New music can satisfy even those among us who harbor suspicions about the power of consumerism to sully mass-market artistic creations. I’m specifically thinking of “This is America” by Childish Gambino/Donald Glover, the video for which exemplifies the intensity of living with eyes so open to self and world that those observing cannot resist being affected. Among the myriad soul-wrending images, the very end particularly resonates, as he runs away from a mob, through the warren of a prison complex in an inherently hopeless flight for life.
Upon initial viewing, I reacted audibly, yet without words, as I was struck by the horror and deep tragedy of the MILLIONS who reside in places so starkly removed from the potentially healing balms of our natural world. All metal and concrete, almost all the time, with no opportunity to listen to the sounds or view the contours of the earth’s forms as they have created and influenced the human psyche over the millennia of our existence. Those who dismiss the cruelty and scourge and unfathomable human costs of this country’s epidemic of mass incarceration by blithely saying “what about the victims of those crimes” quite honestly could use a lot of education about the actual numbers of those incarcerated for non-violent crimes, as well as the amount of dollars gained by those happily profiting from a system that shamelessly trades healthy, functioning communities for personal enrichment through prison contracts explicitly designed to benefit through more lives locked away. Locked away from life in all forms.
There is a community blog, Inmate Blogger, that is a trove of realness. I’d like to share here a comment I left for a contributor who’d written about the concept of “recycling” those imprisoned, rather than “throwing us away.” The ideas have long my been on my mind, and I am glad to have written them out for someone who I hope can appreciate the faith I put in the humanity of the many who go largely ignored and forgotten. Here’s my comment:
I like to picture prisons becoming the epicenters of a mass revitalization. Where the lifeless concrete expanses are rehabilitated into growing spaces that enable those on the ground to sustain themselves through food grown and energy produced on site. Then equipped to return home to communities dessimated by their absence and become point-people and knowledgeable leaders for our much-needed return to a viable relationship with our earth and natural resources.
Wildly positive, I admit, but also in the realm of current possibility, needing as ever and only the will of the people to overrule and work past the status quo purveyors of prison and pollution profits.