Honoring Bill Moyers at Justice Trailblazer Awards 2018



it's a delight to be here it's an honor for me to introduce bill moyers as the 2018 John Jay Trailblazer award winner for enlarging public understanding of criminal justice issues during his long and illustrious career as you know the presentation of this award is the highlight of the Guggenheim crime in America symposium that brings together journalists and criminal justice professionals to talk about emerging criminal justice issues I had the pleasure of being the keynote speaker few years ago and it's just a tremendous time to really think about criminal justice where does one start to try to capsulize Bill Moyers long career and his large body of work and tonight we're gonna focus in particular on his work on the intersection of power politics racism and justice there are we that are really at the heart of his film Rikers an American jail at the outset let me note that Bill Moyers has been at this for more than four decades in broadcast journalism he is the only person in that particular discipline to be mentioned in the same breath as Edward R Murrow who many consider the father of broadcast journalism he is recognized as a unique voice of our times he has produced ground making landmark public series you've really you know heard so many of them the Bill Moyers Journal Moyers & Company now with Bill Moyers life in America and on and on bill was born in Oklahoma raised in Texas as a BA in journalism and as a Master of Divinity degree he is a protege of LBJ Lyndon Baines Johnson he was the deputy director of the Peace Corps he was a special assistant and press secretary to LBJ and we talked a little bit tonight about what it would be to be the press secretary today bill moyers wouldn't be doing that job that that I could tell you he was the publisher of Newsday here in the metropolitan area he was a senior correspondent for CBS reports and a senior news analyst for CBS Evening News he received 30 count'em 30 Emmys nine Peabody's he's in the television Hall of Fame he's received the Charles Frankel prize from the National Endowment of humanities he is has the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of TV Arts and Sciences bill has truly done it all by any standards Bill's long career and his award winning journalism has ranged across a vast spectrum from culture to politics from the meaning of life to the most important issues of democracy he has surveyed the country and the world in search of ideas and brought them to our television screens for almost five decades and his probing interviews with dozens of the greatest poets writers and artists of our time have enriched so many lives including my own often his landmark journalism that's been a game changer putting his finger on essential issues just starting to move into the national conversation for example his PBS series have shaped medical policy and practice from improving care at the end of life to introducing us to the healing powers of Eastern medicine he helped us to understand addiction and substance abuse abuse through a new lens and rethink treatment and recovery he has alerted us to the dangers of unchecked corporate greed that has at times poisoned our children bankrupted our banks blighted our communities and polluted both our waterways and our Airways and he's reports have sounded an alarm about the danger of money in politics and to be all of this has culminated in the film I know so well Rikers an American jail as a practicing lawyer today at Latham & Watkins as a former chief judge of New York in a career and a career in the court system of over four decades I've really faced many many difficult issues I can't think of one more challenging than over the last period as chair of the Rikers Commission this has been a public policy issue that's like turning around a battleship input and all the things that we faced the policy issues the criminal justice thinking the research the data and of course the politics as so many of us recognize over the years there's certain things that stand out in your mind and during the period of doing this report with this just Blue Ribbon Commission representing every aspect of New York City's Society two things stand out in my mind at the most powerful moments first the trip to Rikers that we took our Commission to and once you've done to this place no one is ever the same when they leave Rikers Island no matter in what capacity they go there and the second was the Bill Moyers film rikuson amendment an American jail those are the two things that stand out in my mind during that period they both involved images the faces of real human beings who are dealing with the trauma of mass incarceration and Rikers American jail told the story of Rikers through the Forgotten voices the inmates who have been at Rikers Island many of whom are here tonight those who have lived and suffered with this accelerator of human misery this place where you met inhumanity and brutality is the order of the day each and every day Bill Moyers captured at all and this film is absolutely haunting you can't get it out of your mind and you can't get it out of your heart there are no voiceovers in this film there is no pontificating this film speaks for itself through the hairy harrowing stories and the troubled voices of the people who have been in this godforsaken place but think of the skill and the wisdom to recognize you don't need anybody talking about it for those people who have been there just let the voices of the people who know it best be heard this is all about human beings being treated in an inhumane fashion in a place that is a stain on our city in our country and the film graphically graphically demonstrates why mass incarceration doesn't work out of sight out of mind doesn't work this film is an engine for all the things you've been talking about here at the symposium it's an end engine for the dialogue that we need to have to continue the momentum for criminal justice reform that is particularly strong at the state and local level despite the noise coming out of Washington there is nothing more important for the future of our country than talking about these issues thinking about it and taking