The uncomfortability of being connected

Since the inception of Root to Rise, I’ve heard some variation of the following more than a few times: “Aren’t you concerned about raising money for something that helps prisoners…especially in Oklahoma?”

Most recently, while soliciting donations for our fundraiser this month, I heard, “Well, we can probably help you if you can take out the part in the letter about inmates…and probably the homeless, too…”

This came from someone with good intentions who was concerned the conservative base they were trying to appeal to would be fine with helping veterans (which our org has served and will continue to serve) but not so much the incarcerated, the homeless, or those with addiction issues.

I told them I appreciate the thought, but we will stick to all the groups we listed on the letter.

I guess veterans are a good group to assist as long as those veterans are not in jail, addicted to drugs [that they were probably prescribed by the government], or homeless. And I guess abused women are a good group to help as long as they too have not turned to drugs or been incarcerated.

The biggest problem with this dangerous mode of thinking is the lack of understanding that all these groups are intertwined.

The overwhelming majority of women in prison are survivors of domestic violence. Three-quarters have histories of severe physical abuse by an intimate partner during adulthood, and 82% suffered serious physical or sexual abuse as children.

While the number of incarcerated veterans has been dropping since 2015, they still made up 8% of the prison population in 2012. Veterans currently make up roughly 9% of the homeless population. While these statistics may seem low, it still doesn’t seem very humane to line up 100 homeless people and tell the 9 of those that served in the U.S. military that you’d rather not help them because of the mess they’ve gotten themselves into (and obviously it’s not humane to do that to anyone, but remember who I’m trying to shake some sense into here).

When we fail to realize and address all the reasons an individual became an inmate or became homeless and assume they are undeserving of rehabilitation, we revert to a bumper sticker morality that makes us part of the problem. Complex issues will never be solved with this mode of thinking.

Try, with all you have, to not compartmentalize humanity.