[Drawing of the Between the Bars logo -two hands holding an envelope from behind bars- and a Gateway Arch with the words "BUILDING A BRIDGE ACROSS THE DIGITAL DIVIDE" spanning a laptop.]
Between the Bars
"A brighter morn awaits the
Human day... when poverty
And wealth, the thirst of fame,
The fear of infamy, disease and
Woe, war with its million horrors
And fierce hell -Shall live but in the
Memory of time."
Percy Bysshe Shelley 1748-1836
I send greetings, in solidarity, to my friends at the ELLA BAKER CENTER. - I also want to extend a heartfelt word of gratitude to the organizers and volunteers at the MIT Center for Civic Media who make it possible to send those greetings from "Between The Bars."
Having opened with a quote by Shelley, I'd like to add another thought that comes to mind when I consider that Dec. 10th is "International Human Rights Day." - Elie Wiesel wrote in "Night":
"Never remain silent whenever and
Where ever human beings endure
Suffering and humiliation. We must
Always take sides. Neutrality helps
The oppressor, never the victim.
Silence encourages the tormentor,
Never the tormented." -
Somewhere between Elie Wiesel's "Night" and Shelley's "Day" we must find a way to work together for a brighter tomorrow.
Imagine if it were possible to set in motion a positive chain of events that improved the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of of people - Imagine that your efforts were able to help lower the recidivism rate by enough percentage points that billions of dollars could be used to bolster our faltering education system, rather than continuing to fund our prison industrial complex - one of the fastest growing segments of our economy.
If you can imagine such a thing - then I would invite you to do the following...
1) Contact Sen. James H. Webb, Dem VA (www.senate.gov) and check on the status of his Blue Ribbon Commission's review of the U.S. prison system.
2) Review an essay entitled "Raising the Bar" published 8/24/2012 on www.betweenthebars.org/blogs/1398
3) Consider what you can do to help bring attention to the fret that if digital divide exists between almost 2 million state inmates and society at large. A "digital divide" which, effectively, cuts off communication with a "society" that they will be "re-entering" at a rate of about 700,000 a year.
Incredibly, all you would have to do is find a way to help spark a national debate on the topic - that "digital divide" did not come about as part of some malicious plot to disenfranchise America's incarcerated population. Rather, it is an intended consequence of the technological advances that have profoundly altered the way "communication" takes place-
Coincidently, 12/2/12 was the 20th anniversary of the world's 1st "text message" - Today, the avg. person in the U.S. sends or receives about 400 text msgs. per month. The avg. teen sends about 3,700 per month. - Consider that the average inmate is lucky to receive 1 or 2 letters per month... Hmm!?!? Not "LinkedIN", but locked OUT of a billion conversations.
Facebook posts, texts and tweets create a circle of family and friends from which an inmate is excluded - Bonds are developed between people who have never met face to face, while inmates sit and wonder how friends and loved ones could have cast them off so easily.
I could do a thousand pages on this subject, but it would simply be variations on a simple theme - a digital divide exists - it is detrimental - it MUST be addressed.
Fortunately, those of us who find ourselves "behind the wire" know that YOU are reading this. [Smiley face] We know that YOU are already beginning to imagine what you can do to spark that NATIONAL DIALOGUE. [Smiley face]
On 12/21/12, I will be posting an idea that I have for BUILDING A BRIDGE across that digital divide. - I will be posting it to: www.betweenthebars.com/blogs/1398
I would like to invite my new friends from the ELLA BAKER CENTER to check in and share their ideas and comments - Together, we CAN make a difference... Somewhere between Shelley's "Day" amd Wiesel's "Night", let us find a way to work together for a brighter tomorrow.
I am enclosing a copy of a poem entitled "Headline Views" - It was written after a weekend of prayer and fasting back in Sept. 2008... Basically, it's a compilation of events which took place in the news. I look forward to submitting an updated version based upon "News Events" taking place world wide 12/21-23 [Smiley face] (Things that make you go Hmmm!? [Smiley face])
Thanks AGAIN to MIT's Center for Civic Media - You have encouraged and empowered those of us who find ourselves "Behind the Wire" simply by acknowledging the validity of our ideas, and producing this platform. You are both the SOURCE OF, and a FORCE FOR positive change.
(Written 09/15 Based Upon Headlines for Weekend of 09/12-14 2008)
Human error, an act of God,
And no faith in the economy,
A commuter train, A hurricane
And a page from Deuteronomy.
As politicians bicker
The stock markets ticker,
Shows a flicker of fear,
And the headline news
Only hide the views-
That "The signs of the times" are here.
What could people possibly be thinking
Who say, "Your end of the boat is sinking"?
In just one 48 hour span,
In Iran, Indonesia and Japan-
The Earth "quaked" in various places,
Shattering more than just vases.
The tremors run through our tomorrows.
Like the beginning of our sorrows-
Blue chip stocks reduced to rubble,
In the "Times of Jacob's Troubles:
Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers
Showed a weakness in the system.
Won't be long til some others,
Wonder how they could have missed them.
The tears being shed for Lehman,
I guess people have forgotten,
Had not started with "free-" men,
But a fortune made trading cotton.
Something wicked this way blows,
Storm clouds on the horizon.
The times of Jacob's troubles
Should not be surprising.
I'm not trying to rattle nerves,
I hope no one feels disrespected-
I just hope this poem somehow serves
To show that we are "all connected."
You couldn't build prisons fast enough
Or throw up enough border fences
Nor stop a moral decline with a handcuff,
It's time we all came to our senses.
Banks are nervous, people are scared.
Who has time for a "War on Terror".
