Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What is Wrong with the World?

Yesterday, I was imagining that I was an English teacher and that I wanted to really get my class of high school students thinking about topics that were important to them in order to write about them. I would walk into the class, say "What is wrong with the world today?" and then call on someone to answer the question. Then call on someone else and someone else and so on until we got a nice group of topics on the board and then we'd go from there. I was also thinking that this could morph into a civics project. If you think that homelessness is wrong, what are your options to do something about it, even as a teenager. If you think that eating meat is wrong, what can you do about that? If you think the war in Iraq is wrong, what can you do about that? You see where I'm going with this. (Clearly, I would *not* run this by the administration first.)

I thought how I'd explain that there were some things that are wrong that everyone agrees are wrong and there were other things that are wrong that other people don't think are wrong at all. As I was thinking this, I realized that almost nothing falls into the first category. Part of what reminded me of this is a talk I went to a couple of weeks ago by Micah Kellner that was sponsored by Reform Jewish Voice, which was formed when some Reform Jews realized that although we have quite a voice in Washington, the only Jews that Albany was hearing from (where New York makes it's laws) were Chasidic. As the saying goes, Two Jews, Three Opinions and that can't be more true then when it comes to Jews of differing denominations and politics. From abortion to the death penalty, we Jews are certainly not of one voice. I would like to be heard, which is why I went to this meeting.

I found the talk interesting even though I don't remember most of it now. However, one thing that did come up was drugs and prison. Primarily, he spoke about how the Rockefeller Drug Laws are filling the prisons with non-violent offenders who could be going into treatment, thereby reducing the rate of recidivism (offending again). The Rockefeller Drug Laws are absolutely draconian, by the way, mostly because they don't have judicial discretion. Judges are forced to send first offenders to jail for seven to 21 years for possessing or selling 2 ounces of cocaine. Coincidentally, this is the same sentence as a person convicted of second degree murder - although that would be up to a judge. Now I am not an advocate of cocaine use. I think it's bad for people individually and bad for communities as a whole. However, I also don't equate it with killing someone. I really don't.

Anyway, the Assemblyman was talking about how bad these laws are and I raised my hand (old habits die hard) and asked, "I've been looking over this recently and I am a little unclear who could possibly be for these laws." His answer? Prison guards. I haven't had time to look into that, but it's an interesting idea.

Meanwhile, what do you think is wrong with this world?

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