What Can Be Done?

I think one of the things that gets me down about America is that I don’t see a good path through. I say this as someone who loves to lecture, but lectures aren’t going to work. People’s pain doesn’t seem to work. These snuff videos don’t seem to work.

Oh, lord, that’s a genre whose meaning has changed. Do you remember–and maybe you don’t if you’re young enough–the fear of the snuff film? Had anyone ever made a film of someone dying? And I’m not sure what was supposed to differentiate this from news footage, maybe that it was artfully rendered? But the point was that someone could watch someone really dying for their entertainment.

It’s hard to imagine this being something so taboo it was mostly rumors and urban legends, since it’s an entertainment so freely available to us now.

One thing I keep hearing floated is the disbanding of police and the eradication of prisons. I keep thinking of Fish and Gacy, though. Maybe I should just be thinking of that guy the Nashville police shot the other day, who had been terrorizing his ex-girlfriend and whose family came out in support of the cop who shot him. Obviously, someone who’s a minor level drug dealer can be reformed. Someone who vandalizes a house could be made to understand how much that sucks through some kind of restorative justice. Maybe even three-fourths of folks like the Vandy rapists could be made to understand how what they did was wrong and hurtful and destructive. Maybe you can talk a lot more people into not being fuckers than we’re currently doing. I can believe that.

But I have been a woman since I was born and if there’s one thing you learn in a body like this, it’s that a lot of people enjoy the suffering of people like me. If a person commits a crime against me and it’s not motivated by need–like, sure, you can probably reform the person who steals and pawns all my band gear for drug or food money–but by the pleasure he takes in my pain, what does getting us together and sitting around discussing how much pain he caused me do but confirm for him that his goal was met and that, bully for him, he’s still causing me pain?

And why does your committing a crime against me create an obligation in me to fix you?

I like a lot of the ideas I’ve heard about restorative justice and I see how it could sometimes work in circumstances where everyone was committed to not ruining lives and to having positive outcomes.

But, like I said, I’ve been a woman a long time. I know the tremendous pressure we’re put under now to not jack the people who’ve wronged us up. I don’t see how this won’t be more of the same–where we just bear all of the pain and suffering and suck it up so that the community is not disrupted. It seems like a good situation for bad people. And a free trip to the candy store for people whose goal is the continued suffering of their victims or their victims’ families.

I could be more convinced that we should just do away with the police, but we didn’t used to have police and, when we didn’t, you had to find the person who wronged you or hire someone to do so. And possibly things are so bad right now that this arrangement wouldn’t change things, but I just think this ends with poor people literally never getting justice.

Here, I think, is the problem. Humans are self-serving, fucked-up messes and the institutions we create reflect that. We look at something as deeply fucked up as America is right now and we imagine that the solution is to burn it down and build something better in its place. But it’s us. The same fucked up people who are doing this thing. How are we not going to create new unfair systems?

I genuinely don’t know what a solution is here. I have been one who has spent twenty minutes untangling a terrible knot in yarn and I have been one who just cuts the knot out and goes on with less yarn. And a lot of times, there’s no difference to the end afghan. But I’ve never been in a situation where, when there was a difference, I didn’t wish I’d spent the twenty minutes to get the yarn unknotted, rather than coming up short when I needed it.