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We Need to Bring Back the Value of Community

Susan Carpenter - San Francisco, California

The stories that sadden me the most in our country are the stories of prisoners. I have worked as a prison chaplain in California so I have experience of this side of life. When people enter our prisons, it is as if their rights are taken away. They are habitually targets for rape and exploitation---both by other inmates and by corrupted guards. They live in isolation and depravation and in fear. I know some maximum security prisons that remind me of our visions of hell. To think that we allow our fellow countryman to live like this is a horror beyond words. We need to focus on rehabilitation and redemption instead of bringing even more evil into the lives of those convicted of crime.

I am also very saddened by the increasing divide between the very rich and the rest of us. While some live on beautiful tree-lined streets with all the amenities one could hope for, a great many more of our citizens today live within noisy, hectic, polluted environments devoid of beauty. In concrete jungles, how can a person stay connected spiritually with God? It is very difficult. Great numbers of our citizens now turn to alcohol and drugs and to technological and sexual addictions to escape from the ugliness of their environment and the loneliness of their lives. We need to start again to be a United States in which each person has an opportunity to live in a healthy environment, and one rooted in our natural world.

We need desperately to protect and build up our natural environment. Our harmony with the rest of the life that God created gives our lives health, rootedness, and joy. Disharmony or the destruction of nature robs us of all of these and creates a living hell for us.

We need to change our medical system so that every American has access to equal and high quality health care. We need to change our system so that it is not drug-driven and profit-driven, but health-centered for each and every person. Too many people in every family are dying because their doctors no longer have time to see them---they are just busy writing in charts and not even examining their patients in many places. People are dying because they have to wait for weeks and months for appointments when they have cancers and other devastating illnesses that could be treated, but because the delays are so long, instead these people die. People are dying because the doctors are so hurried by the profit-based-system we are in that they make mistakes constantly, and the number of innacurate diagnoses has soared. People are dying because even the nursing care has been drastically reduced in most hospitals in service to the false god of profit. People are dying because so much of our money goes to make weapons which will only further hurt and maim people, and trillions are going into outerspace research and travel for God knows what reason, while our brothers and sisters are left abandoned in their illnesses.

We need to change our thinking so that technology and money are no longer or false Gods, our idols. We need to put God, who is Love, back in the center. Instead of replacing so many workers with technology (I think of people who work in supermarkets as clerks, in factories as workers, even on bridges as toll collectors)---we need to continue to employ our people and to value them. Robots should not replace people. People need work for their dignity and we need salaries for our families. And all of us in the community need to live among and with people----not robots. We need to think of the joy of living within a happy human community and to bring this back as a value, as our way of being.