Positively Aware, Current HIV news magazine

Positively Aware, The HIV News Journal published by the Test Positive Aware Network


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Editors Note by Jeff Berry

Self identity

Wholistic Picture - Law vs Justics.

As the gulf between the haves and the have-nots in this country grows to Grand Canyon-esque proportions, it seems only reasonable that the crime rate, and the number of people in prison, will also grow.

We’ve all heard stories of people being arrested for shoplifting food to feed their children; runaways becoming pickpockets and prostitutes in order to survive (that “transactional sex” thing); young black men becoming drug dealers because they “have no choice.”

As someone who has experienced the panicky, nerves-on-edge feeling of not knowing the source or components of my next meal, I can easily forgive that parent for shoplifting and I am forever grateful that I had no mouths to feed besides my own. I may never have resorted to stealing, prostitution, or drug dealing, but I can easily understand that, just as necessity may be the mother of invention, poverty may be the father of crime.

Having known good people through my years working in the HIV community who have survived horrific, dehumanizing circumstances, I am frequently blown away by their ability to overcome the trauma and scars of physical/sexual/emotional abuse, drug addiction, crime, and imprisonment in order to become bright spots of inspiration and success, shining examples for others to follow. They may be few, but they are powerful proof that there is always a choice if you have the courage to make the hard ones.

We see almost daily proof that our country, supposedly “ruled by law,” becomes more and more unjust, the laws more and more harmful to the Whole. The lawmakers and those in “power” are hardly ever called to account for their violations of not only manmade laws, but also laws of Nature and laws of logic, and common sense dies a gruesome death in our political process. Mustn’t we ask ourselves who the criminals really are?

Are the worst of our society the ones in prison for carrying around crack instead of powdered cocaine? Are they the people driving without car insurance? Are they the women who killed abusive men in self-defense (but who had no “stand your ground” law to fall back on)? Are they the rapists, or the doctors who perform the abortions that enable the raped women to heal and go forward in their lives? Are they the bank robbers, or the CEOs of hedge funds who are still free to enjoy the luxuries their ill-gotten gains afford them? Are they the parents who force hospital doctors to care for their sick child at gunpoint, or are they the health insurance companies that refuse to cover that child’s care?

In case you think I’m just a bleeding heart liberal, naively willing to buy that everyone in prison is really innocent, let me correct you. There are plenty of people behind bars who deserve to be there and they know who they are. But if there was some mystical machine that could tell us who was truly evil and had committed violent or destructive crimes as opposed to those who had made a horrible mistake, been in the wrong place at the wrong time, or were desperate to survive in the only way they knew how, I have no doubt that the prison population would shrink.

Out here, as well as inside jails and prisons, there is one thing in our society that there is more than enough of—injustice. It is insidious, whether it’s in a poor, black neighborhood where gang bangers kill innocent children because they’re too stupid to know that they’re killing off their own communities, or in “middle class” neighborhoods where mortgage bank fraud is creating ghost towns and families are homeless, or in Congress where white men who call themselves “Christian” conservatives try to pass laws forcing women to have the children resulting from rape and incest while at the same time refusing to fund programs that would enable those women to take care of those unwanted children. Sadly, it is also in the minds of Americans who hate with white hot intensity anyone who is different from them to the point where Matthew Shepherd, George Tiller, Shaima Alawadi, and Trayvon Martin can lose their lives as a result.

It’s not an easy time to be alive in the world, but perhaps the tide is slowly turning as the 99% hit the streets, as more people start to say, ”No MORE!” I have hope that the prison population will begin to shrink because there will be fewer people allowing injustice to drive them there, and that we’ll all keep working at eradicating the injustice that is the true crime.

Breathe deep, live long.


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