It’s very early in the morning where I am, as of this post, and I just have a few things on my mind. I’m exhausted, so it won’t be long, but it’s also irritating me enough that I have to put it down for posting, or I won’t get any sleep at all.
I feel like it is becoming difficult for people to forgive others. I also feel like it’s becoming much harder for people to offer grace before attacking someone. A practice I have generally tried to employ, for myself, is to think through what someone has said, and then ask the question “what do you mean?” if it sounds like something terribly offensive. This way, I ensure that I’ve fully understood what the other person is trying to say, and then when I do respond, I have a plan for how to proceed.
I feel like the step in-between “words spoken” and “response given” has been removed. People jump to judgment, without considering all of the information at hand, and then double down when the offending party attempts to clarify. “That’s just the internet,” you might say, and you’re right, the internet fosters this kind of behavior because there is a level of anonymity that is appreciated for all involved.
Still, I don’t like how we’re forcing our behavior into a mob mentality. This extends to our culture at large. Now, among western nations, I notice it in the U.S. more than I do anywhere else, that being, I notice how we love our legalism. I’ve mentioned it before, and do so again here. In the U.S., illegal means guilty and wrong (as long as it’s not you). The police are right, you are wrong, and that makes you evil/immoral/irredeemable.
We love to lock you up and throw away the key. When we don’t throw away the key, and eventually let you out, we watch you like a hawk, and warn others about you, making it difficult to get a job because of your record while you were supposed to be paying your debt to society. We like having you in debt, and we’ll never really let you forget that debt. Ever.
It is something that bothers me because our system is becoming more and more authoritarian by the day. We’re embracing a militarized police force, and a zero tolerance towards anything that approaches the line of illegality, whether it is harmful or not. Right now, for example, marijuana is still illegal in most states. There are men and women sitting in prison, unable to live their lives, because they smoked a weed that grows in the dirt. If, tomorrow, that law were repealed, those same people would be let go.
You are expected to simply follow along with this like it makes all the sense in the world. You are not to resist, you’re not to question it, you’re not to see anything negative about it. If you’re a politician, you’re to be tough on crime, regardless of the context surrounding it. If you’re not “tough on crime,” you’re “soft on crime,” and therefore almost as bad as those nasty criminals yourself.
We have a serious problem in this country, and I’m not sure what can be done about it. As many of you know, I’m sure, the death penalty is still legal in many states. The U.S. government can have you killed, and it’s all nice and legal. Even ethical, if you’re one to equate legality with morality. I think it’s insidious, but it’s the way we are right now.
So what does that mean? It means we are a nation of people that is quick to anger, slow to forgive, petty, stubborn, grudging in our ability to allow those who made a mistake back into society, and we condemn those who do not toe that line with lockstep precision.
Fuck me, we’re just begging for a totalitarian authority to lull us into its embrace. I fear it will come in the form of a theocracy, since religion has the most power to make this happen, and as we’re seeing in the news the ultra religious in certain sects are some of the ones that currently wield much power, we are at their mercy if any of us are branded with any kind of “immoral” status. It could happen to us. I think, because of the glut of religious zealotry and the rise of “fake news,” it will happen to us and soon.
Sorry if this darkens your day, but it was on my mind, and I wanted to share it. I do believe, however, that there is hope.
What we have to do is to learn how to be merciful again, how to extend grace to others. We need to revise our legal system by reforming our hearts and minds. Listen to others, consider their thoughts, weigh their actions against their flawed humanity, and then adjust accordingly. No more zero tolerance, no more mandatory minimums, no more pulling families apart, or destroying entire lives out of some sense of misguided justice.
We can be better. We can do better. We can grow in mercy, and compassion. I see other nations do it, nations with fewer resources than what we have. I see them reach out, and try to teach, to reform with great care. They treat those who transgress in society with respect and dignity, because they believe a reformation can happen, that a person can be rehabilitated, fixed, repaired. That a person can be flawed, shown the best way to move forward, and then are released back into society with the chance to do better.
Can’t we do that? Must we continue this path of stinginess, malevolence, and cruelty? If we’re that supposed shining city on a hill, why do we taint that light with the reddish hue of blood?
We must become greater than what we are. We must listen, learn, and love. We must offer it to all people, to give them mercy and compassion. Surely that is something we can do if we truly want to become better than this terrible system, before we succumb to a national fervor of barbarism masquerading as justice.
Mercy in all things, my friends. Always mercy.