An article by the very accomplished Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute angered me. (http://www.nationalreview.com/article/455831/american-poverty-root-cause-dignity-deficit}.
Re-reading the article, I almost agree with all of it. I agree that poverty in today’s America is a moral problem, and that lifting people out of poverty must involve a moral uplifting. Giving people money won’t make them more valuable. Most human beings desire being valued members of their community.
Specifically, this passage angered me. Let me quote:
I’ve met some of these men. One of the friends I made is named Rick. When I met him, he’d just gotten out of prison after a long spell. He has a story that you hear a lot: petty crime when he was a teenager, then selling drugs, and finally there was a terrible crime. He had to start over completely.
Mr. Brooks was telling the story of a felon being reintegrated into society. What angered was this: what was the terrible crime?
We don’t know. He doesn’t tell us. It could have been a rape, an armed robbery, a manslaughter; something terrible.
Mr. Brooks writes about Rick’s redemption story, but what about Rick’s victims?
This is a common failing of prison-to-redemption stories, the invisibility of the victims. And I’m pissed and tired of this cattle manure.
Prison ‘redemption’ stories focus on the prisoner. But I want to see beyond that. Locked prisoners, for the most part, are unholy terrors. They may have been locked for one crime or another, but before that they terrorized whichever community they were part of. Your friendly neighborhood felon likely terrorized old ladies and weaker men before he was sent to San Quentin on a drug charge.
We know much about violent men. Those men usually can’t stand still, speak a violent language, and blame other people for their troubles. Nothing they have ever done is their fault.
My anger, my rage, relates to how little we care for the victims of such criminals. These are forgotten men, women, and children we ignore. A young woman raped, a young man beaten, those are the peoples we should care about. People who victimize the vulnerable should get none of our sympathy.