Posts Tagged #injustice

casting stones

church window with stained glass

casting stones

For Maribel Trujillo-Diaz, deported last week to Mexico

In the dark before dawn the birds sang as
Maribel was snatched off the streets by ICE agents—
her four American-born children,
ages 3, 10, 12, and 14,
never got to say goodbye to their mother

In Fairfield she worked processing chicken parts
primary breadwinner
grueling work—uncomplaining,
she paid taxes, went to church,
made a family, made a simple life…

now her deportation is
breaking news,
breaking my heart

newsfeed comments roll past
smelling as I imagine chicken innards on a
conveyor belt might smell,
gagging—

“Go home to YOUR county and think about
what you are going to do with the rest of your life,”

says the red-headed woman whose profile picture is a
parti-colored “Kindness Matters” meme

“She caused the breakup of her family when she
decided to live her criminal lifestyle,”
says another woman grinning in full Irish regalia,
forgetting about her own ancestors who fled from famine,
many of them illegally

“The blame is solely on her,”
says the beefy red-faced man
whose facebook page overflows with
snaps of him and his wife and three kids
at an Easter-egg hunt after church

“If she was in fear she should have
gotten help long before now,”
chides the woman whose profile picture
says “Happy Easter!” superimposed over
a closeup of her kissing her blonde toddler

“Why does this get so much attention?
Is she the only mother that has
Ever been sent back???” asks the woman
who’s also proudly posted she’s
FINALLY past level 65 on Candy Crush

“The law outweighs compassion,”
says Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones

‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
says the second commandment

In Fairfield tonight, four children cry for their mother,
faraway now
who did not get to tell them goodbye

‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,”
says the second commandment, again, falling on deaf ears

ears closed hearts closed
as tight as their bibles

closed to Maribel,
closed to Maribel’s children,
closed to mercy
closed to compassion
closed to loving their neighbors

and the closed ones
harden, harden, harden
as they
scroll Facebook,
troll newsfeeds
play games—
casting stones
pass the hours

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4 Comments

A letter to my chiropractor

photo of sculpture of spine comprised of people on each other's backs, covering the eyes of the person below.

“Karma” by Korean artist Do Ho Suh | New Orleans Museum of Art

A letter to my chiropractor:

When I saw you last December,
your warm fingers on my neck felt reassuring —
it’s pure trust, letting someone adjust your spine.

“Relax,” you commanded, for I was tense.
The muscles surrounding my precious cervical vertebrae
relaxed into your palms.

I told you I was tense because I was worried,
really worried about the Trump administration…

Your healing hands moved to my shoulder, the tricky one.
You felt, you pulled, you pushed,

you said, with a chuckle: “Oh, come on, now.
You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

I said I worried about my friends and loved ones,
the non-Christian, the non-white, the LGBTQ, and immigrants, too.

And, that I was also very worried that my ACA insurance
would be taken away, that I’d not have any insurance
because hey I’m old enough now to have a track record
and anyone with a track record
involving two near-death medical experiences
looks like a big old pre-existing exclusion

Your right hand was on my thigh, left hand cradling my shoulder
You pulled me back against your body, almost lover-like,
to twist my spine

(real healing requires trust)

You laughed.

You said, “Oh nothing will change!
Relax! No one’s gonna take your insurance away.”

You were not the first white professional man
to hush me, tell me everything would be fine.

(I’m just sorry that you were wrong.)

Business may become very lean, doctor.
It seems strong spines have gone
out of fashion in many circles.

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1 Comment

The door is that way, Judge Ruehlman

photo of arrow on red wall

Dear Judge Ruehlman,

I’m a registered voter and I’m not going to mince words here. I’m going to be straight with you. It’s time for you to go home, Judge.

You’re drunk— drunk with judicial power, that is.

Maybe it’s a side effect of how our justice system works, or doesn’t work? Maybe some counseling would help?  It’s addictive stuff, power. The Ohio Supreme Court agrees you’ve gotten out of hand.

In June, the Ohio Supreme court said “[Judge Ruehlman] has repeatedly acted to shield Chesley and his assets from creditors, despite a patent lack of jurisdiction,” referring to your interference in a multi-million dollar settlement that (the now disbarred attorney) Stan Chesley was ordered to pay to his legal clients.

Kentucky courts ruled that Chesley owes his clients at least $25 million dollars, which he’s apparently holding in some kind of perma- limbo by filing twisty lawsuits that make it difficult for the case to be moved to Federal court. The Ohio Supreme court scowls at such shenanigans.

The court’s opinion said Chesley “has turned to the courts of Ohio to thwart collection of the judgment and re-litigate the case. Chesley has found a receptive audience in (Ruehlman).” The opinion also said you gave defendants in the case—Chesley’s clients, who were awaiting their funds and puzzled over why their lawyer was suing them—“patently false advice,” by telling them they did not need legal representation, advice that shows how tipsy you must be on that 100-proof power. You told a senior citizen from rural Ohio in danger of losing her home due to financial struggles that she did not need an attorney, when, according to the Ohio Supreme Court, “A judgement in favor of Chesley could have a dramatic effect on how much money Ms. Boggs and the other creditors are able to recover, and when.”

If the Ohio Supreme Court says you’re doing things you have no business doing, that’s enough to convince me as a voter, as a citizen, that it’s time for a new judge.

But there are more reasons to boot you out of court, reasons that resonate deeply with me.

You remind me of another judge recently in the news. Aaron Persky is his name. Everybody’s heard about him. I imagine you can’t see why people are so upset by his hand-slap sentence to Brock Turner.

After all, you did the same thing—worse, actually—delivering a not-guilty verdict while expressing your sympathetic concern for a young man “facing 20 years,” after repeatedly interrupting the prosecutor’s questioning of the victim to badger her by suggesting you thought she “kind of liked” her assailant, and suggesting that maybe she decided to cry rape out of disappointment that her assailant didn’t perform well. Suggesting that “sometimes girls like that when a guy pursues them a little bit.”

I wonder if you can even fathom why anyone’s so darned upset about Donald Trump’s pussy-grabbing talk. If you can victim-blame a woman in open court as she testifies, instead of listening respectfully and deeply to her after a grand jury and prosecutor have deemed her case worthy of being heard, it seems to indicate you might think women “kind of like” being demeaned and abused. Let me explain, Judge, why women do not speak up. Because when we do, we are blamed and shamed and re-victimized by men like you who demonize us as liars for daring to speak, even when we have rape-kit evidence, even when there are multiple victims coming forward.

Do you ever ask male victims who run from an assailant if they “liked being being pursued a little bit”? Or if they like being hit?

Back to Judge Persky. I hear he’s not going to be hearing criminal cases any longer. I don’t think you should either. I imagine along the way you served up some actual justice. Very little is black and white in this world. So for whatever clear-eyed service that I hope you rendered, thank you.

Still, in the end, there are some lines you don’t cross and you’ve crossed them every which way, zig-zagging all over the place. Maybe the power just got to you? Addictive stuff, that.

I’m going to play my woman card on election day, Judge.

 

Sources:

http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2016/06/22/ohio-supreme-court-slams-hamilton-county-judge/86242854/

http://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2016/08/the-stanford-rape-case-judge-steps-aside/497609/

http://www.cincinnati.com/story/opinion/contributors/2016/10/26/judge-ruehlman-rebuke-rape-victims-shocking/92738786/

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Dear Judge McKeon

drawing of scared girl

Dear Judge McKeon,

A 40-year-old Montana father raped his 12-year-old daughter. Repeatedly.

You sentenced him to 60 days, of which he will serve 43. For good measure, he must pay $80 and “future medical care for his daughter.” You mean, I think, for his victim?

Forty-three days in jail for raping his 12-year-old daughter. Repeatedly.

Somewhere under the wide, wild Montana sky a little girl tries to sleep and never will sleep the same again.

There’s a call for your impeachment now, but you’ve made your decision and moved on. You mention it was a hard decision for you.

Forty-three days in jail for raping a 12-year-old. Repeatedly.

Yes, it would be hard for anyone with an ounce of humanity to come up with a sentence like that. But you know, girls and women—incest victims, domestic violence victims, women who have had a drink or worn a tight skirt or did something to anger a man—there’s always some kind of “exception” for that. Because deep down, Judge McKeon, you and a lot of others still believe women are the property of men. I’m sure you’d swear that wasn’t true. But your actions reveal your real feelings. That girls and women are not truly deserving of protection and equal rights when it comes to what happens to their own bodies.

