By Tony Casson
“They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me.” Philippians 1:17b NLT
“All ambitions are lawful except those which climb upwards on the miseries or credulities of mankind.” Joseph Conrad
History has taught us that just because our government embraces a particular course of action doesn’t mean it will always prove to be the most prudent one to take. Many mistakes have been made in this country’s relatively short lifetime that could have been avoided with better information, more thought, less emotion and a greater concern for humanity. Personal ambition and desire for financial gain have also factored into these decisions. Lives have been destroyed; lives have been lost; homes and possessions of many innocent people have been forfeited and immeasurable pain and suffering have been inflicted. And all because someone was quick to paint a target on a particular group or cause and was able to point the emotion of this nation at that target. It was then easy to let loose our considerable resources with the single-minded objective of destroying it. This objective was usually met, although often with unpleasant, embarrassing or disastrous consequences later on.
Examples can be found going back to the earliest footsteps of our forefathers upon the soil in which are now anchored the flagpoles that proudly fly the greatest symbol of freedom and fairness the world has ever known. However, it was soil that was taken from a native people whose home it had been long before the first “civilized” steps were walked on it.
From the original oppression of Native Americans to slavery, from segregation to the Japanese-American internment camps of World War II and the national embarrassment of McCarthyism in the 1950’s, targets have been selected and groups singled out to be relegated to a class of people who are to be feared and reviled.
Far too many of those in power use the fear, ignorance and complacency of those they “serve” to carve paths to their own personal summits, climbing over or walking around the bodies of those they destroy on that path to the top. Our short history is too full of examples of the new lows to which people will descend in their efforts to reach new highs in personal recognition, power and financial gain.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the “war on crime” that was begun in the 1970s and still rages to this day. Millions of lives have been ruined and countless families have been sentenced to something less than the “American Dream” because we have allowed those who profit from other people’s pain to create the “American Nightmare.”
A prison industrial behemoth has been created in this country. It has put untold billions of dollars into the pockets of individuals and corporations wily enough to take advantage of the very windfalls they themselves helped to create. The American public blessed this beast as necessary to calm their fears; fears that are sustained by media that surrounds us and inundates our daily lives with shocking stories of murder, mayhem and man’s inhumanity to man. Highly paid and practiced individuals put a “spin on sin” that sends Americans running into their homes and locking their doors in the sure knowledge that rape, robbery or death await them on the other side.
The simple truth is that the average American lives a life untouched by crime from unknown sources. The closest most people ever get to criminal or unlawful activity is through their own actions or those of a family member. Speeding, running a stop sign, drinking and driving, and abusing prescription medications are just a few examples. Much of the crime reported in this country is domestic in nature. This does not mean that a person beating their spouse is not criminal. This does not mean that a person sexually abusing a member of their family is not a criminal. This does not mean that a person shaking a child who won’t stop crying is not breaking the law.
All it means is that we are more likely to face dangers or be exposed to criminal behavior by a person known to us than by a stranger.
Unfortunately, because we are so influenced by the internet, television, radio and newspapers, the criminal behavior that we are deluged with around the clock has us convinced that the monster is lurking just outside the doors.
Our prisons are full or people incarcerated for drug-related offenses. Many of their offenses occur in the poverty-stricken areas of our cities. The average American never gets near those areas so there is little to fear. If you do visit those areas to feed your own bad habits, then locking your door at home will not keep you out of harm’s way. Billions are being spent on a war that no one wants to win, although many jobs and many fortunes are dependent upon keeping Americans convinced otherwise. Legislators on the state and national level have wasted billions upon billions of dollars fighting the combined wars on crime and drugs. Prosecutors and juries have aggressively backed them up by sending those taken prisoner in those wars to institutions throughout this country. In 1980, the population of the U.S. was roughly 226.5 million people. In 2010, census figures placed the number at roughly 308.5 million for an increase of 82 million citizens, or roughly 36%. In the same timeframe, the prison population has grown from approximately 350,000 to over 2.1 million. That’s an astonishing increase of 600%.
These figures should sound a warning to sensible Americans everywhere. There is an explanation for this massive growth, but it is not the one that those who put the “spin on sin” would have us believe. The explanation is no more complicated than “summit fever closer to sea level,” as thousands of individuals seek financial profit, career advancement or both, locking up the prisoners of those wars that no one wants to win.
It is true that criminal behavior needs to be dealt with and there are many honest, hard-working diligent individuals who do their part to capture and punish those who step outside the boundaries of decency that society establishes. That said, it is also true that far too many profit or advance their careers from the incarceration of the very individuals they capture and prosecute.
The wars have been expanded now to include a crime that any decent moral person would find detestable and indefensible. I include myself among those who find it thus, even as I serve my sentence for being guilty of it. I speak, of course, about the possession of child pornography.
This crime affects us all, not just those who have been caught and labeled as “monsters.” Just like a California wildfire fanned by the Santa Ana winds jumps across a road or ravine, it jumps across all levels of our society. Just as any virus experienced by mankind, it spreads with the same lack of concern for who it infects. In fact, its spread has reached “epidemic” proportions as one federal prosecutor puts it.
Those whose job it is to put a “spin on sin” will tell you that this “epidemic” is being fought aggressively by the United States government. In actuality, in their efforts to catch the guilty, the United States government is actually perpetuating the spread of both the vile, disgusting images themselves as well as the destruction their possession wreaks not just upon the guilty, but upon the innocent as well – including the very victims of child sexual abuse who are the subject matter in those images.
I will explain how this could possibly be when I begin “Unwinding the Spin on Sin.”
More to follow tomorrow…