Chris Hedges: America’s Social Hell

This is Kabir’s America. It is our America. And our shame.

Kabir. (Art by Mr. Fish.)

By Chris Hedges
in Newark, N.J.

Robert “Kabir” Luma was 18 when he found himself in the wrong car with the wrong people. He would pay for that misjudgment with 16 years and 54 days of his life, locked away for a crime he did not participate in and did not know was going to take place.

Released from prison, he was tossed onto the street, without financial resources and, because of fines and fees imposed on him by the court system, $7,000 of debt. He ended up broke in a homeless shelter in Newark, populated with others who could not afford a place to live, addicts and the mentally ill. The shelter was filthy, infested with lice and bedbugs.

“You have to chain your food up in the refrigerator,” he said, wearing a worn, ripped sweatshirt, when I met him at the Newark train station. “There’s a chain on the door. There’s no stove. There’s one microwave that is on its way out. It stinks. I’m trying to stay positive.”

Kabir — his nickname means “big” in Arabic and was given to him in prison because of his powerful 6-foot-2-inch, 270-pound frame — lives in the netherworld of America’s criminal caste system. He is branded for life as a felon, although he was locked away for a crime that in most other countries would have seen him serve a tiny sentence or no sentence at all.

He is denied public assistance, food stamps, public housing, the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury, the ability to collect Social Security for the 40-hours a week he worked in prison, barred from obtaining hundreds of professional licenses, burdened with old fees, fines and court costs he cannot pay, as well as losing the right to be free from employment discrimination because of his record.

Kabir is one of America’s tens of millions of second-class citizens, most of whom are poor people of color, who have been stripped of basic civil and human rights and are subject to legalized discrimination for life.

 One-third of all black men in America are classified as ex-felons. Kabir, through no fault of his own, unless being poor and black is a fault, lives trapped in a social hell from which there is almost no escape. This social hell fuels the street protests around the country as much as the outrage over indiscriminate murders by police — an average of three a day — and police violence.

It is a hell visited on nearly all of those trapped in what Malcom X called our “internal colonies.”

Occupy Wall Street and the NAACP marched in midtown Manhattan to defend voting rights, Dec. 10, 2011. (Michael Fleshman, Flickr)

This hell was constructed by corporate billionaires and their lackeys in the two major political parties who betrayed the working class and working poor to strip communities of jobs and social services, rewrite laws and tax codes to amass staggering fortunes and consolidate their political and economic power at the expense of the citizenry.

While they were fleecing the country, these billionaires, along with the politicians they bought and owned, including Joe Biden, methodically built brutal mechanisms of social control, expanding the prison population from 200,000 in 1970 to 2.3 million today and transforming police into lethal paramilitary forces of internal occupation. Kabir is one victim, but he is one victim too many.

I met Kabir in 2013 in a college credit class I taught through Rutgers University in East Jersey State Prison. A devoted listener to the Pacifica Station in New York City, WBAI, he had heard me on the station and told his friends they should take my class. The class, which because of Kabir attracted the most talented writers in the prison, wrote a play called “Caged”  that was put on by Trenton’s Passage Theater in May 2018.

 The play was sold out nearly every night, filled with audience members who knew too intimately the pain of mass incarceration. It was published this year by Haymarket Books. It is the story of the cages, the invisible ones on the streets, and the very real ones in prison, that define their lives.

Homeless tent city in Skid Row, Los Angeles, 2003. (Theodore Hayes, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Kabir’s sweet and gentle disposition and self-deprecating, infectious sense of humor made him beloved in the prison. Life had dealt him a bum hand, but nothing seemed capable of denting his good nature, empathy and compassion. He loves animals. One of his saddest childhood experiences, he told me, came when he was not allowed to visit a farm with his class because he had ringworm. He dreamed of becoming a veterinarian.

Destroyer of Dreams

But the social hell of urban America is the great destroyer of dreams. It batters and assaults the children of the poor. It teaches them that their dreams, and finally they themselves, are worthless. They go to bed hungry. They live with fear. They lose their fathers, brothers and sisters to mass incarceration and at times their mothers.

