It’s been a while since I last visited my own blog. I’ve been feeling rather depressed lately, and I just couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for reading or writing. As you can imagine, that just made me feel worse. Books are my escape from the real world, and I’ve been miserable not being able to enjoy delving into other lives and worlds. Of course this slump happened right when I desperately needed a break from this messed-up world we are living in.
My slump started back in May, right around the time I read Just Mercy for the Nonfiction Book Club hosted by Doing Dewey. Just Mercy is a book that everyone should read. I have been thinking about it a lot for the past 2 months, and I have had long discussions about it, both with others and with myself. It has had quite an impact on me.
I believe in the death penalty. On a purely theoretical level, far removed from any exposure to any kind of jail or inmate and against what my faith tells me, I believe that there are crimes that deserve to be punished by death. Yet reading this book has convinced me, finally, that the death penalty cannot exist. Unless we can guarantee that the people who are involved in death penalty trials can be just, no one should have the power to decide whether a fellow person should live or die. And how can we possibly guarantee complete impartiality?
This question did me in, because, sadly, these days, we don’t have to look far or search hard to see that justice is hardly ever the first thought in people’s minds. How easy people are to form opinions and judge—whether they know anything about a situation or a person’s circumstances or not. It is trivial when it is about a celebrity’s wardrobe choice, but it can have lasting consequences when we are judging a person’s action in or reaction to a situation we know little about and often don’t want to know about. Whatever happened to giving someone the benefit of the doubt or the concept of being innocent until proven guilty? It is easy to claim that something is done for the good of the people, but it is often even easier to realize that these are empty words, a cliché that is used because it sounds good. Then we bicker endlessly over laws and regulations that in the end are just as likely to hurt people as they are to help them. Can’t we use our brain power more efficiently?
None of the facts presented so eloquently in this book surprised me. What a depressing and saddening realization that was! Maybe it is simply part of human nature that we can so easily be blinded by greed and personal grudges, by racism and a false sense of superiority that we see nothing wrong with prosecuting people who need help rather than condemnation. I don’t want to think like this. I want to believe that people are better than this, but I see little evidence of it on a daily basis.
In the end, one fact mentioned in the book has stood out more for me than many others: Between 1990 and 2005, a new prison was built in the United States every 10 days. Every 10 days! That’s approximately 550 prisons. Just think if those had been schools instead, or even just after-school programs. How much brighter the future could look for so many young people if they had access to a good education and something potentially useful to occupy and challenge them.… Well, I could go on and on here, but I am rather sick of being sick of society.
I am slightly encouraged by my increasing awareness that at least I am not alone in my despair over the state of humankind. I could even smile a bit about the fact that my native language, known for extra long nouns, has provided the perfect word to describe that desperate state of mind. We’ve also just had a wonderful long weekend, spent with family and friends and little time for the news. It has reminded me that people can disagree, but still be nice to each other and have a good time. How could I let myself forget that? I vow not to let that happen again.
With that being said, I hope to soon shake off this slumpy feeling that has hung over me for far too long. I am yearning to lose myself in a good book once again. Do you have any recommendations for me?