Monday, August 22, 2011

America's "Punishment Regime"

In the wake of the horrific shootings in Norway, where professed crusader, Anders Breivik, killed 77 people, there is renewed debate about crime and punishment in the world.

For all of the damage Breivik wrought, under Norwegian law he faces a maximum of only 21 years of prison. Americans are outraged. Predictably, they want more.

America, the self-proclaimed "Land of the Free," ironically locks up more people - over two million - and holds them longer than any other nation on Earth. We excoriate China and Iran for their penal abuses despite being more like them than we are our counterparts in the West. (When it comes to executions, China, Iran, and the U.S. constitute the Big Three.)

Helge Luras, a terrorism expert at the Norwegian Institute, speaks of America's "punishment regime," flatly stating: "We do not want to be like you." Tone-deaf to that indictment, Americans clamor for harsher and harsher punishment of peoples at home and abroad. And progressive nations like Norway shudder at the specter of Europe's medieval past reflected in America's eye.

What is wrong with us? Are we so consumed with hate that it drives us century after century to act out? Consider this: America is the race of people (Native Americans), enslave another race of people (African-Americans), and intern yet another race of its own people (Japanese-Americans). Across the breadth of this atomic age, we are the only nation to actually drop a nuclear device on our fellow human beings.

We are dangerously close to the edge when the likes of Breivik applauds America for what he perceived as our stand against the spread of mosques in the States. Eighty years before, it was Hitler who, in his manifesto, "Mein Kampf," praised America for the efficient way it dealt with its "Native American problem."

We fancy ourselves the pre-eminent world leader. But what are we showing the world - how to inflict pain and endless punishment? I would like to think we are better than that. History says we are not.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Afraid of the Dark

They did it. Those gutless wonders in Washington raised the debt ceiling again, (for the 103rd time.) Let them tell it, they had no choice. They were staring into the abyss. (No stomach for that.) So, they raised "the ceiling" to save themselves from the dark.

There is only so much light in America's house. When that fake ceiling finally collapses, the dark will cascade upon us. Better we face that fact now. We are not as strong as we were yesterday, but at this rate we are stronger today than we will be tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Evil Remains

They sought out Hitler henchmen, Rudolf Hess's bones, and found them in a small cemetary in Germany. They dug him up, fired his remains, and then scattered his ashes upon the sea. Triumphant, they then declared, "There is less evil in the world today."

"No," I say, "there is not." Evil, like energy, cannot be destroyed. It simply changes form.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

She's No Jeanne d'Arc, But...

In Bristol Palin's new book, "Unafraid of Life: My Journey So Far", she recounts an episode that is eerily similar to date rape. There, she describes an overnighter she spent with friends when she was sixteen. During the evening, she drank alcohol for the first time, and passed out. The following morning, she learned that she lost her virginity to (her friend) Levi while she was unconscious the night before.

Bristol reveals this incident in her book, but seems reluctant to discuss it on her book tour. When pressed, she insists it was all her fault.

Taking responsibility for your actions is admirable, but here it is only a half measure. When it comes to date rape, one person taking full responsibility is contrary to what both parties on either side of the divide must accept.

Date rape most often occurs when the girl gets intoxicated (or drugged) - either willingly or otherwise - and has either lost consciousness or is so severely impaired that she does not know what she is doing, nor what is being done to her. It is complete when the boy takes advantage of the situation.

Whether Bristol and Levi's episode was an actual date rape, apparently only Levi knows.

What makes this even more compelling is that Bristol is now a spokesperson for an organization that just last year paid her $260,000 to speak abstinence to young people. For a person in her position, it is disingenuous to feign martyrdom in so depraved a matter as date rape where penance must be shared.

Despite her staggered start, Bristol Palin is an uncommon messenger. She is charming, brave, wonderfully human. She not only tells young people to abstain from sex, she declares that she too shall not have sex until she is married. She wants to show them how. In this age of willfulness, it is refreshing to see a beautiful young woman say to our desperate young people, "Follow me."

Is hers a voice in the wilderness? Perhaps. I'd like to thing of it as a voice out of the past calling us all forward to set a better example.