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Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008 01:40 am

Letters to the Editor

We welcome letters. Please include your full name, address, and telephone number. We edit all letters. Send them to Letters, Illinois Times, P.O. Box 5256, Springfield, IL 62705; fax 217-753-3958; e-mail editor@illinoistimes.com.

JACKSON POEMS, GENTLE AND AWARE

I wanted to send a note in admiration of the poems by Jackie Jackson. I received a 2007 Liberty Takes a Break [collection of Jackson poems published by Illinois Times] from her daughter.

What a wonderful collection! The poems seem to address all my issues — our issues? —death, destruction, and moment-to-moment joys. And more than that, they sound gentle and aware; caring for the planet, child, self, and family; passionate.

I constantly wonder how to balance art, internal life and external life, earth's beauty and power, and the anger of war and destruction.

I'm touched. Jackie seems to honor the inner and outer realms with grace, humor, and clarity.

Thank you for printing these and for inviting these poems into being.

Carolyn Mecklosky

Waterville, Vt.

BIG OIL TOOK $610 FROM YOU

In the last year, oil companies have taken about $610 in extra profits from every American driver, hurting working families and draining our economy. Now the oil companies are using their record profits to launch multimillion-dollar ad campaigns to push for more drilling, while neglecting to mention that opening our beaches to drilling won't lower gas prices.

The Energy Information Administration reported that drilling has increased 75 percent since Bush took office, but gas prices have shot up over 250 percent during that same time. This pattern will not change. The bottom line is that drilling only benefits Big Oil, Bush, and their allies in Congress, not the American people.

The only way to provide relief to consumers from high gas prices is to provide them with choices other than Exxon or Shell. We need to embrace American ingenuity and innovative technologies such as plug-in electric hybrids that will create jobs, drive the economy, and break our addiction to oil once and for all.
Saroni M. Lasker
Aurora

THE BAD LIFE INSIDE TAMMS

Imagine being alone for 23 hours a day, seven days a week. Imagine no telephone calls to family. Imagine eating alone, praying alone, and communicating to others by yelling through a door. Imagine the near constant loud sounds of the mentally ill men, also suffering this fate. Imagine being in this condition and not even knowing how long you will stay or what you can do to end your confinement. This place is not myth. For about 260 people, this is their reality. This is what life is like inside the Tamms C-MAX super-maximum security prison in southern Illinois.

It opened in 1998 and was originally built as a one year "shock treatment" for short-term incarceration, for men who commit certain disciplinary infractions while in other state prisons. No one at Tamms is sent there for their original crime. However, over half of the men at Tamms are there under the vague criteria of "administrative segregation;" decisions to send prisoners to Tamms are not open to review.

Although meant for short-term incarceration, over one third of the men have been at Tamms for a decade, at huge costs. Taxpayers spend approximately $90,000 a year to incarcerate one man at the Tamms C-Max prison. Prolonged isolation is considered to be a form of psychological torture by the United Nations and many human rights groups. The strain of long-term isolation makes many men break down. Self-mutilation, suicide attempts and mental illnesses are common at Tamms. The lack of phone communication and lack of public transportation to the prison shatters many family relationships.

It is vital that incarceration is, at least, humane if not fully rehabilitative, as most men from Tamms return to our communities. The conditions of solitary confinement have and will continue to irreparably disable people who survive it. We must agree that violating public decency and prolonged isolation are poor public policy, as it foregoes the possibility of returning prepared, productive citizens back to society.

To this end, Illinois House Bill 6651 will provide strict criteria for transfer eligibility. Prisoners will be told why they are being sent to Tamms and given a hearing. HB 6651 will prohibit prisoners with mental illness from being sent to Tamms and ensure careful and necessary review so that the original one-year limit would apply to prisoners with no further infractions. Call your state representative and show your support for HB 6651 and fundamental human rights of all Illinois citizens.
Bonnie Fortune
Tamms Year Ten Campaign
Urbana

STATE PAYS 24 CENTS A MILE

By legislation per-mile medical transportation reimbursement by the state was reduced to 24 cents in 2002 and has remained that ever since! The federal reimbursement rate is now 50.5 cents! This means that if the present administration wasn't trying to balance the books on the backs of the poor then personal transport providers could have risen out of debt and many commercial providers would not have gone out of business. The National Family Caregivers have old statistics that Illinois alone gets $11 billion in free healthcare from family members.

I have written to the governor and legislature about this since 2002 but have never heard a word back. Gas has been predicted to rise to $5 per gallon which means that we will be selling our houses just to get our loved ones to medical treatment needed to preserve their lives.
Patrick Jordan
Rankin, IL

CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST

In any religious or national movement, over time there develops a consensus as to what is to be believed, of what is "always" true, of what the children are to be taught. But in time even the best of such conventional wisdoms is no longer effective or up to the new knowledge and needs of a new time. Our culture shows signs of seeking to resurrect from such conventional ways of seeing reality, urged by religiously influenced people and by patriotic Americans. But we have ages of tradition and convention that need to be respectfully approached and questioned.

Like Herod, the Roman-appointed king of the Hebrews in the Christmas story (Matthew 2:1-12), we have a lot invested into who we see ourselves to be. The story depicts Herod as wanting to kill all Hebrew babies for their perceived threat to his power. It is outdated parts of our "conventional wisdom" we are so protective of. Some of us are very determined, regardless of new knowledge and needs, for ways and beliefs to stay as they have been for many generations. To such a mindset the idea that the sacred has arrived, and is saying there needs to change in some of our strongly held interpretations of life, is a frightening thing, but historically that has been the role of healthy religious influence.

The danger of sacred stories' being so often rehearsed is that we no longer see to what a radical viewpoint they actually challenge us. Many use the Christmas story as a comforting support of long-held traditions. It was hardly so originally. For example the "wise men" who brought gifts were strangers, foreigners, unwelcome pagans. For the Jewish author of Matthew, the birth of Jesus was the opposite of kosher. The story of "wise men" as uncircumcised priests of impure origin being depicted as the most welcomed guests of the child Messiah would have been first heard as startling unclean sacrilege. Matthew's author right up front presents the arrival of Jesus as a scandal against accepted religious tradition. We can realize that, in such story form, the sacred is saying we need to accept and value people that we have been taught to reject.

There are people or "other" groups, no matter our religious or cultural upbringing, whom we feel a need to have nothing to do with. The story says that now these are ones who actually have "treasures" we need to humbly accept. Divorced and single-parent families in today's culture may have experience and skills that "all together" families do not have. People of different colors and ethnicities are obviously making contributions to the arts and politics and life that our comfortable Caucasian communities never thought possible. Gay persons may have something to teach about love to straight couples struggling with high divorce rates and personal unhappiness. People of other nationalities know more about how to get along in the world than perhaps we Americans do right now. The "other" who may have been the enemy of old is now the one, the sacred story says, we need to not just tolerate but fully honor, embrace and include.

So such a familiar sacred story as Christmas can still live today and strike a new chord in the individual and collective human heart. It still has the power to bring forth its more original intent, to expand our boundaries of acceptance and inclusion of all humans. And it challenges us to take off remaining crowns of superiority, discrimination, and aloofness toward any who are different from the majority.

Jim Hibbett

Riverton

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