In Puritan America, a married woman’s illicit affair with a minister landed her in jail. After her release, Hester Prynne was sentenced to forever wear a big red “A” on her dress. 

Nearly 375 years later, the U.S. continues to be scandalized, tantalized and perplexed by sex, especially about sex offenders. Tough on crime, we’re still struggling to learn: 

  • Why domestic violence and incest are so under-reported by victims? 
  • Why most people think every sexual offender is a serial rapist? 
  • Why, even among therapists, many continue to believe sex-offenders to be untreatable? 
  • Why supervision after offenders’ release tends to-wards punitive rather than restorative? 

It’s time to bring the subject of sex crime out of the dark ages, time to help victims shed the shame and trauma of their experience. It’s also time to allow offenders an opportunity to show they can change, make amends and start to earn back trust and acceptance from society.

Independence Day...for whom, exactly?

Celebrating the Fourth of July is a chance to acknowledge the challenges of being ruled by a foreign power as well as the benefits of independence. It's instructive, today, to consider that while the Constitution created by the United States Congress in 1788 talked about liberty, freedom and justice for all, but the "all" has not really extended to all.

Amendments to the Constitution have continued, slowly, to add to the "inalienable rights" bestowed on the founders: well educated and often wealthy white men, some of whose wealth stemmed from the ownership and oppression of other humans. After the Civil War, blacks - at least on paper - were recognized in the same way all other citizens were, except women. It took another 60 years for women to be given - at least on paper - equal legal standing with men.

The reality of equality in the US is very different than what the Constitution suggests. Non-whites and women as a group still experience vast differences in opportunity from privileged white men. For example, income disparity between blacks and whites is stark, as is the difference in unemployment and home ownership. Likewise, blacks are incarcerated at five times the rate of whites. Women's average pay is still more than 20 percent lower than men's, for the same job and responsibility.

So as we send those fireworks aloft today, let us not forget those Americans for whom the Constitution still doesn't work that well. Remember those serving in the military as well as hose who have been freed from incarceration but who continue to suffer the stigma of shame and  the burden of inequality, 

Heartbreak and Hope

Heartbreak and Hope