“He who opens a school door, closes a prison.” -Victor Hugo.
The age of innovation is dying in the US. What once was a bastion of scientific knowledge, creative thinking, literary genius, and engineering know-how has become a desolate wasteland of group-think and nigh slave labor. What irony that a country that shed blood to free itself of shackles, once for independence and again for the freedom of black people, would willingly put them back on in the name of profit.
For-profit prisons have insured that the oligarchs continue to have their pool of slave labor. Daily these quasi-citizens of the United States toil in constructing panties and jeans, building highways and cleaning byways, for pennies on the dollar. All in the name of profit which is shuffled from corporations like CoreCivic back to politicians who then vote for legislation to ensure that for-profit prisons get to stay and thrive. The Civil War never ended, it just moved to the legislative body. Jim Crow laws, including laws that disallowed interracial marriage existed only 50 years ago within the United States of America, Land of the “Free.”
What is free in the US anymore? Certainly not its citizens who are being bound in tighter and tighter restrictions. The US tops the chart in several worrisome categories these days, namely incarcerated citizens per capita. With a prison population of well over two million people, US prisoners could entirely replace the populations of small nations like Bahrain, Guyana, Qatar, Latvia, and Slovenia. No wonder the for-profit prison industry wants to pay them pennies on the dollar for full time work. Why exploit another nation’s labor at sub-livable standards when you have an incarcerated populace living on tax payer dollars at home?
Healthcare certainly isn’t free. The US tops another list with the number of citizens who have medical debt or medical bankruptcies. That’s no real surprise since only in the United States can that even happen, the only twisted form of American exceptionalism that’s left. Other countries deem their citizens worthy of being kept healthy and provide some form of universal healthcare. However, this is all part of the American way of life. Prison isn’t just a barred and cemented cell; it’s also debt.
Great men once wrote great words to establish the independence of the United State of America.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” –The United States Declaration of Independence
Yet in the US your life is forfeit if you have no money to pay for healthcare.
Our education system, once the boon of the nation as it taught critical thinking, is now a slum of profit-margin seeking charter schools that pay people in the government to defund, defund, defund it wherever possible. The schools pay their teachers next to nothing, so the teachers make ends meet by teaching children in foreign countries the English language.
The schools shut down, in the poorest areas first, but the plague of poverty spreads as the wealth consolidates in the oligarchs. The prison doors open and fill with the blood of patriots, now unable to even vote their way out of oppression. The United States becomes poorer, dumber, the bottom half sinking into the quagmire of debt, sickness, and ignorance.
Yet the schools remain for now. Teaching for tests and paying teachers less each year, unadjusted for inflation or the burden of having to teach lead-addled children poisoned by the drinking water corporations leave behind in the wake of profit. We must open those school doors wide and we must fill them with people. For only by educating the next generation to think for themselves will we finally decide as a nation to close the prisons and to decriminalize acts of liberty we once believed were an individual’s right to choose.
Where is our liberty when for-profit prisons pay politicians to increase punitive laws and encourage mass incarceration? How do we live when profiteers controlling our healthcare costs allow our citizens to die by denying them care? Where will our innovators come from when our education system is completely defunded to bolster charter schools for the lucky few that can afford them.
I have learned in my time that you can never change another person’s mind, you can only give them the tools to use to change their own. Thus our education system is our last and best hope to raise a generation of people who can recognize what greed and corruption has done to the US and its people. Ring the bells of schools and you ring the bells of liberty…
“When we allow freedom to ring—when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, We are free at last.’”
-Martin Luther King Jr.