They see friends and relatives killed. They are repeatedly evicted from their dwellings; the sociologist Matthew Desmond estimates that 2.3 million evictions were filed in 2016  — a rate of four every minute. One-in-four families spend 70 percent of their income on rent.

A medical emergency, the loss of a job or a reduction in hours, car repairs, funeral expenses, fines and tickets — and there is financial catastrophe. They are hounded by creditors, payday lenders and collection agencies, and often forced to declare bankruptcy.

This social hell is relentless. It wears them down. It makes them angry and bitter. It drives them to hopelessness and despair. The message sent to them by the dysfunctional schools, the decrepit housing projects, the mercenary financial institutions, gang violence, instability and ever-present police abuse is that they are human refuse.

That Kabir and my students can retain their integrity and humanity under this assault, that they can daily defy this hell to make something of their lives, that they are the first to reach out to others with compassion and concern, make them some of the most remarkable and admirable people I have ever known.

Payday loan window graphics, Henrico County, Virginia. (Taber Andrew Bain, Flickr)

Kabir — he refers to his legal name, Robert Luma, as his slave name — was raised by his mother in Newark. He only met his father, who was from Haiti and spoke little English, three times. Kabir does not speak Creole. They could barely communicate. His father died in Haiti while Kabir was in prison. Kabir was the middle of three children.

The family lived on the first floor of a house at Peabody Place, a few blocks from the Passaic River. His great-aunt, who had adopted his mother, and who he refers to as his grandmother, lived on the second floor with her husband. His grand-uncle’s pension and savings provided for the family. But by the time of his mother’s generation, well-paying jobs that came with benefits and pensions, and with them stability and dignity, were gone.

There were difficulties. His mother, who often left him in the care of his grandmother, cycled through boyfriends, some of whom were abusive.

“That was one of my gripes against my mother,” he said. “Damn, if you can’t save me, and my father’s not around, who the hell gonna save me?”

He was teased and bullied when he was small because of his tattered second-hand clothes. Sensitive and introspective, the bullying shattered his childhood. It made it hard to pay attention. He would grow up to be big and strong, aided by his passion for weightlifting, but the awkward silences that punctuate his stories of bullying show that the pain is still there.

Catastrophe struck in fifth grade when his great-uncle, who assumed the role of his grandfather, died. Stability evaporated. They lost their home. They moved to a dilapidated house on Hudson Street. On the night they moved in, it caught fire. They lost everything.

They moved back to squat in their old house with nothing. The family eventually moved to North Park Street in East Orange. Life became a series of sudden evictions and moves. He was shipped from school to school. The family squatted in abandoned houses without electricity that were also homes to drug dealers and addicts.

‘I Had no Haven’

“It killed my spirit to live,” he said. “I used to contemplate suicide. I felt I had no haven. Everywhere I go, there was some type of abuse. Even at home, there was no peace. Why be here? What’s the point of being here? My family life is in disarray. No father. My mother is ignoring me. The other family members we do have, they’re not really present. Our structure was so damaged, there’s no help from my aunt or uncle. We were all mixed up, living in our own world.”

One day, when Kabir was 8 or 9, a man was speaking to his mother on the porch. Another man pulled up in a car and started shooting at the man speaking with his mom. The man with the gun chased his victim into the house.

“My little brother is in the tub naked,” Kabir said. “I’m in the living room next to the hallway. My grandmother is upstairs. He starts shooting. I run, get my little brother. He gets out the tub naked. We haul out the back and run next door. My mother was in the hallway pleading for them to stop. It was one of those things. I can’t feel safe in my own dwelling.” 

His schooling effectively ended in the eighth grade. He began smoking weed, “being disruptive, being a clown.” He was “very depressed.” He drank most of the night and slept most of the day.

“I hustled a little bit, selling drugs,” he said. “I was never good at that. I was not patient. I’m idle-minded. I’m more of a philosopher. I have a heart for people. I’m not a street person, even though I was in the streets.”

