When he asked for questions, I was surprised to see that many in this audience were not receptive to some of these truths. And they were more interested in how his advice related to them than in his prison work.
As a thunderstorm rumbled upon us, a couple of questioners promoted self-esteem. Don’t we have to be psychologically strong before we can help others?
“That’s spiritual Reaganomics,” Lozoff replied. “The trickle-down theory: When I get my shit completely together, then I can trickle it down to others.”
He suggested that helping others is the way to get one’s shit together.
With a peal of thunder, lightning struck nearby. The lights went off.
In the darkness, I thought about how I hadn’t found a single liberal (or conservative) legislator seriously concerned with prisoner treatment. There was no Maine advocacy group more than peripherally concerned. A few activists had invited Lozoff to Maine and to this meeting, but by and large liberals were not interested in reform of the prisons or of the criminal-justice system. Could it be that even my liberal friends are imprisoned in the American nightmare?
When some people are unhappy, they rob or murder. Some take antidepressants. Others find a scapegoat, as perhaps my old friend had done. In ancient times, the tribe sent the scapegoat off into the wilderness to suffer and die for the tribe’s misfortunes — and its sins.
And some people permit the criminal treatment of others because they don’t have time to deal with it.
But maybe I was too pessimistic. When the lights came on and the meeting ended, I asked a middle-aged woman what she had taken from this guru’s talk.
“We’re all prisoners, and we’re all free,” she said, with tears in her eyes.
She was a convert: She said she was going to work to help prison inmates.
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Lance Tapley: firstname.lastname@example.org