action based on those discussions bill moyers understands that and he has used his artistry in the cause of justice in the idea that everyone gets their day in court in the idea that justice cannot be about the color of your skin or the amount of money in your pocket that's the Bill Moyers that I know and that's what Bill Moyers means to criminal justice reform so tonight we honor Bill Moyers for decades of his work but especially returning time and time again to the issues of power and justice in our society that's what Bill Moyers has done over and over again like no one else like no one else has done and that no one else begin to touch these issues in the way that bill moyers does so tonight before we get bill up here we're going to show you just a little bit of this lifetime work and in particular bill moyers talking about power justice racism and all the issues that poverty and all the issues that matter in our country so bill moyers believe it or not I'm Bill Moyers on Bill Moyers good evening I'm Bill Moyers what does this have to do with the Supreme Court the notion that the president is a special kind of person who is like a monarch or like a God and therefore everything must be done for him or is it rather to be new notion and history had one inescapable lesson namely the power corrupts gonna do everything within our power to legal means nothing you know dogs I mean that's the way you treat an animal I mean God with human beings for conducting a vast toxicological and we're using our children as the experimental animals the scandal what went on Regan who knew and who was actually responsible was it an orgy of hate or something else that called the 1989 therefore use of Hawkins hater says I hate you because you come here if you had stayed there I would not have hate you that is terrible because to make the victim responsible for the suffering that is inflicted upon him or her that I don't accept how did you manage to sit there day after day and hear these stories of terrible things that people had been doing I am an American but I have to become an American to everybody else all the time what I don't know you tell me you're the white guy we have to rely on the media to at least analyze what the corporation's are doing an immediate don't do that how do we level the playing field I don't know money and Alexis presents us with a tremendous challenge a tremendous problem people don't pour money into campaigns because they want fair impartial treatment they pump money into campaigns because they want things to go through their way you were really in the black part of town when you cost that little bridge and the pond then you're safe then if you didn't know everybody at least everybody knew who you were you know and there's a child it was the chance to to have some protection I had my grandmother on this side I had the church my uncle and all my people were on this side so I had an idea of protection but there I would be all alone and I loved it tossing those railroad tracks bill I tell you to show you how much things don't change I'm not even gonna cross it with you now I don't really really I'm not doing it for any reason and then I really do not want to go across there I really don't I understand so what are you thinking about you still nice can you both be faithful to me every case involves people I think if we forget the humanity of the litigants before us that we're in trouble do you acknowledge the presence of crucifixion and lynching today yes I do where it's in the prison it's in prison crucifixion and lynchings are symbols they are symbols of of of the power of domination and the majority of the increase incarceration in the United States have been among impoverished people of color who once they're swept into the system are then stripped of the very right supposedly one in the civil rights movement it doesn't matter if you have a uniform war that says correction officer or one that says in me you're still doing time you know auto bought drugs from crossing over sirs who told me they're gonna be see the box if I don't Pam you know things like that and all of that baby say well you know you're just like me you know we're all criminals in here we walk in you're in between these two doors you see like this gate and then on the other side of that is the day room and then there's other adolescents on the other side you know they're looking through the gate and them on you know it's like oh we got a victim or you know fresh meat I really did feel that my mom was breaking down because my body was also breaking down as well because the portions that they feed you in the box is smaller than what they feed you in general population so you have to make sacrifices when it's child town like get two pieces of bread but you're starving at that moment you want to eat everything and you notice isn't gonna fill you up which you have to eat a small portion and you have to put the bread off to the side for later when you in jail complete upside down Kingdom everything that means something to us here doesn't mean in there I was assaulted in the shower I wanted to hire you want to hold on to that understanding that this is insane because if you lose it then you kind of become conformed to and once that happens there's no you know redemption or really date variability and you know as they like to say because it's not meant for you to change for the better I remember there was a time where I'm actually contemplated suicide and I remember my mom coming to see me she grabbed me by my shoulders she told me man she said if you don't give up on yourself I'm never gonna give up on you she said do what you have to do to survive but make it home in one piece unless you've experienced coming home from jail or prison you'll never know what it's like you don't know what it's like to go looking for a job and everywhere you turn every door you open they look at you differently and say no to you they don't know what it's like to be hungry and have no food on the table for your family but you out there struggling looking for a job I've always said you know it's great everybody's talking about these inmates that are being released but what are you putting in place for