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Something More

October 14, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Family, Missy Beattie, Politics

What Else Can We Do for the Cause of Freedom?

by Missy Beattie

Sunday, sister Laura and I went to a festival a block from my apartment. We walked past the vendor artists, their booths of pottery, jewelry, paintings, and metalwork, and opened our portable chairs near a stage where musicians performed. An event organizer took the mic and said someone mentioned the strangeness of having a festival when the country’s facing so many problems. She’d responded that art makes the world go ‘round.

I sat there, thinking about Herman Wallace and Alfred Woodfox. Actually, I’ve thought of little else for over a week.

Wallace spent 41 years in solitary confinement at Louisiana’s Angola prison. And so has Woodfox. For Wallace, the torture is over. Diagnosed in June with advanced liver cancer, he was freed by a federal judge on Tuesday, October 1st and died three days later at the home of a friend. (more…)

Imagining Syria

September 10, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Missy Beattie, Politics

Making Sense of the Senseless… 

by Missy Beattie

After Charles died, I tried to convince friends and acquaintances that complaining — squandering even a minute of happiness — is an extravagance they’d regret. Eventually I realized that death of a spouse or loved one couldn’t be understood until it’s experienced. Maybe that’s protection, insulation. Really, how could we approach each day if we knew at the molecular level the agony of bereavement?

I think of this now when I hear the blustering of men devoid of empathy. Of women barren of compassion. Those too blind to see.

This morning when I ran, I passed a sign in front of an enclave of alley shops. It said, “Who’s Next”. Syria. Syria is next, I thought.

A few weeks ago, when running, I heard a man on a phone, a pay phone. “This is the United States of America and this is my son I’m talking about.” I’ve noticed him before, with several bags, asleep on a bench, wrapped in a blanket despite the heat. I’ve thought about him, wanting to know more. Wanting to know what he meant when he said, “This is the United States of America . . .” (more…)

School’s In…

August 29, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Laura L. Finley

Four Lessons for College Professors

by Laura L. Finley

A few days ago, I read on Facebook the re-posting of an essay, authored by a young college professor, which discussed the five things students should never say to their professors. Originally published in USA Today, the list includes such gems as “Did I miss anything important?” “I took this class for an easy A,” “I didn’t know we had anything due,” “I was studying for another course so couldn’t do my work for this class,” and “Did you answer my email yet?”

While I, like so many professors, have been asked all of these questions during my teaching career, I want to offer a different list, this one for professors. Too often, educators, and especially professors, seem to operate from the perspective that “this job would be okay if it weren’t for the kids.” That list of questions not to ask, in my mind, comes from the same place. While it may have been intended to help students get in good with their professors, it seems to suggest that students are clueless dolts who are annoyingly self-centered. (more…)

Facing the Prison Problem

May 31, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Angola 3 News, Family, Politics

An Interview with Author and Former Prisoner Shawn Griffith

by Angola 3 News

If given the attention it deserves, an important new book is certain to make significant contributions to the public discussions of US Facing The Prison Problemprison policy. The author, Shawn Griffith, was released last year from Florida’s prison system at the age of 41, after spending most of his life, almost 24 years, behind bars, including seven in solitary confinement. Facing the US Prison Problem 2.3 Million Strong: An Ex-Con’s View of the Mistakes and the Solution was self-published just months after Griffith was released from what is the third largest state prison system in the US, after California and Texas.

This new book’s thoughtful analysis and chilling reflections on what author Shawn Griffith experienced while incarcerated is a remarkable illustration of why the US public must listen to the voices of current and former prisoners who have stories that only they can tell. Griffith writes that “by integrating my own personal experiences with statistics and examples from different corrections systems around the nation, I am attempting to discredit the general perception that the system is designed to enforce and protect justice for everyone. The U.S. criminal justice system is an economically and politically profitable enterprise for special interest groups in this country. The general taxpayer needs to understand how the abusive policies fostered by these groups worsen the U.S. prison problem and the debt crisis through wasted corrections expenditures.” (more…)

A Foundation of Decency

May 06, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Economy, Robert C. Koehler

Building a Society that Protects Everyone

by Robert C. Koehler

“Everywhere near the building, the stench of death was overpowering. Men in surgical masks sprayed disinfectant in the air.” We move from tragedy to tragedy with hellish regularity.

“The scope of injuries,” Jim Yardley writes in the New York Times, “was horrifying: fractured skulls, crushed rib cages, severed livers, ruptured spleens. One survivor lost both legs. . . . A teenage girl named Sania lost her right leg. Another teenager, Anna, lost her right hand.”

This wasn’t from a bomb in Boston. It was from a collapsed building outside Dhaka, Bangladesh — another shocking sweatshop disaster, this one claiming the lives, according to the most recent count, of 385 people, with many more missing and at least 1,000 injured. Eight people, including the owner of the building, which housed five separate garment operations employing more than 3,000 people, were arrested. Workers, the Times reported, saw cracks in the walls of the building the day before it collapsed. They were told to go to work anyway. (more…)

The Beloved Community

November 29, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Randall Amster, Windy Cooler

Strengthening the Ties that Bind in an Era of Alienation

by Randall Amster and Windy Cooler

As we move into the winter of 2012, the days are getting shorter and the sociopolitical realities put before us seem, in some ways, to be darkening by the minute. How is it that we do not know how to live in the world, in those ways that have sustained and advanced the human experiment for eons? Today we have reactionary, regressive policies masking as “progress,” replacing the reciprocal bonds of authentic community with the wafer-thin ties of social networking and, in the process, turning our alienation and dysfunction into a nouveau spectacle. During the recent Israeli assault on Gaza, for example, a reporter for the Jerusalem Post actually asked residents in fear for their children’s lives if anyone could give an interview about how the shrieking sirens were affecting pets. It is so taboo to speak of what really matters with the people who matter that we have to be encouraged to do so. (more…)

Muscular Empathy

January 18, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Family, Guest Author

‘The Heart that Breaks Open Can Contain the Whole Universe’

by Viral Mehta

Bullying at schools has become a huge issue. In looking for innovative solutions, Canadian educators turned to a unique classroom program called Roots of Empathy. At the heart of the program, now being implemented in 1,400 schools, lies this insight: When you put an infant and its parent in the center of the classroom, children start to sensitize themselves to the baby’s intentions and emotions. The results that ripple out are unambiguous: a measurable reduction in levels of aggression among schoolchildren.

The program is successful because it fosters the development of empathy, supporting children in tapping into an unconscious part of themselves. The baby becomes a catalyst in helping kids identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others. How can we do this in our own lives? By consciously creating circumstances in which we can cultivate within ourselves a “muscular empathy.” (more…)