It's time the Gospel Truth be declared,
We've had enough of human error
What could people possibly be thinking?
Could their heads be buried in the sand?
Who say, "Your end of the is sinking"
Could it be that they don't understand?
"That problems up there in the hill", They say
"We'll be safe down here in the Valley."
Or "Our streets are safe above the fray,
The problem's back there in the Alley."
My health insurance covered my kids shots,
They simply scheduled vaccinations.
While in the restaurant washing pots,
With Hepatitis complications.
Is the guy who tossed her chef salad
With the slightly trembling hands,
Because his "Green Card" was never valid -
He can't get checked for his swollen glands.
She said, "My kids go to private school"
And she said this all rather proudly
The "drop out" dealer calls her a fool,
And walks away laughing loudly.
See - Her kids took her jewelry to the pawnshop,
When their allowance suddenly ran dry
And tho they felt badly, they had to cop,
They couldn't face her if they weren't high.
Whatever happens on that mountaintop,
Will surely roll down in the valley.
And your "safe streets" will never stop
The crimes born "back there" in the alley.
So now we chase the Taliban,
From the mountains of Afghanistan,
Across the border into Pakistan
How long until we bomb Iran!
People please! Come to your senses!
We need more than "border fences."
All this intrigue and suspense is
Just a part of our recompenses.
"The people shall labor in vain,
And the high gates shall be burned with fire."
That's a fact that was made so plain,
Way back there in Jeremiah.
"They shall impoverish Thy fenced cities
Where in Thou trusted with the sword".
Border patrols and vigilantes;
Accomplish nothing without the Lord!
The front line in the "War on Terror"
Is in our hearts and in our minds.
To blame "Islam" would be an error,
Like squeezing juice from the rinds.
The rinds are just the cover -
What's inside is the fruit.
You must dig deeper to discover,
The basis for the bitter root.
it may seem like a mystery
When in fact it's crystal clear
Just make a look at history
Man - a bomb can't stop an idea!
"Where do wars and fighting come for among you?"
Do not they spring from your own desires?
Or someone speaking another tongue, who
Has something the world requires?
As long as we continue to think
That only "our way" of thinking is best.
It will always bring us to the brink
Of waving swords as if we were possessed.
The stock market tanks, the major banks,
And investment firms begin to fail,
The president says, "They're Sacrosanct"
And got the taxpayers to "put up bail."
Now taxpayers who can't pay their mortgages,
Pay to bailout investment banks!
Digging out of debt the sand wedges,
Finding spare change to fill their tanks.
But now "who will guard the guardians"
Who have their hands deep in our pocket.
The last stand of the Republicans,
Who take out future and just "Hock it."
They want to patch it up and hope it floats,
Then jump the sinking ship like rats.
That way after the country votes;
They can blame it on the Democrats.
Well I believe in the separation,
In theory, of the church from the state.
But we must seek reconciliation -
We have to differentiate.
The "word" says we must pray for our leaders,
I pray we get someone we can trust.
That way we as intercessors
Won't have to look away in disgust.
As their policies enrich their friends,
While "We the People" bear the burden.
And our "means" justify their "ends,"
Before "We" can even get a word in.
Our sons fight and die on foreign soil
As the victims of a great deception.
Turns out it was all about the oil,
Just sleight of hand and misdirection.
The word "man" is the root of mankind,
But what kind of man would have expected
That our roots were not all intertwined,
Overlapping and intersected.
If someone sneezes in Hong Kong,
You can get ready for the Hong Kong flu -
Cause we swap diseases like ping pong,
That could land us in the I.C.U.
Sometimes we tend to take for granted
That somehow, we're living in a shell,
And our views somehow tend to get slanted -
Proudly our chests begin to swell.
"That problem's an ocean away" we say,
Let those people find their own solution -
And then a "wave" starts to head our way,
That we can't stop with the constitution.
Just as ripples reach for distant shores,
And just a spark can start a raging fire.
Those problems on stay behind closed doors -
They'll reach out and drag us into the mire,
Just as a rising tide can lift all boats,
A "storm surge" can sweep them all away.
Both yachts and ding can become footnotes,
About vessels floating in the Bay.
Open the eyes of your understanding
Or you'll be hit by the unexpected
Finding they were not alone of quicksand
And that yes - we were all connected.
Yes, the word "man" is the root of mankind,
But it might have been a far better thing,
If we thought of the root as being "kind";
Perhaps it would cause an awakening.
If we saw ourselves in a different light -
Let's say, as the "brotherhood" of man.
And we were all as children in His sight,
We could get down with the Master's plan.
We must start with ourselves, as a nation,
begin to find our strength from within -
We need spiritual "rejuvenation"
Turn back to God - and free from sin.
II Chronicles makes it very clear
Obedience brings on God's blessing.
But all those blessing quickly disappear
When we "turn our backs" and start digressing.
Contains a very revealing verse.
As we face this nation's mounting debt,
We need that blessing and not this curse.
If we "harken not" to the voice of God -
Our fields, stores, bodies and flocks,
Will fall under His wrath and His rod,
And our stocks will fall faster rocks.
"If my people who are called by my name"
Shall humble themselves, seek my face and pray...
If we don't - we'll have ourselves to blame
For the misfortune that's headed our way.
We call ourselves "one nation" under God,
Yet we stand as divided by our sin.
In a place where the "grapes of wrath" are trod,
Can we expect "healing" to begin?
Will He "hear from heaven" and heal our land,
If we just try to do it on our own?
I pray to God that we may understand,
We need the blessing that flow from His throne.
It's time the "gospel truth" be declared,
We've had enough of human error.
And if it's not too late we may be spared,
His "divine wrath" and our "mortal terror."
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