It’s been a rough and traumatic few weeks, following a rough and traumatic year, following a rough and traumatic several decades, or hundreds of years.
It all depends upon your perspective.
You think it can be fixed. Amended. Reformed.
Rape. Harassment. Assault. Murder. Degradation. Trauma. Shame.
There is nothing about our current systems that is not working exactly the way it is meant to.
These systems are meant to punish the poor.
These systems are meant to exploit women and female presenting people.
These systems are designed to shame non-alpha men and male presenting people.
These systems are designed to prey upon the weak and to reinforce their weakness at every turn.
These systems are designed to put psychopaths and abusers in positions where they have power over others.
These systems are designed to support constant predation, violence, and the reign of fear.
These systems are designed to kill.
When a country’s economy is largely set up to serve the military and the ultra-wealthy, how can we not expect that it would filter down into mass shootings, the murder of women and femmes, the constant killing of Black, brown, and Native citizens by police, the torture of children, the rape of janitors working the night shift, and the crushing of the working class?
Predators run this world. We praise and reward them for it. Every single system is set up to show predators how much we care. About them.
These systems will not change. These systems cannot and will not be reformed.
These systems must be toppled to the ground by the very people whom they have preyed upon. These systems must be broken by our refusal to go along. To cover up. To feel ashamed. To wish that we were wealthy and powerful and gleaming with the sleekness only brought about by living off the suffering of others.
“Kevin Spacey and his brother were abused,” they said.
I have no doubt that this is true. And you know what else? I’ve also been abused. So have too many of my friends to begin counting, and we do our utmost best to not abuse others.
“Dylann Roof will get the death penalty,” it has been reported. He killed, so he should be killed?
I will never trust the state to do anything other than kill, and I will never trust that the state will mete out anything approaching justice.
“We demand justice,” others have said.
But what does justice look like within these systems? Does prison offer justice? Does economic ruin offer justice? Does public humiliation offer justice? Does death offer justice?
No. All these things offer is revenge, and revenge is not enough. Revenge does not bring balance. Revenge does not restore harmony. Revenge does not offer healing.
Revenge is empty, promising much, and delivering almost nothing.
We currently have no justice systems in place.
We have no systems in place that offer healing.
We have no systems that actually keep communities healthy, safe, and thriving.
All we have are ashes, flecked with gold.
We barely even have systems of accountability, let alone, justice.
The sickness we live with is so endemic and deeply rooted, it can be difficult to find a different way. It is difficult to even think on it, let alone imagine it.
But that different way already exists.
It is called Sankofa.
It is called Ho’o pono-pono.
It is called Tikkun Olam
It is called Restorative Justice. Healing. Repair.
We see people banding together, enacting these restorative methods. These people try to feed one another, and help one another heal, and cultivate joy – all in the midst of the crushing systems that make all of these processes as difficult as possible.
And then we are surprised and saddened when these efforts “fail.”
But they do not fail. They are crushed. Temporarily.
Because the systems in place are designed to crush any opposition. And because, regardless, people always find a way to love again.
The dandelion will always find a way to crack the concrete smothering its roots.
The police cannot be reformed.
Prisons cannot be reformed.
The military will not keep us safe.
These systems offer only more abuse, harm, and degradation.
Prisons, courts, and policing will never offer justice.
Big business? The rewarding of predators?
That cannot be reformed, or fixed. The blows cannot be softened.
So what do we do?
We start over. Think about it. Imagine what is possible.
We free all but the most violent prisoners (we’ll deal with them later, once we have better systems in place). We offer a safety net. We offer housing, education, health care, and a basic income. We offer mental health resources. We offer a chance to heal and make amends.
We set up systems of restorative justice, where people are trained to not simply resolve conflicts, but heal the damages that conflict has caused.
We train ourselves toward different ways of power.
We train ourselves to value things other than money and fame.
We insist that caring for one another is important.
We muster our will and look to indigenous leadership and Black wisdom, and to other sources that offer real solutions.
We say, “We’ve fucked up, badly. This whole society is a fucking mess.” And then we make what amends we can, and white and/or middle and/or upper-class people shut up and do what the poor, and the indigenous, and Black, and trans, and disabled people have been shouting at us to do for hundreds of years:
We build a society based on health and well-being instead of punishment and greed. We build a society based on restoration of harmony. We remember what it feels like to be whole.
We abolish – firmly – all of the systems that only serve to oppress and terrorize the most vulnerable among us.
We begin the very real work planning the society we want to build. Not as a utopia. Not as pie-in-the-sky. As the reality we aim to live in.
Prisons and courts and bombs and drones and the stockpiling money built on slave labor will not save us. Only love will.
Empire is already crumbling under its own weight.
You think it can be fixed. Amended. Reformed.
It can’t. Tear it down. Now is our chance.
Then, if we have the collective will…we can build something new.
Sankofa Council of Nashville, Simple Booklet on Restorative Justice
Dr. Joy DeGruy: Be the Healing
Michelle Alexander: The New Jim Crow
Field Marshall Tur-Ha Ak of Community Ready Corps:
On Primary and Secondary Predators
And on The Plight of the Powerless, and organizing while living under oppression.
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