Three months after he turned 18, he was arrested. It was his first arrest. He was in a car with three older men. The older men decided to rob “Ol’ Man Charlie,” who ran a convenience store. The older men went into the store. He remained behind in the car listening to the song “Wanksta,” by rapper 50 Cent.

“They come back to the car,” he remembered. “They got this spooked face. They said, ‘Man, I had to kill Charlie. He was reaching. Mu told me to hit him.’ In my head, it didn’t even seem real. I didn’t witness it. It was like they were telling me a story. I couldn’t fathom it. Even though I knew they were going into the store to rob him. I’m in a daze. We continue to ride around in this car. They hoppin’ out robbing people. They don’t stop. At the same time, I feel like I’m stuck. If I leave, there could be repercussions.”

Taken in for Questioning

The police brought him in for questioning. He was taken to a room that had contents from the crime scene, including the gun used to kill Charlie. He tried to be as vague as possible, but he didn’t want to lie.

“Now there’s a room full of these motherfuckers,” he said. “There had to be seven of them. This old, fat white dude. He had blotches on his skin. Like he smoked too much. As soon as he walks in, he just smacked the shit out of me. He’s fat and tall. He slapped me good time. Pow! He said, ‘This shit don’t make no sense. You need to tell us what the fuck is going on.’ In my head, I felt so guilty about the whole ordeal. He slaps the shit out of me. Pow! It was the first time I was arrested for anything. I just come out and tell them what happened. They do the ballistics, eventually it comes back a match. The gun was used for that crime that killed Charlie. They start collecting people. One of the last people were my two [co-defendants].” 

East Jersey State Prison. (Jackie Finn-Irwin, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

“I felt guilty as hell,” he said. “Someone’s life was taken behind this shit. If I were intelligent, I would have known this was the cost of robbing somebody. You got the power of life or death in your hands. I snitched, rolled over. The guilt was more than anything. They eventually started grabbing people. I got charged with felony murder. A homicide in the act of committing a robbery. Even though I never left the car. I never had a weapon discharged. But the law charges everyone there equally.”

He spent three-and-a-half years in the county jail before being sentenced and going to prison.

“My strongest asset is that I have a connection to people,” he said. “At times, I can be a little depressed because it’s overwhelming. I felt like I never got out of poverty. You know what I mean? If it wasn’t my upbringing, it was prison. Now I’m spit back out as an adult. I never really achieved anything I feel a grown man should have. I can’t drive. I was never taught to drive. I went away at 18. I don’t have my own place. I’m 35. If it ain’t a room, it’s the shelter.

“When you meet people of affluence, some people with money, how they look at you. You can almost pierce their eyes and read their mind. You know, when people feel like they’re above you. You know when you’re treated wrong, whether it’s in school, whether it’s in a store, or in a certain neighborhood where they feel like you don’t belong. And then, you’re constantly fed these lily-white dreams on TV, knowing this is the farthest thing from our reality. Then we look at black reality — it’s like they make mockery out of it. It’s either overly funny so it’s desensitized. Or, it’s not even true.” 

The pandemic created an urgent need for frontline workers, those desperate enough to work for low wages and accept being expendable. Kabir, a few weeks ago, was able to get a job in a supermarket. On the days he has to be at work at 6:00 am he walks over a mile of the 2.3 miles from where he is living to the supermarket because of the erratic bus service at that hour in Newark.

It is dark when he sets out. He walks past the unhoused, which sometimes include children, sleeping on the street, the handfuls of prostitutes trying to scare up a few clients, and the junkies passed out, propped up against buildings. This is his America. It is our America. And our shame.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for 15 years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East bureau chief and Balkan bureau chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor and NPR. He wrote a weekly column for the progressive website Truthdig for 14 years until he was fired along with all of the editorial staff in March 2020. [Hedges and the staff had gone on strike earlier in the month to protest the publisher’s attempt to fire the Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer, demand an end to a series of unfair labor practices and the right to form a union.] He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show “On Contact.” 