Under Montana state law, your sentence to the rapist should have been steep:

“A person convicted of the offense of incest where the victim is 12 years of age or younger and the offender 18 years of age or older at the time of offense shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a term of 100 years and fined an amount not to exceed $50,000. The court may not suspend execution or defer imposition of the first 25 years of the sentence.”

Somewhere under the wide, wild Montana sky a little girl tries to sleep and never will sleep the same again.

These things—things like incest, things like raping your own daughter—these things happen in the night, usually. Hand over mouth in the dark, whispered threats from a man who is supposed to love you and take care of you.

You’ve made your decision and moved on, Judge McKeon, but that little girl will never be the same.

The victim’s grandmother made a plea that shatters my heart, and apparently justified your joke of a sentence. She said: “What [the defendant] did to my granddaughter was horrible, and he should face consequences. But his children, especially his sons, will be devastated if their dad is no longer part of their lives.”

Somewhere under the wide, wild Montana sky a little girl tries to sleep and never will sleep the same again.

Maybe the little girl never really knew trust, even before the rape. I can’t decide if possessing pure, innocent trust and losing it is better or worse than never really having it at all. I fear for her. There seems no one she might trust, and you, too, failed her—utterly, miserably, unforgivably.

I bet you’d point out that her own mother asked for a reduced sentence, citing the rapist’s sons “need to know their father.” These are words, Judge that should have set off clanging alarm bells in your head.

Somewhere under the wide, wild Montana sky a little girl tries to sleep and never will sleep the same again.

She cannot sleep the way children should be able to sleep. She cannot relax. Her body, like that of all trauma victims, is now rewired, set to red-alert. To sleep well again will take years of love and therapy. To trust again may never happen. I hope she will find peace and healing. But it’s a hard road to go alone. And she is alone, it seems to me.

Perhaps her mother can sleep well? I wonder if her father can? Can you?

Somewhere under the wide, wild Montana sky, a little girl is all alone. Her father raped her, repeatedly, and no one testified on her behalf. No one.

No one testified on her behalf, Judge McKeon, which should have told you something. Your empathy, your humanity—should have roared to life when no one testified on her behalf.

Instead, you say you gave it consideration. The fact that no one testified on her behalf was “weighed in” to your decision.

Experts and friends of the rapist noted that the accused was employed and had a supportive community and thus was, in their opinions, apparently just the sort of pedophile that could be magically rehabilitated without a lengthy sentence.

I’d like to ask a question of the court. Why is there “leeway” in an incest case?

If he had raped his neighbor’s 12-year-old daughter, would you be so casually lenient? If he had raped a 12-year-old related to you, would you feel he could be rehabilitated, would you agree with his wife if she said he’d made a “mistake?” Would you think him being in the lives of his sons was a good idea, a good reason to suspend his sentence?

Somewhere under the wide, wild Montana sky a little girl is crying, and thinks no one hears her.

I wonder, Judge McKeon, how many other girls you have sentenced to life?

For make no mistake, she faces a life sentence. I hope that little Montana girl somehow feels the love of the millions of women and loving, kind men who are with her in spirit, and that it gives her some small amount of strength.

A million signatures on a petition to impeach you is not enough to help her heal. But I think impeaching you would be a start. It would be a start towards a world where a little girl has the right to sleep deeply, trusting those around her to love her, and keep her safe in the night.

Sign the petition here.

 

Sources:
http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/10/20/498676414/montana-judge-faces-call-for-impeachment-after-incest-sentencing?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=2046

http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/10/judge-john-mckeon-defends-sentence-for-fathers-rape.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Comments

Dear Melania

once upon a time photoDear Melania,

Do you mind if I call you M?
I don’t want to waste too many keystrokes. Never fear. I’m not going to be mean, or unfair. I’m just going to tell a story.

Someday, some far-off wonderful day, you will be remembered like a princess in a fairy tale. (Yes, I think you will be famous, even in the future, though I imagine your name may be lost, M.)

You will be be the hapless one who drank a potion that blinded her to truth and made her say crazy things, like “every assault should be taken care of in a court of law,” with a dismissive flick of your wrist, as if a woman who alleges assault is like a mosquito buzzing too close.

