Friday, February 05, 2010

Day 7 -- Season for Nonviolence--EDUCATION

"Feb. 6. EDUCATION. Learn about the power of nonviolence by educating yourself. Read an article that relates to nonviolence. Learn about human rights, diversity, ecology, history, forgiveness, spirituality, peace studies, and more."

My first reaction is this: this commitment to nonviolence can't be meant for me. I already know everything I need to know about nonviolence, human rights, diversity, ecology, history, forgiveness, spirituality, peace studies, and more. What do I need to learn?

Ok, maybe I could learn something. I pick up my Ghandi Reader (edited by Homer A. Jack) and flip randomly to a speech that M.K. Gandhi gave on "The Untouchables." The "untouchables" of course are the caste in India that literally aren't to be touched. Gandhi tells how when he was a boy, if he touched an untouchable, he was supposed to do ablutions to remove the stigma. Untouchables, the lowest caste in India as I understand it, were give jobs to do such as cleaning latrines.

Gandhi says "I regard untouchability as the greatest blot on Hinduism." Even as a child he inherently understood that it was wrong to consider an entire group of people, by virtue of birth to be untouchable. He sought to change that, and I believe eventually did although I think I've also read that elements of the caste system persist in India today (though the legal rights have changed and can be enforced).

As I read it, I wondered, who are America's "untouchables?" At first I thought of Republicans, but of course, for a large number of the population that wouldn't be true, and it isn't even true for me. I may not like what Republicans stand for, may not want to associate with them, but I don't pull my children into the house with fear when they pass by. No, what came to my on reflection is prisoners, to a certain extent, and specifically sex offenders. Those are America's true untouchables.

With Megan's Law, and the constant fear and hype that the local and cable news keeps up about sex offenders, we taught not only to fear and loathe these people but to plot where they live on a map so that we can keep a wide berth of them and to restrict their privacy.

Granted, there is a difference between treating someone as untouchable because of what group of people they happened to be born into vs. treating someone as untouchable because of what they've done. Surely we have a right to protect ourselves and our children from sexual predators? Surely the predators can lose some rights?

I have grown up in a safe world where I have experienced no sexual offenses. I am very lucky that way. I understand that that is not true for many people. Yet, from what I can tell, statistics bear out that the vast majority of child sexual abuse takes place within families, not from random people in our neighborhoods and towns. Yet, we do not usually track the repeat offender grandpa or uncle or cousin on a map. We pray for them and keep our distance.

It is also likely that most sex offenders are born into abusive situations themselves, and play that out as adults. Otherwise, where and how would they have learned to be the sad, sick way that they are?

I do not condone anyone harming a child in any way ever. And I certainly intend to do everything in my power to keep my children safe from such harms.

But I also agree with the Bible verse, Luke 9:48 "For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest."

No comments: