Philip Morris is now the focus of society's anger. We have someone new to blame for our errors, poor choices and regrets. Whom will we hate and fear next? I would expect to see "Dave," the owner of Wendy's, up for a major lawsuit. Isn't he promoting a product proven to kill us as surely as tobacco? Even Dave witnessed, with his own coronary by-pass this last year, that heart disease will attack those who consume his super-duper double burger, bacon and fries. We also know he is promoting this product to our youth. When will Dave go down?What about Volkswagen? Is there anyone who hasn't been injured or at least surprised when they were hit without notice and assaulted with the words "slug bug." How long will Americans endure this potential personal and family weapon without suing for damages? Hasn't it caused family fights? Haven't you nearly run off the road defending yourself or injuring another over the bug on wheels? Let's sue.
I speak in jest, but it seems many people excuse their own behavior and easily judge others as evil or bad. I was not surprised to read a March article in the Ogden Standard Examiner stating, "Inmates at the Utah State Prison are the worst people in our society." It's so easy to judge others, so easy to blame people we don't know; they make a perfect target when we don't take time to understand, and we can be so wrong. I am a psychotherapist at the state prison and have learned a lesson from Will Rogers, "I have never met a man I didn't like." Yes, there are men and women at the prison and jails who have committed serious crimes against society. Most of these inmates, however, are not just perpetrators, they are also victims of crimes. However, society often chooses to ignore these crimes.
If you want to make yourself aware of one constant, it would be this: If a child is acting out, joining a gang, breaking the law in violent ways, something is wrong in his/her life. Children are not born this way. Most inmates with assault and other violent behaviors, including murder, have shared with me histories of severe childhood abuse by their family. Gang members, without exception, have histories of poor family ties. Most abusers are also victims of abuse. I am not suggesting this provides them an excuse for their behaviors. But I am saying: Don't judge them as the worst members of our society. They are likely the most misunderstood and most often forgotten - just as they were when they were children.
It is easy to judge inmates as bad. Utah lawmakers choose punishment and incarceration rather than treatment because they ignorantly judge these people as evil. Nothing has really changed from when the inmates were children. The system will remain judgment- and punishment-oriented because we allow ourselves to remain distant and uninformed. Please don't let ignorance and prejudices become the foundation for your beliefs.
There is no new Satan, just old avoidance, judgments, prejudice, ignorance and fear. "Please, Lord, save us from your followers."