Bondage and Legacy

I’m down in the deep South now, coming over the Natchez trace. A long time ago, someone had pointed out to me the relationship between slavery and criminal justice systems, and I had dismissed it as an oversensitivity to the race question. With a little more wisdom and experience, however, I have come to see the 2 issues as deeply related. Both of them are fundamentally about exercising power over human beings, and when slavery was abolished, the legacy and grooming for control had to be satisfied in other ways. Although the institution left, individuals groomed to participate in it, found other ways of satisfying the roles that felt comfortable to them with any little vulnerability that arose in a situation. So, it is no accident that the number of executions in Southern states outweighs the rest of the country by a lot. The criminal justice system is designed to empower some individuals over others the same way that slavery traditionally did.

Why did people enslave? I don’t know exactly, but some of it is a legacy of war – also manifest in criminal justice. Those we have declared to be enemies to the point of lethal conflict with them are socially demoted to a lack of ability to participate as equals in society once the war is over. And when external wars are not available, the bar is raised and “a war on crime” or “a war on terror” is declared so that the development effort for war is justified and people can use the technologies that have been developed. Some class of people are given “criminal records” to socially and economically disable a class of people so that power drives can be satisfied.

So the point here, is that the legacy of slavery extends beyond the question of race.

How to avoid war to begin with? In the case of North Korea, I find it important to note that their system of governance has been self-contained with the exception of one attempt to unify the Korean peninsula that resulted in the Korean war. I don’t feel that the temperament testing that the military uses to articulate the dance between power and response is right. I feel that it does psychological harm to the other side with stress and destabilization.

I wish that the provocations would stop, and that boundaries could be respected among countries.

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