Imprisonment in this country means “systematic torture, endemic corruption, pervasive racial and class bias, the failure of the war on drugs, and the massive economic and social devastation it wreaks upon entire communities,” in the words of Black Agenda Report managing editor Bruce A. Dixon, writing on July 20.
Imprisonment can be a collection of abstractions to someone who hasn’t spent time incarcerated, but a new memoir describes the day-to-day, and sometimes minute-by-minute, existence of the incarcerated: Marshall “Eddie” Conway and Dominique Stevenson, Marshall Law: The Life and Times of a Baltimore Black Panther (Oakland: AK Press, 2011).
Indiana Prisoner Solidarity
Editor's note: This statement was submitted and "written collaboratively between citizens on the inside and outside of Indiana prisons. The goal is to contribute to opposition and active resistance to all forms of domination, be they imposed directly by the state or manifested through structural inequalities and prejudices."
On the morning of July 16, an alleged white supremacist was stabbed and killed by two alleged Latin Disciples. The attack took place at Pendleton Correctional Facility in the maximum security area of the prison. The murder, coming on the heels of inmate murders at Miami Correctional Facility and Pendleton Correctional Facility earlier in the year, was the stated pretense for putting all institutions in the state on lockdown and conducting thorough, far-reaching searches.
PORT AU PRINCE, HAITI -- What if one of our notorious Hoosier storms violently destroyed your entire neighborhood, killing scores and leaving you and your neighbors homeless and penniless?
Imagine that the immediate reaction to this disaster was inspiring, with celebrity-packed telethons being broadcast, leaders of state pledging to rebuild, and rich and poor alike donating to your recovery.
But a year and a half later, you are still homeless. You live in a fetid squatter's camp made of plastic sheets, scraps of wood and open sewers. There is no clear plan for you to be relocated to permanent housing, yet you are now slated to be forcibly evicted from even these meager quarters.
You are Haiti.
As humans seek the middle of what Ralph Waldo Emerson described as the polar states of "insanity or fat dullness," citizens search for the most effective news. Just as no student could pass a test without access to the materials that will be covered on the test, citizens need to be exposed to adequate information to formulate ideas and opinions in their democracy.
On the al-Jazeera English show Empire, in an episode entitled "Information Wars," host and moderator Marwan Bishara stated, "Today, the free flow of information is overturning autocrats across the Arab World. Who knows where the next domino will fall?"
If you think you're going to hike with Ron Habney, you'd better be prepared. The 6-foot-tall, 130-pound, 25-year-old treks an average four to six miles a day on some of the most challenging trails in Southern Indiana's Upland regions. Not everyday, to his chagrin, but multiple times a week. Last summer, on one 96-degree day, Ron hiked 9.4 miles through the Charles Deam Wilderness Area in two hours and 20 minutes.
So says John Willman, who knows. He's been Ron's hiking companion and caregiver for almost eight years now. "He's truly an athlete," John says of Ron. "His hiking skills are almost unmatched." Beneath close-cropped, thick, black hair, Willman's blue-green eyes beam proud-parent-like as he recounts Ron's on-trail achievements. But they're just a footnote to this rainy-gray November afternoon interview.
Ron has autism, and John, who is not Ron's parent, is preoccupied with his fate.
Randy Paul has a pail of gut-wrenching stories to tell about the brutal realities faced by chronically ill citizens in America's "health care system." Some involve family, others acquaintances. Still others involve pain and suffering. As bad, and usually worse, are the tales about creditors and reputation.
Take, for example, the time when Paul's middle daughter was 3, burning hot with fever, and the family's pediatrician wouldn't see her because mom and dad didn't have $36 to pay off an outstanding bill from another of their six kids. "I said, 'We don't have $36,'" Randy recalls. "'My wife and I together, if we added up all the money we have, it might come up to about 20 bucks.' We were that broke." The woman behind the window told them, "We won't see her."
An international criminal conspiracy occurs, with responsibility flowing up to and including the President of the United States. Victims are brutalized in secret, lives are lost, the rule of law flouted.
But no one is prosecuted since the only law enforcement official capable of bringing the criminals to justice is completely beholden to the very government leaders who would face charges.
The latest John Grisham thriller? A re-run of the show 24? Hardly.
The crime is torture, clearly prohibited by national and international law. The corrupt system is the existing structure of U.S. law enforcement. When executive branch misconduct occurs, an inherent conflict of interest is presented by investing prosecutorial discretion in a U.S. Attorney General appointed by, and serving at the pleasure of, the president.
Editor's note: Bloomington Alternative contributor Linda Greene participated in last month's U.S. Social Forum in Detroit. What follows are some of her observations from the experience.
"This is what democracy looks like!" is a familiar chant at progressive marches and rallies. The second U.S. Social Forum (USSF), held in Detroit on June 22-26, put the chant into practice. Some 15,000 activists of all colors and kinds gathered for what the USSF Web site billed as a "U.S. movement-building process."
"It is not a conference but it is a space to come up with the peoples' solutions to the economic and ecological crisis," the Web site says. "The USSF is the next most important step in our struggle to build a powerful, multi-racial, multi-sectoral, inter-generational, diverse, inclusive, internationalist movement that transforms this country and changes history."
In early June, the Bloomington City Council voted to boycott Arizona because of its new immigration law that targeted anyone who looked "illegal." Until I saw the Bloomington chamber's June 10 gutless response to rescind the city council's call for the boycott of Arizona because of the e-mails from outsiders who said they would boycott Bloomington businesses, I thought: "How heroic and progressive Bloomington was to go against the red-necked tide of the majority who support Arizona's actions."
Despite the Bloomington chamber's spineless, self-centered, self-serving actions, my family will make a point to visit Bloomington because it boycotts Arizona. Because of this brave decision, we plan to encourage our friends and family to visit, too, and encourage others to do the same.
In recent weeks, a handful of seemingly unrelated events -- the BP oil disaster in the Gulf, an Israeli commando raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla, umpire Jim Joyce's blown call that cost Detroit Tiger's pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game and reporter Helen Thomas's abrupt retirement from the White House press corps over her controversial remarks on Israel-Palestine -- offer valuable lessons about taking responsibility for one's actions.
Call it an index of accountability.
Despite conflicting reports over the amount of oil that is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, there is no doubt this is the worst oil spill in U.S. history. To date, BP's efforts to control the leak have failed. And while the extent of the environmental damage is difficult to assess at this time, it is clear that the Gulf's ecosystem is in crisis -- and likely will be so for years to come.