Memorial Day and Incarcerated Veterans

U.S. flags are on display in honor of Memorial Day. We saw many flags while traveling across Colorado for our camping trip last week and lots of our neighbors are flying flags right now. But do those flag-flyers know that many former military personnel have been or are currently incarcerated?

Image by Barbara Rosner from Pixabay

I wasn’t thinking in those terms until I saw this tweet from a formerly incarcerated person:

Then I did a little research and learned that almost one-third of U.S. veteran survey respondents (31.1%) had been arrested and booked, a rate significantly higher than among civilians (18.0%).

Commentary from the ACLU rightly states: If, as a nation, we want to honor their service, we should invest in providing community-based treatment to help them heal after their military service, instead of deepening their wounds by incarcerating them.

This issue hits close to home because I have PTSD but didn’t recognize that’s what I was suffering until I finally found the right therapy for me. Somatic Experiencing literally gave me back my life and I absolutely believe veterans would also benefit from this therapy and it breaks my heart to think about the added layers of trauma inflicted on people through incarceration.¬†Another reason this issue hits me hard? I have an incarcerated friend who is a veteran. They put their life on the line for this country and have spent nearly a decade in prison for a non-violent crime. Locking people in cages is never the answer, especially not for trauma-induced mental health issues. Care and support is what’s needed.

I wish you a happy Memorial Day and also invite you to remember the incarcerated veterans as all those red, white, and blue flags ripple in the breeze.

Timely book recommendations

I’m joining a book discussion tomorrow that will be facilitated by activist, organizer, and educator Mariame Kaba as part of Project NIA. We’re reading The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist. As I tweeted earlier today, “Lay didn’t try to “reform” slavery, but treated it as the absolute horror it was, calling out ALL who participated in the system. Inspiring! Solidified my stance on PIC abolition.”

I highly recommend reading this book about an extraordinary man who fought against slavery for 40 years (during the 1700s), “suffering endless persecution, ridicule, and repression, without a movement to support and sustain him.”

This book feels especially timely as we mourn Tortuguita (forest defender/climate justice warrior, and abolitionist) who was murdered by the police for defending against Cop City in Atlanta AND the murder of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police (not going to link because don’t want to inadvertently include video). Also? This book is timely because in 2022, the police killed more people than ever (1,176) which is nearly 100 people killed every single month.

We cannot reform state sanctioned violence. We must defund the police. We must abolish the police. Then, all those billions of dollars must go to communities so that people are housed, fed, and receiving health care. Police do not keep us safe. We keep us safe.

Benjamin Lay pushed back against a system that many considered inevitable and here-to-stay. Back then, people thought it was futile to oppose slavery and we’re currently facing that same mindset regarding the police. Do you know how/why we have police in the United States? They started as slave patrols, men hired to hunt down enslaved people who ran away. Policing has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with protecting capital.

I’m tired and upset, and possibly not writing very eloquently, so if you’re interested in learning more about prison industrial complex (PIC) abolition, I highly recommend Mariame Kaba’s We Do This ‘Til We Free Us. She and the other contributors do a stellar job getting across their information and perspectives.

I’m currently working to find an agent to represent my middle grade novel about two kids in a small town divided over the presence of a for-profit prison, and was able to write the ending I wanted for that story. In the meanwhile, a whole lot of people are fighting for the creation of a safer reality in the here and now. Benjamin Lay would be proud.