Pecan Pie

Social Anxiety from the South

Archive for the ‘Liberal’ Category

A Word on Tolerance. Well, Several, Actually.

I fancy myself a pretty open-minded individual.  I like civil rights, I’m a big fan of free speech and I personally think the United States Constitution was a great start for securing those things for a budding nation.  When I’m studying groups I don’t understand or want to know more about, I think I have a great capacity to tolerate whatever crazy ideals the members of that group may have and I try very hard to honor their humanity without compromising my own.

But, there’s one thing I can’t stand, I won’t stand and certainly in my personal life I absolutely will not tolerate.  Intolerance.

Liberals get bagged as very wishy-washy when it comes to things like this.  I hear that right-wing stand-by “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything” often as the go-to for pointing out that open-minded tolerance of all types of views and opinions basically makes us spineless.

I think I may agree.

See, we’ve gotten so used to touting ourselves as lovers of everyone that when people start spewing hate all over the world, including our schools, even from those in charge of education, we sort of throw our hands up in the name of free speech.  Or go the opposite way and start threatening people or their families, which is pretty abhorrent behavior.

Then there’s this guy, Andrew Shirvell who used to work in the Michigan Attorney General’s office but was fired for conduct unbecoming an officer of the court.  Conduct in the form of an anti-gay blog.

I’m not advocating that we start policing folks for taking advantage of their Constitutional right to be a jackahole (similar to whack-a-mole) at all.  What I am advocating is that we stop allowing people the space in our personal lives to be hateful.

I used to really try to let everyone have a say on my social networking pages.  Then someone posted something really anti-GLBT.  I was mortified.  I was worried that my gay and lesbian friends would see that and think that I was okay with someone posting things like that on my page.  So, I started deleting.  Then I started deleting “friends” who could only drum up happy talk for other types that only believed like they do.  I am not the United States and my personal life is not a democracy.

Bishop Spong (who is one of the few religious heroes I have) has done amazing work changing minds and lives inside the Episcopal Church.  He recently wrote a sort of manifesto (and again, I’ll thank my friends in Religious Roundtable for the heads up on this one) basically refusing to engage in the debate of intolerance anymore.

“Life moves on. As the poet James Russell Lowell once put it more than a century ago: “New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient good uncouth.” I am ready now to claim the victory. I will from now on assume it and live into it. I am unwilling to argue about it or to discuss it as if there are two equally valid, competing positions any longer. The day for that mentality has simply gone forever.”

You can read it in its entirety here on Walking With Integrity.

So, yeah, I’m gonna do that, too.  There aren’t always two sides to every story.  Sometimes there’s just right…and then there’s wrong.  I feel confident, even arrogant, that I’m on the side of right, on the side of human rights, so yanno, if you don’t agree, feel free to not engage with me about it, either.  I won’t tolerate intolerance.  So.  There.

Written by thelittlepecan

November 18, 2010 at 8:45 am

The Least of Our Brothers

The ACLU filed suit last week on behalf of Prison Legal News, a publication that has since 2008 attempted to send reading materials to those incarcerated at Berkeley County Detention Center in South Carolina.  After repeated attempts at giving prisoners access to multiple publications, the publishers were informed that only soft-backed Bibles delivered straight from the publisher are allowed inside the facility.  No other reading materials allowed.  You can check out the NPR article [here].

During my internship this past summer, I had the pleasure of acquainting myself with a young man about my age who was on the work release program through the State prison up the road.  Intelligent, eloquent, morbidly obese with kind eyes and an inquiring mind, this young man looks forward to time with his family in the next few years.  Convicted of armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, he was jailed at 17 for 17 years…even though he was not the bearer of the weapon and from what I could gather was not actively involved in the crime at all.  Tragically, those he was with murdered the man they robbed, depriving his family of his presence for the rest of their lives.  Everything about his case made me incredulous.   Due to plea bargaining and mandatory minimums, his peripheral activity in this crime bought him 17 years in state prison, while his “friends” received a fraction of his time.

Since 1998, Georgia has had the policy of requiring offenders of 20 specific crimes to serve 90% of their sentenced time.   In 1995, pardon, parole and early release were abolished for a list of similar crimes in Georgia [Source].   Even though the State’s own Department of Corrections establishes that greater education of the prison population lowers recidivism by a significant percentage, they no longer offer any post-secondary education unless the prisoner has some way to foot the bill themselves [clickety].

Giving prisoners basic availability to reading materials accomplishes so many goals.  It educates the population, which is always the best way to lower crime, period.  It reminds prisoners that they are, in fact, still human worthy of at least minimal cerebral stimulation.  It allows them to explore their spirituality, which, hopefully, is a catalyst to better behavior.   It reminds us that the Constitution still means something.  Treating our prisoners well says much about us, no matter what we think about “them.”

South Carolina isn’t exactly known for its prompt adherence to the Constitution when it comes to civil rights, but this is so blatant on so many levels, I’m shocked it took so long for the ACLU to get involved.  What of Muslim, Jewish, Pagan and atheist prisoners?  It has been postulated that a government contract with the Bible publisher is involved, but the privatization of the prison system and the contracts it produces is for another time…

When we “other” a complete portion of the population, we dehumanize them.  We tell them that they are no longer deserving of respect, that they are merely animals in a cage.  They become cheap labor, who become society’s indentured servants, never fully able to pay their debt, rarely allowed to contribute in an effective way and so they are marginalized…and that is where the danger to society begins.

40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40

Written by thelittlepecan

October 11, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Posted in Liberal