Every nine seconds, a woman is assaulted in our country.* Try telling all of them they will find justice. Try telling that to the woman Brock Turner sexually assaulted, who had eye witnesses, physical evidence, a jury conviction and a prosecutor seeking a nine-year sentence, a woman who penned perhaps the most moving victim statement ever written and bravely read it out in court, then heard the rapist’s father dismiss what happened as “twenty minutes of action” and watched as the judge said a long prison sentence would ruin Mr. Turner’s promising young life. As you undoubtedly know, M, Mr. Turner served three months, and his victim got a life sentence in which she will I hope heal and grow even stronger than before, but will always have to endure those who still say things like, “well, she did get drunk, after all.” And she has to endure people like you who would pretend there is justice for women who are assaulted, in brutal, demeaning ways, even by someone far less powerful than the prince you married.

Try telling it to the women who, even right now, are held as sex slaves at truck stops in middle America. Or to the women, like me, who were as teenagers raped by much-older men who seemed kind and interested in us as humans, men who took what they wanted and then threatened unspeakable things if we spoke up. Tell that to the sisters and mothers and friends of women who have been preyed upon by men.  To the 400,000 women whose rape-kit evidence languishes for years, untouched by police.**

And try telling it to the the many men—the kind of men I love—who are strong enough not to need to oppress women to feel powerful. And the men who have said things they regret, and woken up to how damaging that is to them and to us women. (C’mon guys. Join me here in saying this is not okay.)

None of us are buying it anymore, though societal change is painfully slow.

Your saying “every assault should be taken care of in a court of law,”reminds me of another “M” from history. The one who said, “No bread? Well, then let them eat cake.” Remember how that turned out?

It’s “boy talk” you say. Your then 59-year-old, rich businessman husband was “egged on,” you insist, as if he was and still is a powerless, poor little boy. It’s bad enough when men dismiss reality, but it’s so hard to watch those women who tear out their own hearts to follow them into the jungle of misogyny. I almost begin to lose hope. I worry women won’t keep speaking up, out of the fear that has kept us silent so long.

I think of words attributed to Margaret Atwood:

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them.
Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

These words ring true.

Still, it’s hard to know, in the middle of a tale, what might happen next. All I know is that for centuries, millennia— the unlistened-to voices of women have gathered in the ether. The voices of those who have been raped, abused, groped, bought, sold, used and discarded, grabbed and then shamed and shunned and silenced—their voices float around still, like tumbleweeds of truth. The  winds of our time  and the hot air of your man and those who hold him up as a paragon are blowing those unheard voices together.

Yes. The true tale: it’s being told. The truth is now, I think, I hope—unstoppable. That’s why everyone is so unsettled right now. That truth is heading toward the flaming egos of men invested in guarding their powers, and toward the women who cling to them, out of fear or denial or both. Men in boardrooms and bedrooms. If you look you can see those egos, burning like gas flares on a dark oil field, as the truth swirls closer. Something’s going to blow up.

I do not imagine you will read my letter, but I had to write, anyway. I wonder.
Maybe underneath all the denial, you knew that your words would be a call to action for women to speak. Maybe underneath it all, you are just scared, too, and dream of a better world, where the assaulted do indeed see justice.

I like to imagine that is who you are, at heart.

* iBachman, R. & Saltzman, E. (1995). Violence against women: Estimates from the redesigned survey. Retrieved from http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/FEMVIED.PDF

**http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/23/how-the-u-s-ended-up-with-400-000-untested-rape-kits.html

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4 Comments

For Terence

scared sad face

For Terence

It’s like some evil game
nightmare edition
of Simon says

Why do so many people
who look like me
comb over the footage,
looking for a misstep?

The questions begin,
inevitable
hateful
cloaked in willful blindness
the cloak victim-blaming
always wears:
“Yeah but–was he
fully complying?
Why didn’t he
comply exactly?”

The wrong questions,
again
and again,
world without end

Just ask Charles Kinsey
if hands up & unarmed
& lying on your back
on the road
begging for reason
will keep a black man from being
shot if someone decides
he looks like a threat
because he is breathing

Like someone decided
12-year-old
Tamir was a threat,
sitting alone, dreaming
little-boy dreams
that will never come true.

I dream of a world where
people who look like me
will ask vastly different questions,
harder ones,
braver ones,
again and again
until this world ends

And a new world opens
one where police will be expected
to protect and serve
a father of four
car broken down
who has his hands in the air

Where de-escalation
is the absolute expectation

A world where
Terence Crutcher
would still be here
heart beating,
breathing,
alive.

