Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How far is it from Maryville, Tennessee to Cape Town, South Africa?

It feels like such a long way on some days, and then at other times, it seems real near. My daughter, Lisa is in Capetown for her spring semester and a little beyond that. As I hear from Lisa about it, and read her blog posts, I sometimes feel like I am there, like my heart is as much there as right here. I am also reading Nelson Mandela's autobiography. What a life he has lived! It really makes me remember what a sacred and wonderful thing it is to be a human being.

As I think about South Africa, I begin thinking of patriotism and what it means. Why would I love my own country more than South Africa? Why would I yearn for freedom and justice in my own country more than I yearn for freedom and justice for South Africa?

I guess I know this country, or at least some of it, pretty well. My history is bound to this country of the United States. I really love our Constitution, and especially the deep distrust of authority that is at the very heart of our country's most authoritative law. But, as I have followed the history of South Africa in my reading, I feel a deep hope that God will bring about great mercy and peace and justice and freedom and joy to a people who were oppressed for so, so long. The history of non-white South Africans parallels the history of black Americans in many ways. And, as I have felt my heart moved by the experience of black Americans, I feel a similar yearning before God for a land far away, a land where my daughter is living right now.

It's not real easy to speak about what it feels like to be a white person but feel deeply bound to black people in the very depths of one's soul through one's second-hand experience of black history. I really don't like to go on about it. It's really hard to explain it to white people, not too hard to speak about to black people because you don't have to say much. Black people in our country just seem to get it. I guess when you've had people against you so much, it's not real hard to tell when somebody is not against you. And, that's all I've ever felt that black people asked for from white people. I don't know one black person who wants some special deal from white people. The black people I know rate white people pretty highly if they are half-way decent. Black people, in general, are real easy on white people. That's one thing white people in the U.S. don't get at all. I wonder how it is in South Africa where white people are a minority.

Monday, February 8, 2010


One thing I have realized over the course of my life: I don't believe in punishment. Inflicting hurt on someone to teach them not to inflict hurt on others - well, I just don't believe in that.

I never believed in it. I am so thankful that my parents didn't believe in it either. Because if I had been punished, I think I might have turned out overly rebellious. My parents never really punished. A couple of times they just had to let us know who was in control, which we knew clearly about all the time, because my parents were the kind that you had confidence in and the kind that you didn't want to disappoint. But, neither Mom nor Dad liked punishment at all.

I have never respected anyone who really believed in punishment, because I think that anybody who is comfortable with punishment is basically sadistic.

As I survey the morality of our society and our criminal justice system, I see very clearly that the idea of what morality is all about is that it is "keeping the riff-raff under control, and keeping them down, and reminding them that they are shit." That's what punishment is about: teaching the punished that they are worthless.