Monday, December 8, 2014

Bringing Good News To The Afflicted And The Incarcerated

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)
When Yeshua (Jesus) adapted this passage to the goals of his own ministry in Nazareth, the place where he grew up, those representing the status quo were so enraged with him that they attempted to “throw him off a cliff”. It didn't matter that they were “in the synagogue on the sabbath day”. Let us be crystal clear...there must be no collusion between those who stand for Righteousness/Justice and those who facilitate the oppression of the poor. Persons unjustly held and treated like chattel in an industry that predicates it's future success on their dehumanization need us not just to speak up, but to act to bring about the change necessary to set them free.
Yes... Salvation is a powerful action word, not a salve in the plantation’s religious balm yard. The hunger for a salve by which people try to cope with the stressors around them is all too real. It has fed the specter of addiction that plagues so many lives all around us. The results of this "hunger" and those who feed it are manifest in our prison population.
Toward the purposes of bringing good news to "the afflicted", it would serve us well to work toward the decriminalization of drug addiction. We can begin this process by decriminalizing drugs, just as we did alcohol, and instituting rehabilitation programs at the community level that are geared toward the needs of those who can't afford the high priced services geared to rich addicts...who do not usually  end up in jail.  
Our so-called "war on drugs" is for every intent and purpose an out and out assault on poor addicts who need our help. It is in fact a "war" that enriches dealers and police departments and the builders of jails. This is one of the dirty little secrets of this whole "business"... And a nasty , stinking one at that. How many law enforcement officers and departments want to see this war end when in fact it is a cash cow for them? How much of the drugs on the street corners of our inner cities actually come from the evidence rooms of local precincts? How many of the murders paraded before us on the Sunday morning news are committed by police who set out to victimize local "drug dealers"?
We can begin the empowerment of the "broke" and the "broken hearted" by building training facilities that are geared toward equipping the economically depressed with marketable skills. Nationwide, three-quarters of our prison population are high school dropouts. Education, not incarceration, should be our focus. More modern schools...not more modern jails, should be our priority. Let us explore the possibilities of giving "garlands" not "ashes" to those who are disadvantaged among us. Can we make them partners in the building up of Zion, and thus cultivate "mantles of praise instead of a spirit of fainting"? I believe we can. I believe we must try.
The time is now when we must insist that our government provide the resources for the rehabilitation of the redeemable among those who break the law, rather than hand them over to be exploited by those who see them only as a means to make lots of money. The belief that warehousing these souls for profit somehow makes our communities better turns the truth on its head. How can we work to bring out the worst in the disadvantaged among us, and expect that this will not come back to haunt us? Bringing out the worst in them is what our prisons do...more often than not.
Our top law enforcement officer Attorney General Eric Holder, acknowledges both the failure of our
prison system as it is and the fact that drug addiction is in fact a public health crisis in this country. It is a travesty of Justice that we continue to address a public health crisis by imprisoning its victims. It
is time to wake up from the nightmare of our delusions and collective insecurities. Good news to the captive is sometimes bad news for the captor/investor/immoral politician. So be it. We can no longer bury our heads in the sand and remain complicit in the dehumanization of our brethren. When we look at our 401k statements in the future, let us ask whether or not we are participating in the oppression of our neighbors and their children by investing in the prison industrial complex.
The time has come to put resources behind our proclamations! How many of our municipalities have invested in this degradation of souls through their pension funds? Should we continue to support a political process and politicians opting to take the easy way out by “farming out” the incarceration of those who break the law? Ultimately it is centers of production that will fuel the security and prosperity of our communities, not detention centers. Again, let us invest in the future of our communities through the empowering vehicle of a good education. Let us build up our schools, not build more prisons. The viability of our communities is a direct function of the viability of our collective humanity, not some crass notion of brute force exercised by those who pretend they wanna be "tough on crime". Enough of the lazy-think of an opportunistic and lewdly gratuitous culture.

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