This column is from Scheerpost, for which Chris Hedges writes a regular column twice a month. Click here to sign up for email alerts.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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27 comments for “Chris Hedges: America’s Social Hell

  1. Selina Sweet
    August 1, 2020 at 06:16

    I bet you are a White man, college educated, and have lived in mostly White burbs who grew up in a more or less stable home and went to public (maybe private or religious) schools that were mostly White and are Protestant, maybe Evangelical, or Catholic and never worked/volunteered in a city hospital’s Emergency Ward or in a soup kitchen and probably never traveled to an economically undeveloped country and probably do not speak a foreign language and have read very few if any books by Black authors and have few, if any, friends over for supper who are not White. I hope I’m wrong.

    • No name
      August 2, 2020 at 14:32

      Sorry, you could not be more wrong. Look him up, look up his writing and read it. He did go to a wealthy white private school, on scholarship, and he came out knowing just how venal the rich really are – he lived with them and got to know them. As for living around the poor and having a full understanding and empathy for what they face, again, read more before forming an opinion. Find out about just exactly who you are reading before spouting off about something you do not seem to know much about, at all. And quite frankly, I am not sure what difference his skin color makes, the article lays out all the ugliness for anyone who cares to see, and it’s hardly his only one.

  2. July 31, 2020 at 10:54

    Since following WW2 this country has pushed for ever-more power and world influence by “policing” and threatening countries that stood in its way . The values of the country changed from an “ah shucks Gary Cooperism” to one no longer capable of pride, pursuing its globalist ambitions and having to some how try to come to terms with its inability to find an internal unifying identity while denying it had one.
    As the population swelled with encouraged foreign cheap labor that enabled continued pursuit of an assumed unlimited growth, the life-providing ecology diminished, and a dumbing down of its educational process was necessitated, as its media grabbed what it could that enabled continuance, and Journalists like Hedges could find abundant opportunity to create an identity noting the contradictions and abundance of political and economic absurdity.
    Operative values enable identity. Take away that identity and you have a melting glacier bobbing on an ocean of uncertainty. Above is the visible artifacts of urban skyscrapers and below the surface of directed awareness is the flotsam and jetsam of a drowning society.
    And soon it can again elect a socially-funneled tweedledee or tweedledum leader.

    • William Gibbons
      August 1, 2020 at 15:59

      Such beautiful, thorough and potent writing from Chris Hedges. I feel for Kabir. But in other speeches Hedges condemns Lenin, so he gets the first and most important issue wrong. I feel so fortunate for myself that I have some stability in my life. What a hell our Masters have made the United States!

    July 30, 2020 at 19:37

    America is dead. This treacherous theatre of governance is bringing ruination to us all. I have shame in my heart for not doing more. God bless Kabir.

  4. Chris
    July 30, 2020 at 11:28

    I had to skip to the end to get to the origin story. All ex-cons are innocent, just ask them.

    Reviewing his story: he’s 18, didn’t partake in the actual committing of the crime, was smacked by (OBVIOUSLY) a raciss fat white cop, had all the elements of the crime in front of him…turned states evidence…and still got 18 years. OR more, let’s be honest – he probably got out early, too.

    What was the sentencing like? How about the trial? Did everyone plead guilty? What happened to his co-conspirators, since he was the innocent, naive boy palling around with older men who had taken a man’s life in cold blood for a few hundred dollars? Did you interview them to see if this story was corroborated? What happened to the man’s family whose was existence was wiped from the earth because of this man and his friends craven, callous behavior? Did any media cover the robbery or shooting?

    We all make choices. We still have free will.

    While I empathize with any man’s plight after prison, I am also left wanting more details from the author. It is very easy to blame the powers that be for your situation. They certainly share some of this blame for shipping jobs overseas, debasing our currency, getting us into the morass of foreign entanglements, and lest we forget, failing to secure our borders so people like Kabir can get well paying jobs in their communities while raising their families. But Kabir had a mother and a father. He had friends. He had relatives. These people *should* be around to provide and support for your decision making processes during those growing up years. It is clear they also deserve some of the blame.