them to come home to thank you for this moment I don't deserve it of course I have arthritis and I don't deserve that either but I'm grateful for this award which I will share with the people who really deserve it whom I will introduce to you in a few moments but thanks to you Judge Lippman for those generous words about my work but thank you more so for your skilled patient and successful leadership of the rikers commission I learned and watching you over these months now that you would have fit well into the world of Lyndon Johnson who loved to tell the story of the gambler in Texas who would say to his mark play the cards fair Ruben I know what I don't you our city's largest jail is a microcosm of everything wrong with America's criminal justice system four out of five detainees there are presumptively innocent awaiting trials in our backlog course that sometimes take years to adjudicate cases Rikers embodies the scourge of racial bias in New York's prisons over half of its detainees there are african-americans a third are Latino because it costs two hundred and forty seven thousand dollars to keep one detainee on Rikers every year the jail dramatizes the astonishing cost of incarceration in America today eighty billion dollars annually to run all federal and state prisons and local jails the full cost of mass incarceration has been estimated in excess of 1 trillion dollars a year with about half of that burden falling on families children and communities of color and how do we calculate the hidden cost on a human being who spends months or years in a seven by nine foot cell with so little human contact of worth not touching the ones you love most of us in this room have likely heard if not read the famous book by Alexis de Tocqueville written by the young french scholar diplomat and political science alexis de tocqueville in the first half of the 19th century most likely don't know that the Tocqueville and his companion Gustov de Beaumont were actually sit here by the French government in 1831 to study our prisons they went from the Auburn prison in upstate New York to the Philadelphia central prison and to others they concluded their report with these words to sum up the whole of this point it must be acknowledged that the penitentiary system in America is severe while society in the United States gives the most is the example of the most extended Liberty the prisons of the same country offer the spectacle of the most complete despotism so it took courage Judge Lippman to take on the despotism of Rikers to challenge the reality of sanctioned cruelty and the politics and bias that feeded Mayor DeBlasio suggested earlier this week that the reforms proposed used by your commission if they are accomplished will lead to a fair city and he meant not a city of physical beauty but one more just the greatest beauty the eye can behold you sir or the real Trailblazer here tonight and I would like our audience to stand and salute you thanks to to John Jay College for the work you do and for hosting tonight's event the president Carol Mason newly arrived and seriously mission-driven her predecessor Jeremy Travis who gave my team in me so much support by enthusiastically embracing Rikers – Steve Handelman director of The Sitter old media crime and justice and editor-in-chief in charge of the crime report I'm often asked what's the mission of journalism and for years I give the same answer to get your readers or viewers the public as close as possible to the verifiable truth through the years Steve and his colleagues at the center have utilized the evidence-based collaboration of over 800 reporters and editors and countless scholars and practitioners to get us closer than ever to the verifiable truth about how our criminal justice system works I look at the look out tonight at the young journalists who are here recipients of the awards for excellence in criminal justice reporting as well as the 2018 reporting fellows who are here and I take heart at the quality and the character of the work being done today we journalists have a duty to warn and there is plenty to warn about the direction of and I hope all of you take note that you're in the presence of the one journalist in New York City who most consistently keeps criminal justice at the forefront of public attention Errol Morris when when when people ask me where is the center of New York I say it's wherever arrow Morris is thank you for being here and thanks as well to the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation for sponsoring this occasion your annual symposium on crime in America is itself a graduate course in journal in criminal justice journalism in the interest of full disclosure I must tell you that Harry Frank Guggenheim Captain Guggenheim to many of us hired me in 1967 as publisher of Newsday The Daily on Long Island that was then the country's largest suburban daily that was one big favor he did for me he did me a second one four years later when he fired me through circumstances still a mystery to me I wound up in broadcasting where I've spent the past 45 years it's not hard to do what I have done over these many years in broadcasting you have to have some skills if you're running your own independent operation you have to be able to raise the money to pay the bills you have to be smart enough to hire colleagues better at what they do then you are at what you do you have to keep reminding yourself every day that you may be the conductor but you're not the first violinist you don't even have the wind power to get an oomph out of the third tuba the Chamber Orchestra that produced our rockers film is here tonight I'll ask you to stand filmmakers Mark Levin and Mark Benjamin the perfect the perfect pair for rockers because of their long experience with criminal justice issues our producer roller K Bombo Shea who did so many of those interviews you saw now at vice news Kobe Kelly the director of media communications who has been responsible for the outreach and my closest colleague and innovator over the past 32 years our senior executive producer Judy dr. off to do your best work in this field you have to keep reminding yourself that you are never better than your sources in