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Location: Takoma Park, Maryland, United States

I'm now a 52-year-old American male raised as an Episcopalian, veteran of submarines, Peace Corps, and State Department. I like teaching people about what they can do with computers and have gotten by as an independent Microsoft trainer teaching networking, but I really hope to someday find a way to make a living traveling on my motorcycle, camping, and writing about places and people I meet along the way.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

More on Susan and our need for prison reform

Her Uncle went to visit her, yesterday, flying from Indiana to Texas. When he arrived at Carswell they told him they required his visit to be monitored and as they had no monitors he would not be able to see Susan. Reportedly, the judge is upset and threatening to send federal marshalls with Mr. Lindauer for the next visit, but talk is cheap. How about returning her to her previous "free on bail" status? Possibly, the Judge has too few powers to do so.

This last week, a few journalists have picked up on the story. One woman cites a young military scientist who became concerned that Mad Cow disease had some links to American biological warfare testing (I'm reading between the lines of what she said) and how the military treated him similarly.

I don't know. Susan is an attractive woman, and can be very charming, but she can also be very obnoxious. She can be easy to dislike if one doesn't have the patience to get to know her. For example, before she went to Carswell, and before Carswell became a part of her story, she conveyed how upset she was with her attorney for pursuing a "twinkie defense" instead of getting busy interviewing her witnesses and preparing a proper rebutal to the evidence of the prosecution. In some ways, I can understand a public defender being limited in the time they can devote to a particular case. Time is needed, also. It seems that when the Justice Department shares evidence, during discovery, they will turn it over along with a lot of "chaff" that is hard to wade through. You'll get the raw data they pull from a computer in a series of CD's with no indication of what among it they find incriminating, for example. This is not exactly in the best spirit of the discovery process.

It was kind of a no-brainer that she needed to visit a private shrink, proactively. If her mental health was in question, then she needed to proactively seek out good advice so that she could present the court with good findings. She could then draw the distinction between medical issues and the issues of her case. But she regards the psychiatric profession as "a bunch of witch doctors," and refused to entertain the idea to the point of becoming quite loud and argumentative whenever I tried to talk through the benefits of that approach. In some ways, she would be in a lot less trouble, now, had she just been willing to talk to someone, privately. How a conversation with anyone could be so violently resisted puzzled me. I suspect that she found such doctors to be abusers of power in earlier years.

Now, put an argumentitive, strong willed person like her into prison without a trial -- give someone who is prone to righteous indignation the sense that state powers are being abused to persecute hers truly--and you have the recipe for some unpleasantness. Add to this the fact that prison workers are accustomed to dealing with convicted criminals, and not exactly being the concierge desk at a high-fllying hotel, and trouble has the potential to create huge problems that you did not have before. I would argue that we have a much needed window into our prison system where employee abuses of power have become a too common thing for too long. The root cause of our disgrace at Abu Graib may stem from the fact that some of the reservists accused were American prison workers in private life. Dig deeper and you may consider whether an un-Christian attitude towards criminals is creating, for us, larger problems. The root cause is our own willingness to throw away people who've offended us and forget them.

Before I turn this into a sermon, let me frame this by saying that Christianity may or may not be the be-all and end-all of spiritual revelation, depending upon ones own belief. Nonetheless, even non-Christians agree that many of the words attributed to Jesus were radical, in that day. Some disagree with them in this day. Jewish friends think that "turning the other cheek" is tantamont to "condoning crime." I suggest that regardless of your spiritual convictions, the tactics of Christianity may be better tactics. Forgiveness, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile... these are ideas that go against what we might think would be the principles of self-interest, but that by many accounts end up serving us better.

Prisons are over crowded. We know that we often end up with career criminals rather than reformed citizens when we sentence individuals to them. In too many ways, they have become a tool for retribution. Judges are subject to criticisms if they do not provide the public with its pound of flesh, and few in the public are wise enough to see that the length of a sentence or the nature of a sentance are secondary to society's interest in the benefits of remediated citizens. Democracy has always run the risk of being institutionalized mob rule of the 51% over the 49%, as Thomas Jefferson warned. Without judges strongly enabled to stand up for human rights, democracy becomes one of the most evil and unjust forms of tyranny: the tyranny of the majority. When you hear public officials decrying "activist judges" be sure that it is your own Bill of Rights (if you're an American reading this) that power hungry politicians are seeking to adulterate so that they and their current majority, and not due process, may dictate the boundaries of your life.

And so it is, also, that we are a nation of people who often seek out the impoverishment of others in order that we may feel better about ourselves--a nations of crabs that won't let one of our member climb out of the bucket. There are people who come to work in prisons in order to bring vocational skills to inmates and to minister to their needs. There are also, no doubt, people who can find employment nowhere else, and who have not learned how to heal the wounds in their own self-esteem while working in a prison system full of the more seriously walking-wounded. Use to being bosses, having power, unchecked by public scrutiny, to inflict themselves on people in weaker positions, and perhaps sensing that this is the only place in life where they do have power; how do they behave when presented with someone who might be unjustly accused who is full of high-moral tone and prone to villifying them?

The analogy of John the Baptist is a good one. He, Jesus's cousin, lost his head because he villified the powerful for their doing villian-like things. But don't forget to contrast his behavior with that of Jesus, who did not criticise the state, although he did not see it as an answer to human needs. The rage of Jesus was expressed only in the cleaning of the temple of those who made a business out of the human need for spiritual help. Through the years, many public officials have heeded advice to keep their prayers in the closet and not be as those who say prayers for public attention. Our country has never lacked for solid public-service-minded leaders who had no need to bring God into their fights, as God is generally powerful enough to work through even the lives of those who do not have faith and has no need of our name dropping. Today, we have powerful people who make a habit of wrapping themselves in things we hold sacred, our flag of patriotism, and words of our faith in providence. Yet they fail in courage. The answer to any calamity is to assauge fears by endowing the state (themselves) with more power. Create another agency. Pass another law. And they fail in faith, ignoring quickly those who have born the brunt of their wars: not only the veterans, widows and children of soldiers, but also those who stood as critics. People who are secure in their faith have no problem with people who argue and believe otherwise. Some who live by faith even seek out critics knowing that the God who works in mysterious ways sometimes hides truth in plain sight, and sends the poor to humble the powerful who fail to honor truth. May we all fear that God.


Anonymous ernieguindon@yahoo.com said...

I just listened to a report which includes discussion of Susan's case by Ralph Schoenman at www.takingaim.info
in the archive section:

060318 Cloak and Dagger: Ralph Schoenman [interview]:
The Government's Persecution of Susan Lindauer;
U.S. Imperialism vs. Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Iran
Shoenman's extensive material is good -- he worked with Bertrand Russell and a lot of other people over the years, he is very well informed about problems inherent in our "military industrial complex," and it's worth the time to listen to his reports.

I found your blog as a result of hearing his lecture, as a matter of fact, and went to Google from there. Good luck on your motorcycle, sounds great.
Ernie Guindon

9:07 PM  
Blogger JB said...

Thanks, Ernie. I'll have to go check that out!

7:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi I am a scottish freelance journalist. Susuan must be freed it is imperative. I interviewed her some hyears ago on Lockerbie
Why is it everyone on this case who wants the truth out is attacked?



11:56 AM  

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