A plea for legal advice for a friend of mine, Eritrean-American journalist Michael Abraham, who is without means of subsistence in Nairobi because a US Embassy official will not give him the proof of his US citizenship that he needs to work as foreign correspondent or obtain emergency assistance after losing everything in the bloody South Sudan war.
In so far as any good news can be attached to the case of a man who is dying of cancer after 40+ years in solitary, this is good news: Herman Wallace, of the Angola Three, who was framed decades ago, was cleared by a decent judge and allowed to go home. Amy Goodman had a piece on it yesterday. I am no expert in this case, but I learned about it when a British magazine asked me to respond to a rather starry-eyed article by an English minister who liked the Christian approach of the warden of Angola Prison. Researching Angola became a critical piece of education for me as a white immigrant to this country who lived here for 30+ years without educating myself about the extent of racist injustice in the criminal legal system, the extent of torture (solitary is torture) and the fact that slavery continues legally (the 13th Amendment allowed it for convict labor) in American prisons. No excuses: just one big insight into how easy it is to be white and oblivious, which contributes in a big way to this society’s racism.
You may not have caught this news: “L.A. had fewer crimes last year than it did in 1957 – the mayor calls the numbers ‘mind-boggling’.”
But we all know that: “Los Angeles – like other big cities around the country – is in the midst of a crime drop so steep and profound, it has experts scratching their heads.”
I do think that the best cure for the paralyzing helplessness that can follow reading the news, a despair I have been prone to at times throughout my life, is not so much reading the good news, as getting stuck into work that helps people.
Still, the good news can help. So maybe the ship is going down. But in the long run, we’re all dead, the planet fries and the sun explodes. And today, it helps me to concentrate on the work I can do, to recall how despairing I was about the world population explosion, global poverty and child mortality forty years ago, and then to realize how much has improved, due to the work of people who didn’t allow despair to paralyze them.
Don’t miss this major New York Times Sunday magazine article on a significant story we covered first a year ago in Tikkun in The Day the Jail Walls Cracked: A Restorative Plea Deal by Sujatha Baliga. A 19-year-old man shot and killed his girlfriend, and the young woman’s parents forgave him, motivated by a deep Catholic belief in forgiveness, a sense that both their daughter and Jesus wanted them to forgive, and an understanding that the forgiveness would enable them to survive.
As an agnostic appreciator of spirituality and amateur student of evolution, I like this article by the UK’s Chief Rabbi on Darwinian reasons why religion persists. Jonathan Sacks asks why it is that “still in Britain three in four people, and in America four in five, declare allegiance to a religious faith.”
Want to give your spirits a lift by doing something different? Put your zip code and email in here today and they let you know where you can turn up to show solidarity tomorrow. Feel good working off a bit of that tofurkey. Not sure they deserve the help? Check out their video:
Sadly, Tikkun has run into financial difficulties that are forcing us to make drastic staff cuts now in order to keep going long-term. Two core staff members — operations manager Pete Cattrell and me — are being laid off as of May 1, so this is my last week. Alana Price is staying on as managing editor. The magazine will continue but we are determining on an issue-by-issue basis whether we can afford to print paper copies or whether it will appear as a subscriber-only issue on the web. The summer print issue will only appear online, but the fall issue will be printed; beyond that whether there is a print edition will depend on what funds come in.