Beyond line of sight

I picked up Surviving Justice at Verso’s $1 ebook sale in late July. The book documents the experiences of many wrongly convicted Americans, capturing their experiences in prison and how they often remain traumatized long after years/decades in prison; eventual exoneration doesn’t make up for anything.

(I could only read a few accounts at a time. One of my friends spent more than a year in prison for crimes she did not commit, having exhausted all her savings fighting charges, and yet seemed to have managed pretty okay upon release. With each account I read in Surviving Justice, my heart sank deeper and deeper as I realized/remembered that showing strong doesn’t mean you’re not dying inside.)

One of the appendices gives a brief description of some of the most common ways innocent Americans end up in prison, from prosecutorial and police misconduct to snitches to bad science. I wish that appendix were mandatory reading for every American, because doing so would help destroy any doubt that a system elevating some above others–beyond responsibility, accountability, reproach–is a system that kills some and harms many others.

Dave Eggers was one of the book’s editors. I looked him up and found a novel, The Circle, that seemed like it might pretty well capture my myriad concerns about technology, and how relatively affluent Americans perceive it. The wait list was so long that I ended up buying my own copy. Continue reading “Beyond line of sight”

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Useful insecurities

I’m a white woman married to a Black man. I’m also the mother of two Black sons.

When I write that neoliberalism created the conditions for Charlottesville, it’s not to excuse racists, white supremacists, or nationalists. It’s not to to diminish the harm they can and do cause. It’s to put their rise into historical and political context, the better to rectify its root cause, or “the fundamental reason for the occurrence of a problem.”

I am deeply interested in my family’s ongoing safety. Such safety won’t be won by painting Manichean pictures of good-versus-bad, us-versus-them totality. It is much more likely to be won beginning with nuanced examination. By looking at history and asking, “How did we reach this point? How do we get away from this point, and build political systems that ensure we stay away for a good, long time, if not forever?”

While I began following #BlackLivesMatter about three years ago, I didn’t understand how its grievances fit within a larger context of oppression. It took last year’s American Democratic primaries for me to understand there is a larger context, and to realize I’d need to read more than a few short articles to wrap my head around that. Inspired by Hamilton and my siblings, I began a reading campaign.

With each book I read, I understand more keenly exactly how we reached this point. I understand intuitively, if not yet at a readily articulated level, what it will take to go–and stay–somewhere else.

I read Princeton professor Sheldon S. Wolin’s Democracy, Inc. in May. More than any other, this book helped me understand how a very specific sequence of actions and inactions brought the U.S. people the Trump presidency: Continue reading “Useful insecurities”