I have to do whatever I can to fix it. We all do.