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2 Comments

The beautiful rowdy prisoners

The small man
Builds cages for everyone
He knows.
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the
Beautiful
Rowdy
Prisoners.
—Hafiz

Eastern State Penitentiary photo

A cell at Eastern State Penitentiary

The beautiful, rowdy prisoners.

It is their ghosts I think of as I walk past cell after cell. (I know. It’s easy, in such a ruin, to imagine ghosts.)

Silent screams echo through the ruins of Eastern State Penitentiary in the trendy Fairmount neighborhood of urban Philadelphia. This prison, now an historical museum site, has not housed inmates since its closing in 1971.

Maybe it was the humidity, pressing down on me the hot summer afternoon I visited. But I felt what I felt. I felt heavy layers of despair. I heard voices, and not just the recorded ones in the audio headset. I also heard the voices of prisoners past and prisoners present, calling me to attention.

This place was, back in the early 19th century, thought of as a ground-breaking, humanitarian response to reforming criminals. The Quaker-inspired system was based on the belief that solitude and work would allow convicts to focus on their wrong-doing, and become truly “penitent.” Prisoners, many in for crimes like horse theft, saw no one, spoke with no one, touched no one, and smiled at no one, day after day. When necessity forced prisoners to leave their cells, they were hooded so that they had no visual interaction with other humans.

Eastern State is where solitary confinement was pioneered, and perfected, the audio recording hissed in my ears, as I peered in cell after lonely cell. The Pennsylvania System, as it was dubbed, was hailed as a model.

It didn’t work. It did not reform.

But “solitary” remains a punishment used at many modern prisons in the US and is even used on prisoners under the age of 18. US state and federal prisons are currently holding as many as 100,000 inmates in solitary confinement or isolated housing, according to ACLU reports.

Human Rights Watch notes that as of 2006, the rate of reported mental health disorders in the state prison population is five times greater than in the general adult population.

What 17-year-old deserves solitary confinement? What mentally ill person deserves it? Which criminals deserve this, exactly? And who is empowered to decide and implement this torture that takes place far from the eyes of mainstream society?

As Charles Dickens said, after visiting Eastern State in 1842:

“….I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body; and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye… and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear; therefore I the more denounce it, as a secret punishment in which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay.”

I wonder at how I have slumbered. In the courtyard of Eastern State sits a sobering, three dimensional bar graph, charting the rate of incarceration in US prisons versus the rest of the world. The US has achieved world domination here. With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.

Processing all this, I walk the corridors of Eastern State. A fog of cognitive dissonance begins to cloud my mind. The light here is soft, and beautiful as the light through any rose-windowed cathedral. The arched corridors are beautifully proportioned. In its heyday, Eastern State was hailed as a model of justice and technological advancement. On the surface, it appeared to be such a good idea. An unquestionable system, implemented by a government that knew what it was doing.

This is a reminder, one of the little voices whispers to me.

A reminder to wonder, to question. A reminder to look beyond, to see what is really happening.

I’m not entirely sure what all this means. But I know it’s not good. I keep reading. The United States prison population has increased by 500% in just thirty years. I learn that that minorities and impoverished people—the most voiceless, the least powerful— are far more likely to end up doing time. Hard time.

Meanwhile, according to the New York Times, prisoners are being put to work filling government contracts. Think “slave labor.” Federal Prison Industries, also known as Unicor, uses prisoners for labor, and pays as little as 23 cents an hour. And, according to the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, thirty-seven states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations who bring their operations inside prison walls.

Suddenly, as I write this, I hear other voices too, jeering ones, asking me if I’m forgetting the victims, in all this wondering? No, I’m not forgetting.

But there can be many kinds of victims, after all. And many kinds of crimes, not all of them carried out by individuals.

The ghosts in my head remind me to keep wondering, to keep questioning why we as a nation keep building so very many cages.

Eastern State Penitentiary

Links to more information on this topic:

http://www.easternstate.org/

http://ellabakercenter.org/

http://www.amazon.com/Race-Incarcerate-A-Graphic-Retelling/dp/1595585419#reader_1595585419

http://www.wsj.com/articles/large-number-of-inmates-in-solitary-poses-problem-for-justice-system-study-says-1441209772

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/23/us/23prison.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/15/business/private-businesses-fight-federal-prisons-for-contracts.html

https://www.hrw.org/news/2006/09/05/us-number-mentally-ill-prisons-quadrupled

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9 Comments