broadcasting that is essential because there is no production value more important than the human face and no one knows more than the human being who has lived the experience that is the subject of whatever film you are doing at the moment and as the judge said Rikers is told from the perspective of former and current detainees who endured this islands culture of cruelty they shared their stories with us because they don't want others to go through what they did the height of compassion and empathy empathy it's what you need to counter-attack the world today we asked some of them to come tonight and I would like each of them to stand up and remain standing until I've introduced each one pastor Benny custodial hi I think the world of you not only because like me you have a divinity degree i in fact i should say the reverend dr. hector custodial who started his education while incarcerated and earned his PhD last December khadeem Gibbs where are you kadhi padeen as Kadeem has been doing the hard work of Community Development and is devoted to working with adolescents in an effort to keep them out of the Prison Pipeline Cathy Morris ethic panther you have helped dozens of incarcerated people to get an education and your tireless and raising awareness of the increase incarceration rates among women rates that are rising faster now than those four men there's me l Nazario where are you smell this mail is that Ishmael is at the fortune Society and he's been putting his eloquence and his activism at the service of banned the Box raised the age and other reform campaigns Johnny Perez where are you Johnny Johnny I will never I will never forget when Johnny and judge Lippmann and I appeared at the New York Bar Association Johnny told that packed audience of how when his mother came to see him at Rikers correct me if I'm wrong when his mother came to see him at Rikers she had to wait eight hours in line and when she finally got to see him the guard said you have 15 minutes left is that right Johnny you're now leading the campaign against solitary confinement for the National Religious campaign against torture thank you and the eloquent Damien Stapleton Damien Damien Damien got off parole this past summer and has been traveling with our team around the country to screen the film and alert people to the realities of why our criminal justice system is itself criminal without your trust and courage brothers without your faithful witness I wouldn't be up here this evening I really have not blazed any trails that haven't been lighted by the truth of other people's experiences and in this case Johnny and Ishmael and Kathy Kadeem Damien and Bennie and the others who appear in the film all of whom I am persuaded spoke faithfully thank you but why to what end what's in it for them their truth is painful it can bring no joy or erase the past or even get you in a job that puts little premium on rewarding criminal behavior unless it's committed by politicians finance seers and celebrities listening to you did anyone in this room think tonight don't we want that person here as an intern or with a scholarship or on the staff paid a living wage who knows more than the experts from inside and as the poet Virgil said believe an expert believe one who has proved it and they have proved it now I'm supposed to finish at this moment about one tenth through the way of my speech but I'm going to take a few more minutes to answer a question that people have asked me at age 82 why did you Commission this film on Rikers there are many reasons answers and I've resorted to all of them but all of them are not the main reason the real reason was sort of 50 years in the making Rikers rounds out the circle of my own experience with the criminal justice system I had a couple of brushes with the law when I was a mischievous kid growing up in a small town in East Texas but each time the police didn't take me to jail they took my whole me home and told my parents my father's best friend was shorty Blackmon who was the deputy police chief that's all they needed to do watch this boy he's mischievous they said my real introduction to the criminal justice system began at the top just over 50 years ago when I was a young man working in the White House as an assistant to President Lyndon Johnson my assignment was domestic policy before I became press secretary it fell to me in 1965 to help put together a group of experts to study America's criminal justice system even now half a century later what was called the President's Commission on law enforcement and administration of justice is recognized as the most influential study of crime and justice ever undertaken in America not because of anything I did but because the 19 people on the Commission really worked hard Joe Califano took over my responsibilities after I left to come to New York and because LBJ wanted it to signify to make a difference and change things if you read the transcripts of his calls to the staff you'll see a president deeply involved in the substance of what was being developed the staff was extraordinary they developed a flow chart that John Jay students may have seen in textbooks on criminology a visual take on how the courts police and corrections interact the first time if I remember correctly that such a connection had ever been made some very good things resulted from that study if you've ever called 9-1-1 you can thank the Johnson Commission a national emergency number was just one of its more than 200 recommendations including more training for police who were then in a primal state of being but uh as I said the Commission was organized in 1965 just as the civil rights movement had reached the pinnacle of legislative victories with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 a great moment in American history but two years later when the Commission reported its finding and its recommendations race riots across the country were playing out in the streets and on television sunscreens and crime had become entrenched in the minds of millions as racial behavior those riots created a backlash of white voters who didn't understand the history of the riots and didn't try to understand the causes or who simply wanted to believe