Sunday, December 10, 2017


Sunday Reflection: Hope and Heartbreak

It's been kind of a hard year. In a piece out today at The Atlantic, Bruce Rubenstein explains why.

2016 was pretty unique for me, of course. The rejuvenation of clemency I pushed for years finally happened thanks to the work of many good and hard-working people (most importantly President Obama), and over 1700 people were given shortened sentences. Now some of them come and visit me, which is a miracle each time. But, of course, that moment in history--that short age of mercy-- ended in January, 2017. Since the inauguration there has been a single use of the pardon power, and that was for Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  

The Arpiao pardon was kind of a knife in the heart for me-- it celebrated the excesses and abuse of power by law enforcement rather than heal the effects of those wrongs. It's hard to explain how wrenching that feels- to have the momentum for mercy not only stop, but go backwards to reward a lack of compassion and humanity. 

I guess... imagine that you are a musician, one who loves to play and is wonderfully talented, like the man my father captured in the photo above. For a year, you get to be in a remarkable group and make music that people love-- you create beauty. Then, suddenly, the band breaks up, the venue closes down, and it all stops. But something worse happens, too: An announcement is made that now music will just consist of metal scraping noises (I know, I know, IPLawGuy-- that happened, kind of). Not only can you not play music, but now the very idea of music has been turned to something bad.

I'm heartbroken. And I'm able to say that from my comfortable house with my good job and a car that can take me wherever I want to go. I can only imagine how it feels for the multitudes in prison, the one whose fingers were crushed when the window slammed shut on them.

For a few years, I carried a coin with me that bore the image of the Roman goddess of mercy, Clementia. It was sort of the opposite of carrying a heavy weight-- the idea of that goddess made me lighter. A few weeks ago, I wrapped it up and put it in a drawer. 

Why? I suppose that it is just not her time right now. The Greek and Roman Gods were like that, of course; they would go away for a while, on a quest or diversion. But they were not gone. And Clementia, too, will come back, will regain her power, because she embodies something that is deep within the human spirit, that we can repress but not extinguish. 

And so, Advent. A baby. Hope. A world transformed. New days are coming, for me and those multitudes.

I will do my part.

I was sure glad that I read your post until I came to your last line that says that you will "do your part". You always have. Thanks.
Consider this time your (our) time in the wilderness. This period will only last a brief time, perhaps less than the standard term of office. And perhaps Pence will decide that his faith requires some degree of mercy through the clemency processes available to him.
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