    Every human has a story to tell, it’s why we are all so interesting and unique, made in God’s image. The shame about this particular piece was it relied too much on a biased storyteller and not enough on those actors around him to corroborate/add fidelity to his tale.

      July 30, 2020 at 19:39

      Keep blaming the victims, while you pretend to stand on higher moral ground.

    • July 30, 2020 at 20:55

      i was moved by the story, believe much that was said by the story teller-kabir, and also share some of the questions asked by chris…it would have helped to include more information, since this will convince those of us who need little if any convincing but possibly lose those for whom it sounds too one sided…that we live in a morally rotting capitalist society may seem obvious to some but there are still far more who need to be convinced that life doesnlt suck because of people who have far less than they but because there is incredible wealth held by a tiny minority which brings about miserable stories like this..and many who accept this story without question will vote in november for another seeming lesser evil to make things better, which will make things worse..they need to be convinced and i donlt know that stories like this will be enough, especially if the readers are even slightly critical in their thinking.

    • Selina Sweet
      August 1, 2020 at 06:14

      I bet you are a White man and college educated and have lived in mostly White burbs who grew up in a more or less stable home and went to public (maybe private or religious) schools that were mostly White and are Protestant, maybe Evangelical, or Catholic and never worked/volunteered in a city hospital’s Emergency Ward or in a soup kitchen and probably never traveled to an economically undeveloped country and probably do not speak a foreign language and have read very few if any books by Black authors and have few, if any, friends over for supper who are not White. I hope I’m wrong.

    • KC
      August 1, 2020 at 17:06

      You want the novel version? Go research it yourself. Myself, I trust Chris Hedges to run those details down and do his due diligence before putting pen to paper. You are just another of the types of people that Kabir describes. You are lucky enough to have never been in the wrong place at the wrong time and probably didn’t grow up in true poverty. But you look down on people like Kabir, not least of which due to the color of his skin and your obvious preconceived notions (the use of the “raciss” slander was your tell). You are one of many disaffected idiots who have been propagandized into thinking that it’s all about personal choice no matter who you are or where you come from, but I wonder what your thoughts and feelings would have been if you’d been born into Kabir’s circumstances, or just plain black in America, a crumbing inverted totalitarian dystopia whose media and government and the corporations that control them are succeeding brilliantly in turning people like us against each other and those like Kabir. You need to do a lot more reading, learning and listening before opening your mouth. I mean, try reading the article instead of skipping to the end. He didn’t have a father you idiot, unless you think that meeting a man whose language you don’t speak three times and who was a citizen of a foreign country counts as having a father. Shame on you.

  5. AnneR
    July 30, 2020 at 10:23

    Thank you Chris for this piece describing life as it is, as it becomes for those (disproportionately African-American and doubtless also Latino-American) who are caught up in the inhuman so-called criminal-justice system here.

    It is greed-soaked (private prisons) and yes, is slavery (forced to work in at least two states there is not even the risible “pay” given for the labor in other state/private prisons, labor which many all too wealthy businesses abuse, ‘cos it’s very low cost even with “pay” per hour), the Constitution allows it.

    And this nation – in general – is so bloody Vindictive. How else to describe the denial of all assistance, of social security (for all those years when you were forced to work as a prison slave), of social housing, of those so-called “fees and fines” imposed, denial of the right to vote, and the huge stumbling block that having a felony record puts in the way of gaining decent employment? Pure vindictiveness. Once you have served your sentence, you have paid for your crime and all the more so when the charges and sentences are so bloated, so brutal.

    And We have the NERVE to (at the moment a constant threnody on NPR and BBC World Service) to point the finger at China as we decry with “horror” the Uygher business (which we do not know the truth of only what the MICIMATT want us to believe). (And the dreadfulness of the US prison and “criminal-justice” system in country doesn’t even begin to take into account our horrific torture programs during the Bush 2 admin, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib…)

  6. Richard Lemieux
    July 30, 2020 at 10:12

    I bought the book and I am reading it. Thank’s for this very informative,very powerful story and extremely sad story.

