Prison Radio
Kenneth Hartman

“Okay, now what?”

So the wrong guy won after the right guy failed to secure a nomination, and we’re all bummed out about the whole podgy mess of an election we just suffered through. Okay, now what?

The American working class has got the shaft for the past quarter of a century through Republican and Democratic administrations, earning less in real dollars now than they did when the first Bush was president.

Good paying jobs have been replaced by low pay, low skill, no security service jobs. Millions have been cycled through the prison systems, which have grown into an 80 billion a year industry that supports whole rural communities, employing former factory workers to guard inner youth and suburban opioid addicts.

Now in a phenomenon that is sweeping through the industrialized nations, demagogues and opportunists are whipping up a whirlwind of rage that threatens to overwhelm the social progress of democracy—of our own democracy right here. Okay, now what? I figure, we who have fought for social justice, have two choices in front of us, and we better be careful which we choose.

We can continue down the path we’ve been on. The path that’s lost a growing share of the country, the path of dividing the electorate into evermore discrete groupings and sowing more and deeper alienation, the path of purity over pragmatism, the path of the perfect being the mortal enemy of the good.

Or we can retool our argument and reach out to everyone who’s been hurt by the powerful, everyone who’s been harmed by the prison-industrial complex, and lock arms to push back against the forces of oppression. And we better get to it now in 2017, or it could get a lot worse before it gets better. Okay, now what?

This is Kenneth Hartman, executive director of the Other Death Penalty Project from inside California’s prison system.

These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.