All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

4th of July: Mixed Emotions

Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Abraham Lincoln

I’m convinced Ol’ Honest Abe was right, but I’ll bet he’d have some second thoughts if he saw what was going on today: People in high office flirting with autocracy, serious threats to freedom of speech, dangerous talk against a free press, making a mockery of the Statue of Liberty’s words of welcome.

But on this Fourth of July, I’m still going to celebrate.

“To every thing there is a season,” says the teacher in Ecclesiastes: “…A time to weep, and a time to laugh…”

That’s especially true on our country’s birthday. I’m thinking we should do both.

On this Independence Day, let’s once again take a moment to celebrate and give thanks for the document that bears these words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But, July 4 is also a somber time for the U.S. of A. Sometimes I get concerned that our political unrest, our Supreme Court vacancy and our shameful mishandling of migrant families seem to get all the attention. Meanwhile, it feels like we’re just getting hardened and calloused about our terrible incarceration numbers…the worst in the world!

The UCLA says the “land of the free” is the world’s leading jailer. And it’s true! While the United States boasts about 5% of the world’s population, the number behind bars jumps to 25%! Largely because of our “tough on crime” policies of the 80s and 90s, we have well over 2 million people in cages. It breaks down in rounded figures this way: 1.2 million in state prisons, 750,000 in local jails, and 217,000 in federal facilities.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have fun with family and friends on this holiday. I’m going to. I’m just saying that a lot of others wish they could do the same, and it won’t be happening.

Keep this in mind: While Americans spend over $7 billion on food for 4th of July cookouts and picnics, our nation continues to spend over $80 billion on incarceration each year! To bring it closer to home, Michigan spends $36,000 a year to keep one person behind bars. Pure Michigan keeps people in prison longer than most states. Pure Michigan’s rate of incarceration is far higher per crime and per capita than any of the other Great Lakes states. 

Says Mark Twain: Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.

On this Independence Day, while seeing the importance of taking a stand as well as the disastrous effects of complacency, let's not only give thanks for our country. Let's vow to be involved.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, USA! God shed his grace on thee.

1 comment:

Rod Van Abbema said...

Thanks Doug. Second to our original sin of slavery, our belief that prison is the solution to social problems seems to be our country's greatest crime. We all need to do and say more.