Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The House I Live In (movie review)

What this documentary brings to the foreground is a trick has been played with people's fear of the drug-crazed.  Rush Limbaugh was drug-crazed and on national radio for years, but the point is to demonize those "other people's drugs":  opiates in the case of Chinese, hemp in the case of Mexicans, and Blacks got blamed for everything else, but crack especially, the CIA's favorite under Reagan.

The unfairness of the "crack laws" and mandatory sentencing rules, which bypass the whole idea of judges (only robots need apply), has eroded both the police force and the justice system behind it to a mere shadow of what it could be, were "trust" still a word in the English language (only in translation maybe).  The movie draws the analogy to the holocaust quite adroitly:  first you confiscate their property, because they're "bad people", then the people themselves, leading to incarceration and concentration, then annihilation.  The pattern is played out over and over, against gypsies, gays and Jews (but it doesn't stop at that point).

The US emerged from its Civil War bruised and battered, optimistic about democracy still, but terrified of what "equality" might really mean.  What if blacks were allowed to play baseball?  The KKK was not amused by such suggestions.  The Henry Ford Museum memorializes the story in glass cases.  Part of the solution:  deny them the vote by establishing a criminal record, which in turn hinges on which of the many drugs to make illegal to blue collars without health insurance or legal representation.

The movie opens up a wider debate around prisons for profit, i.e. prisons motivated enough to give your neighbors a "finder's fee" if they catch you sodomizing some sausage or whatever, through their prison-paid-for night scopes.  Before you know it, enticement and entrapment become number one sports, with for-profit prisons hosting the Hunger Games behind the scenes.  Are we far from that now?  Not really.

The USA is still a dystopian nightmare, but it's still better than the Civil War, and Prohibition is at least partially lifted, while slavery is officially outlawed, even if practiced against the undocumented aka stateless and/or houseless population.  As a Quaker with a lineage around prison reform, I would have no trouble suggesting high bandwidth Internet to all offenders with uncensored access to Youtube at least.  That's a starting point.  Reintegrating the prison populations via social media is the job for coming generations of social media engineers.  Facebook for Inmates?  Don't call it that, but sure.