  7. Nathan Mulcahy
    July 30, 2020 at 09:16

    “The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it.” -George Carlin

  8. witters
    July 30, 2020 at 04:41

    Land of the Free. My arse.

  9. firstpersoninfinite
    July 29, 2020 at 23:36

    Keep on pushing on, Chris Hedges. Your voice will be heard. And don’t give up, Kabir. The world is not America. It is now post-America. Your light will shine even in growing darkness.

  10. Victor
    July 29, 2020 at 21:59

    I’m glad Chris pointed out how ex-offenders are ” denied public assistance, food stamps, public housing, the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury, the ability to collect Social Security for the 40-hours a week he worked in prison, barred from obtaining hundreds of professional licenses, burdened with old fees, fines and court costs he cannot pay, as well as losing the right to be free from employment discrimination because of his record.”

    Each of these totally unnecessary obstacles to re-integration in a community can and must be changed by law or executive order.

    Instead, despite weeks of demonstrations we get endless talk about micro-aggressions, diversity in Hollywood, community policing and body cameras. It’s not that these issues are unimportant. But they do nothing to impact the structural racism that has become central to the way our criminal justice system operates.

    This window of “new racial awareness” has happened before and as in the past, it will soon close. Before it does we need to demand action on the big issues, like mass incarceration and we ned to demand action in the form of specific legislation. The issues that Kabir faces can be removed, just as they were created, with the law. If they don’t then all this protest will be for nothing.

  11. Paul Schofield
    July 29, 2020 at 20:38

    And people sit well fed in their cozy comfortable homes and criticize the rioters for looting. Given the right circumstances all humans are capable of anything. Greed, selfishness and avarice are at the heart of US societies values.

    • John R
      July 31, 2020 at 08:26

      Bingo Mr. Schofield !

    • KC
      August 1, 2020 at 17:09

      Indeed. And don’t forget that the violence and looting in places like Minneapolis were in fact started by the police and right-wing interlopers/agents provocateur. See the story about the “umbrella man” who began smashing windows at an AutoZone while peaceful demonstrators took video of him and told him to stop doing that because they were against property damage and violence.

  12. bevin
    July 29, 2020 at 17:53

    No comment needed. This is our society. And our shame. It has to be changed.

  13. July 29, 2020 at 16:07

    A quote “While they were fleecing the country, these billionaires, along with the politicians they bought and owned, including Joe Biden, methodically built brutal mechanisms of social control, expanding the prison population from 200,000 in 1970 to 2.3 million today and transforming police into lethal paramilitary forces of internal occupation.”

    And it is the Democratic Party, specifically the Clinton administration and their Senate all Joe Biden, who, through their 3 strikes you’re out criminal “reform” and gutting of the welfare system if a man was present in the household who are most responsible. Ironic how little black lives matter to blacks who vote for their tormentors.

    • KC
      August 1, 2020 at 17:13

      Are you alleging that the Republicans stood as strong voices against the policies of Clinton and Biden? Indeed, the Democrats that Hedges rightly states have been co-opted by corporate/banker interests, are partly to blame for the current state of affairs. Both parties are subservient to the ultra rich and corporations. But if you think that Republicans were in any way better, you are operating under a delusion. In fact they have been markedly worse on everything from crime to domestic spying, the war on drugs, the destruction of civil liberties (except of course the right to bear virtually any type of gun you could want), the social safety net and our educational and medical systems.

  14. Dick Chicanery
    July 29, 2020 at 14:48

    USA. Number one.