the worst about black people they became confused those riots with mass demonstrations for peace in Vietnam and civil rights and Richard Nixon saw his opening where as Democrats had long been the party of white supremacy and segregation but had now gone over to the other side to champion equal rights for all the Republican Party claimed the vacuum Nixon ran as champion of the Forgotten white man calling on the silent white majority to join him on the barricades then his war on drugs became an even more powerful racially based strategy let me read you what one of Nixon's closest advisors said about that strategy John Ehrlichman you want to know what this is really about we had two enemies the anti-war left and black people we knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or against Blacks but by hitting the hippies with marijuana and the blacks with heroin and then criminalizing both heavily we could disrupt those communities we could arrest their leaders raid their homes break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news then Ehrlichman added and I quote did we know we were lying about the drugs of course we did fast-forward to Ronald Reagan he knew how to play the race card he launched his campaign for the president by appearing in Mississippi near the scene where three civil rights workers had been murdered by white supremacists in 1964 he invoked states rights spelled white supremacy in his campaign he would say if you are a slum dweller you can get an apartment with 11-foot ceilings with a 20-foot balcony a swimming pool in gymnasium a laundry room in play room and the rent beginning at one hundred and thirty three dollars and 20 cents and that includes utilities that was a lie some of you are old enough to remember Reagan's notorious welfare queen who was presumably black she used 80 names he said 30 addresses and 15 television numbers to collect food stamps Social Security veterans benefit for four non-existent decreased deceased veteran husband's as well as welfare her tax-free cash income alone said Reagan had been running a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year that was a lie the woman in question was charged with using for eight assists not 80 she was convicted of fraud gently collecting $8,000 not one hundred and fifty thousand dollars and far from being typical she was a unique character with an extraordinary propensity for criminality but the welfare queen fit the popular stereotype of the day as well as Republican ideology she was black undeserving and a woman and the story caught on like wildfire and helped make Ronald Reagan president the first George Bush succeeded Reagan thanks to the Willie Horton ad Willie Horton was a convicted felon serving a life sentence for murder while he was released from a Massachusetts prison on a weekend furlough program he MC escaped and raped a woman then governor michael dukakis had supported the prison furlough system and you would have fought from the ad that he had ordered the assault on the woman Dukakis lost but the Willie Horton ad further coupled with race and race coupled with the politics of vindictive punishment and by 1992 Americans were awash in fear fear of offenders fear of gangs fear of teenage super predators and the Democratic candidate Bill Clinton at earlier years years earlier decided that the party's best hope was to win those voters back by aligning themselves with the more conservative criminal justice policy as Bruce Shapiro wrote in the nation crime became to Clinton as illegal immigration is to Donald Trump a way of reassuring fearful alienated white voters especially in the south fast forward again the Obama administration tried to rein in use of harsh federal sentencing laws they instructed federal prosecutors not to charge certain offenders especially low-level of first-time drug dealers with anything that would trigger mandatory minimum sentences which can require as long as 10 years or more for the possession of relatively small amount of drugs the number of federal inmates sentenced to a mandatory minimum on drug charges dropped in 2014 and has been declining ever since the federal prison population has been streaking and bipartisan support had been shifting away from mandatory minimum sentences as research showed that incarceration does little to improve public safety and disproportionately impacts communities of color politicians have also realized that running prisons costs money until now now you have to hit the pause button maybe even the stop button because the Trump administration is taking us back to the politics of lock him up and throw away the keys Attorney General Jeff Sessions as you know has reversed Obama gut lock deadlock guidelines for how to deal with drug offenders he's directed federal prosecutors to charge defendants with the most serious readily provable offense in nearly all cases and he's told prosecutors he wants them on handcuffed he wants them to get tough severity is in our DNA last year I interviewed James Whitman last fall who teaches at Yale Law School and had recently published a book with the unsettling title Hitler's American model one day Whitman had pulled down from his bookshelf Hitler's Mein Kampf as he read it he began to note the positive references to American racism including Hitler's praise for the American Immigration Act of 1924 parentheses which we undid in the Immigration Act of 1964 1965 here on at the Statue of Liberty but the Immigration Act of 1924 conditioned entry into the United States on race-based tables of national origins Whitman looked further he came upon the speech Hitler had made in 1928 in which he expressed admiration for Americans who had quote gunned down the millions of Redskins to a few hundred thousand and now kept the modest remnant under observation in a cage Whitman dug further still not only did he come to understand better the darkest chapter of a mirror of German legal history he shined the light on the sins of America's own past here's what he writes quote you must read this book you must get it into your curriculum here we will not understand the history of National Socialist Journal a journal attorney and more importantly a place of America in the larger history of world racism unless we reckon with these facts in the early 1930s and I'm still quoting Nazi lawyers were engaged in creating a race law founded on anti-miscegenation and race based immigration naturalization and second-class citizenship law they went looking for foreign models and they found them in the United States of America this is not in the deep past the committee of lawyers that met at Nurenberg to draft what would eventually become the laws of Nurenberg he entered the Scrivener with their law met on June 5th 1934 the year of my birth the Germans were especially inspired by laws in southern states designed to denigrate and keep down African Americans because he said the Nazis had a shared commitment of white supremacy in part because they realized that it had been successful in helping to create America's economic prosperity and he discovered the ultimate ugly irony that when the Nazis rejected American practices it was sometimes not because they found them too enlightened but because they found them too harsh it would be wrong to close this book he writes without pointing to at least one contemporary realm of American law in which the resulting dangers of our past are still making themselves fell the realm is American criminal justice American criminal justice is spectacularly and frighteningly harsh by international standards it includes practices that are sometimes uncomfortably reminiscent of those introduced by the mad Nazis give me an example I asked him and he answered oh boy certainly one crucial answer is the shear capacity of American politics and politicians to shape American criminal law and American criminal justice politicians in the u.s. run on tough-on-crime platforms it has to be added as well that both judges and prosecutors are elected officials in much of the u.s. that's something unheard of in the rest of the world and frankly more human traditions of the law do little to stand in the way of translating the demands of politicians into law in that respect he concludes the situation in the u.s. is quick really quite different from what we found now in the rest of the world I simply have to say it the accessibility of the legal system to political influence was exactly what the radical Nazis admired most about America in the 1930s and that's what's doing tremendous damage to our criminal justice system today James Whitman Yale Law School Hitler's American model our clothes with a story briefly it's not mine it was written by that remarkable author of imagination Ursula Le Guin who died recently I'd interviewed her many years ago at a home in California and she put me on to this one of her shortest stories which I will briefly summarize it takes place in a mythical town of omaha's a beautiful little town of red roofs and painted walls with old moss-grown gardens lovely parks and gracious public buildings and neat home's grace by porches filled with flowers a fairy tale kind of place situated by the sea as the story opens the summer festival is underway music and laughter fill the air the cobblestones resonate with the dancing feet music and laughter fill the air tower bells chime the our children play in seeing jugglers and magicians cast their spell as swallows glide above the balloons around them their gray-haired couples walk arm-in-arm beneath the trees smiling here young lovers spoon on the bluff overlooking the sea everyone seems happy in oh ma las look again in a cellar beneath the town in a room with one locked door and no window a child sits on a filthy floor hungry weak and frightened its belly protrudes over spindly legs sores cover its buttocks and thighs the fruits of its own excrement the child used to scream and cry a lot at night now it softly whines and moans sometimes the door rattles fiercely and opens and someone comes to fill the meager food bowl and water jug pausing at times to kick the crotch child once in a while faces appear in an opening in the door and the child pleads let me out please let me out but no one ever answers townspeople are allowed to peek into the cellar room but the terms are absolute there may not be even a kind word spoken to the child everyone in OMA less knows the child is there and most understand why most know that their happiness the prosperity of the city their friendships the health of their children the wisdom of their scholars even the abundance of their harvests depend wholly on this child's abominable misery they know it would be good thing if the child were brought up into the sunlight out of that vile space cleaned and fed and cared for but if it were done on that day the prosperity and beauty and the light of home loss would wither and vanish those are the terms to throw away the happiness of thousands for the chance of happiness by one would be to let guilt into the town and with guilt responsibility so they begin to justify even the child were released they said it's too degraded and imbecile to experience any real joy much too so to go to work and make a life for itself it's been afraid too long ever to be free of fear they say after those so long and the darkness on the ground it would probably be wretched in the light and besides it's the existence of the child and their knowledge of its existence that makes possible evenings like this the nobility of their architecture the poignancy of their music the fund the tea of their science and the wonders of their wealth if the wretched creature were not there they no sniveling in the dark what would become of their beloved civilization take this for what you will a fairy tale parable allegory or fable the truth is that our way of life was built on trails of Tears lynching trees shackles and whips and working people subjugated to the appetite for profit mass incarceration is but the latest incarnation of the American dictum that some must loose lose so others can win I leave you with the words of Tocqueville while society in the United States gives the example of the most extended Liberty the prison's of the same country offer the spectacle of the most complete despotism thank you guys and Kathy for speaking to that despotism thank you [Applause]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *