Now Is Another Opportunity to Reimagine Justice

I spent late Saturday night (while my neighbors were belting out Oasis’s “Wonderwall” to bad guitar accompaniment) watching Twitter and Facebook. The Zimmerman verdict (not guilty of either manslaughter or murder II) was out, and folks were outraged.

“Not everything about race, dumbasses!” one person said.

“Our justice system is broken!” said another.

“No one in their right mind could say the prosecution proved beyond a doubt that Zimmerman didn’t fear for his life. That’s the letter of the law!” said a third.

“Another black kid is dead, and Don West is crowing happily,” raged another.

Whether or not Zimmerman made assumptions based on race, or had a racial motive in killing Trayvon Martin (I can’t say), this trial did have racial importance to me. It’s very rare for the death of a child of color to get national attention on this level. For violence between two self-identifying people of color to make national news for this long, for people to give a damn about it for longer than the 15-second clip on the local morning news? I saw this as a (fucking tragic) opportunity to see people show some compassion for a dead (black) kid, and to get to be a little internally conflicted in their feelings about Zimmerman.

As for the outcome of the trial, that’s complicated for me. I don’t like our punitive justice system. I don’t wish prison on anybody. I wish for rehabilitation and healing. I wish that we could acknowledge that a crime was committed without the next question being, “How will they pay/suffer for that crime?”

Because Zimmerman will, undoubtedly, be punished. They won’t go to jail, but how is this person going to be able to live in peace? People are likely to torment them for a very, very long time for the death of that child. They’re going to get death threats. They’re going to receive supporting letters from hate groups they may want no part in (how revolting is that?). They’re likely to be beat up and harassed.

None of this will bring Trayvon back, which people almost certainly acknowledge. (I hope…) It also, however, doesn’t promote anyone’s healing and health. I know absolutely nothing about Zimmerman’s state of mind, but is violent communication and action how we really think people learn right from wrong? How people are convinced of our viewpoints? I also cannot step into the head of parents who have lost their child. Will this emotional violence on the part of others help them heal?

Worse yet, I doubt that we as individuals will say at some point, “Okay, he’s suffered enough; our desire for punishment has been met.” I’ve seen a lot of people weight how much damage they individually have inflicted more highly than the sum total of everyone’s retribution.

As usual with these sorts of cases (and as often doesn’t happen, even in my social media circles), I want to see dialog about how we can reimagine a justice system that actually meets our needs.

If “our justice system is broken”, then how do you want to see it change, even if that preference is still for punitive action?

If “the letter of the law” was upheld, is that okay? Is that a system you have trust in, a set of laws you feel reflect your values?

If “not everything is about race”, how did this case resonate with you, and how can we make that more discussed?

If “Don West is crowing happily” despite the death of a kid, what does that say about our society at-large, in how we perceive success and victory?

Whether we can radically and practically change our justice system or not, I’m learning that if we can’t even conceive of parts of a better system, then we haven’t really examined our needs. Instead, we’re mired in reactivity, swinging in the breeze to every impetus that comes our way.

APW 2013: Intellectualism, Anarchy, Privilege and Power

(This is the fifth in a way-too-long-running series on APW 2013.)

I am not educated on anarchy or intentional communities. I consider this a lack in my education. (Seems like reddit may have a good starting place for me.)

Dennis Fox is a psychologist from Boston who focuses on a few interesting topics: intentional communities and critical psychology.

What is critical psychology, you ask? When speaking of truths, Fox said, “current psychology’s truth is in finding ways for unhappy people to adapt to the current world, rather than in changing the current world.”

That really resonated with me.

So many of the unhappinesses we struggle with derive from trying to live in ways our society deems correct: working a 40+ hour per week job in which we produce something of “value” to society and for which we receive money and (if you’re “lucky”) fame. Then we should partake in monogamous relationships that last for years, build wealth, and strive to have bodies like those of people in magazines.

When we fail at those things, we go to psychologists, who have techniques they teach us for how to set goals, how to love ourselves within this framework, and how to persevere in doing what’s good for us.

I do hope that doesn’t sound like a rant. I don’t mean it do.

I attended a couple panels that dealt with power dynamics and/or community building, which I touched on in the previous post (regarding the sociopathy concerns). Dr. Eli Sheff focused on things like gender, racial, and sexual privilege in relationships, while Dr. Fox spoke more on changing our (individual/community) world to find our own truths.

I, of course, consider these rather related.

Being a bisexual or bi-romantic female in the poly community is a powerful thing–like having O negative blood in a friggin’ donation facility. Hell, “hot bi-babe” is a term through around a lot in podcasts and in the community.

Being the third or newcomer in a triad? A distinctly un-powerful thing.

Being legally civil unioned? Powerful, because you can “pass” and be a gentle, suburban face for polyamory. On top of that, our culture at-large values relationships with a potential for raising healthy children, and nothing screams “family stability” like being legally married. Or so they tell me.

Financial privilege and social mobility is huge when you have a lifestyle that could cost you your job. I’m very privileged in working in a field where 1) I make a fair amount of money, 2) my work environments tend to be liberal, and 3) I have the ability to get a new job pretty quickly if I lose my current one.

But I don’t want the communities I’m part of to size me (or anyone) up by those metrics.

So how do we either 1) live (safely?) outside of that to have our own truths, and/or 2) change the world around us to be more accepting of those truths?

I don’t know.

Links! 7/12/2013

Some good reading:

Wu-Tang Clan Had an ASL Interpreter at Bonnaroo and She Stole The Show
No additional commentary from me needed, clearly.
Delightful Helicopter Pilot Rescues Kid’s RC Plane From Treetop
This is awesome. C/O Angi.
Julius Escaping *ORIGINAL* Snake Opens Door – YouTube
What the eff.
Worlds Cutest Frog – Desert Rain Frog – YouTube
Both creepy and adorable.
All Hail the Queen? | Bitch Media
"It is difficult to square the singer’s mainstream packaging with subversion of conventional and sexist views of gender. But ultimately, the policing of feminist cred is the real moral contradiction. And the judgment of how Beyoncé expresses her womanhood is emblematic of the way women in the public eye are routinely picked apart—in particular, it’s a demonstration of the conflicting pressures on black women and the complicated way our bodies and relationships are policed."

I “Treasure” the Opportunity

I accepted a Board position for my church today.

…There are several words in that sentence that feel a little foreign coming out of my mouth. (Clue: “accepted”, “Board position”, and yes, “church”)

The cute thing to say here would be, “Oh, geez, this is such a ‘real adult’ thing to do! When did I become an adult?” Insert bashful giggle, etc.

Leaving aside the fact that I haven’t felt like a kid in a long damn time, I find that I’m mostly feeling a calm readiness to take this on.

Of course, I might be singing a different tune after a few board meetings and the sorts of miscellaneous conflicts that are rumored to happen in UU church committees/boards.

Wuut? Aerial Yoga

If you’d asked me three months ago if I’d try aerial yoga, I’d’ve said, “Um, no.”

Bunch of reasons: I don’t like heights, I don’t like being inverted from high places, and I don’t like exacerbating my already always-there shoulder pain (sez the weightlifter *eye roll*). Also, I’m sometimes scared to try new things.

Ask me two weeks ago? Fuck yeah, I’ll try it!

So tonight, I went to Lucy’s beautiful and friendly studio and tried it. And then I spent most of the 75 minute class swallowing tears.

Not due to any one thing in particular. It wasn’t just the physical pain or emotional pain and frustration, but the overwhelming combination.

Everywhere I made contact with the ribbon, I hurt. My fingers hurt in the warmup core work grips. My upper arms from chair/hanging. My hip bones from forward bend. My lower back bones and inner thighs from the backward-leaning inversions. My feet (?!) from tree pose. The backs of my knees from the warrior and lunge poses.

Imagine being in a class, and contact with the very instrument of the class causes pain. There’s you, and a ribbon. What the fuck else are you supposed to do? Get back on it. By halfway through class, the anticipation of the pain had tears welling even before I climbed back into the ribbon for a new pose.

I’m told that pain lessens with practice, though. And my shoulder was only a bit of choppiness in the torrent of sensations flowing through me, which was nice.

The class was pretty focused on experimenting with aerial poses (because holy shit, that’s cool), so it wasn’t quite the environment for a good cry in child’s pose.

Afterwards, I felt both very wrung out and very pent up. Not a good headspace for me, so I’m still sitting with myself, processing all of this.

I’ll probably try aerial yoga again, and probably not too far in the future. I’d like to find a way for the ribbon to not hurt so I can relax and enjoy the inversions that I’m not yet able to do on the ground (or that aren’t possible on the ground).

taking joy in human unreason