    • Dick Chicanery
      July 29, 2020 at 15:16

      The US is a failed state, a third-world country.  Even the poorest third-world countries have very wealthy people; and that is what the very wealthy of the US are doing to this country.  Actually, the more billionaires a country has, the poorer the people are.  The billionaires are publicly subsidized.  The very wealthy are very intolerant of, and feel very threatened by, a middle-class bourgeoisie. Because in order to have a middle-class a country must have some form of government, and that requires what could be called (!) socialism.  But, as US history shows, that is a state so dire and wretched as to be worse than death (Today is the anniversary of the No Gun Ri massacre.  One of many committed by the US in its never-ending fight for freedom and democracy). Ever notice that when the US starts speaking of “freedom and democracy” death and destruction inevitably follow? You might think that you want to be a socialist, or communist, but the US will save you from that by killing you, and indeed entire nations. Because the US visits death upon anybody who attempts to improve their society.  Look at the US today: why are those federal agents, illegally, attacking the citizens of those cities which they have been deployed in?  Fascist illegally they have been deployed.  They never use force against gun-toting right-wingers, do they?

  15. July 29, 2020 at 14:04

    This piece by Chris Hedges is one of the most powerful I’ve ever read.

    It perfectly sums up a man’s broken life and the sorrowful world he inhabits with words that almost make you feel and see and smell its details.

    It resembles a dirge for America.

    I’m writing this with tears in my eyes, and I think I have to stop.

  16. Aaron
    July 29, 2020 at 13:57

    The conditions in our cities are approximating those in Haiti. I was thinking the other day, considering the horrible housing crisis, the affordability problem and such, that became so much worse after the ’07 financial crash, why the Democratic party, when Obama took office, they controlled all 3 branches of government, didn’t pass some helpful stimulus package. Like they seem to find tons of money for these days, because it’s an election year I think? It’s sickening to hear their sanctimonious rhetoric about how generous they want to be now with stimulus money, but when they controlled totally the power of the purse in 08-09, they first bailed out Wall Street, and didn’t give a stimulus to give relief to the struggling homeowners and renters facing eviction and foreclosure. We’ve never really recovered from that damn Wall Street crime. But what the Dems did accomplish right away, was to extend Bush’s tax cuts for the RICHEST!!! It’s frustrating to see all of the black and white pundits and present and former leaders on t.v. in the wake of Lewis’ passing, pretend that they, as leaders in the Democratic Party truly have fought for their black communities. No, they have not, they have been loyal to Wall Street, Israel, and the military industrial complex. I don’t know what happens to the character of well-intentioned Americans as they rise to positions of power in our governments and economy and society and institutions and learn to work with lobbyists to achieve power and become part of the rich club. With affordable housing, affordable college, and true justice applied to financial criminals with the same zeal that fat white dudes had for Kabir’s prosecution, maybe our youth could have a fighting chance to succeed as they grow up, they are so disadvantaged from the beginning, there is almost no way out. It’s extremely sad to remember when Trump asked the black community “What have you got to lose?” by voting for him. He was RIGHT! They had nothing left to lose. The democratic party had totally betrayed them, of course it might be worse now, but the fact of the matter is, Trump won because Obama and the Democrats failed us big time, and if we get Biden with a black VP promising the same stuff again, we will repeat this sad cycle again, everything is geared to help the rich, period.

    I remember a quote in the film 8MM by Joaquin Phoenix character.
    “When you dance with the Devil, the Devil doesn’t change, the Devil changes YOU” – Max California to Nicholas Cage in 8MM

  17. GMCasey
    July 29, 2020 at 12:54

    Dear Chris Hedges:

    Prison sounds a lot like slavery—but then so do private for profit prisons. Of course America has failed on that dream of a Preamble for years—–maybe actually forever. What does housing men and women in horrible conditions , with little or no training , what does that do to make America a better place? It is truly amazing. But even more amazing is that what Kabir has accomplished in his life. I once read of one of the Scandinavian nations and how they treat prisoners. They live in cottages and aren’t dismissed as less than human by guards. Along with the negative effects of so many guards and police, America has built its own Bedlam of British infamy. Ben Franklin once said of America that, “… it’s a republic if we can keep it. ” On Ben, we have such a long way to go.

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