• Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 7/17/20

Good morning everyone!

I think I need to print t-shirts and sell them with emblazoned with:

“I tested positive”

Maybe then, maybe, people will keep their distance and wear masks. Perhaps if they can see the danger to themselves they might whistle a different tune. I’m writing this from Aspen, Colorado. It’s a place with a strong sense of purpose, with people who at least say they care about their fellow human beings. It is the home to the Aspen Ideas Festival, which focuses on big ideas for making the world a better place. And yet… I remain astonished over how many people don’t wear masks when walking down the street. Of course, at least it’s not Georgia, whose Governor signed an Executive Order today prohibiting cities and counties from mandating the wearing of masks, notwithstanding scientific evidence that doing so would reduce transmissions by over 85%. Science, as we have learned to our collective harm, is now apparently merely optional.

It seems there are four types of people in this debate:

• Mask wearers (or holders of masks who place them back on when they get close to others)

• Mask holders who don’t put them on—I’m flummoxed over exactly what the purpose of signaling the virtue of carrying a mask that then goes unworn.

• Those who are indifferent

• Those who openly stare with disdain or make a snarky comment. I think the Governors of Georgia and Florida fit neatly in this group.

I believe our leaders have made a fatal flaw in communicating the value of wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. When they suggested that taking these precautions are largely for the benefit not of the wearer, but the people in contact with them, their reasoning was flawed. They didn’t take into account that, sadly, many people don’t really give a damn about the health of others. People are just too insensitive and uninterested in being kind to—or protecting—others.

Public health officials should have considered a different tact earlier on—“This disease will kill you” or “If you don’t wear a mask, you’ll become very sick.” Instead, we tried to appeal to the kinder, gentler side of human nature, to wit, “do this because it protects your elders, your neighbors, people with health issues.” The fact is that, sadly, most people don’t care about their neighbors. And that’s yet another sad result of this pandemic. It has shown many of our fellow citizens for what they actually are—selfish, narcissists concerned only for themselves—and openly antagonistic to their neighbors.



As I rail about the stupidity and selfishness of those misguided folks who refuse to do their part to keep us safe, keep the curve down and get through this. Mark DiMaria sent me this cartoon from the Daily Kos that articulates the issue in a comical way that is all-too-close to reality:



I think I’m going to keep coming back to this in coming weeks. In the meantime, a few additions and clarifications:

• Several people have indicated that, while they agree that drug users should be subject to lighter sentences, they are not nearly as forgiving as I. I’m persuaded by their argument that a year is too short for those trafficking in drugs. My real issue is with the harsh sentence on those possessing drugs without intent to sell.

• Others have suggested that for heinous crimes, my five year sentencing limit isn’t satisfactory. I agree, but my proposal shifts the burden to the state to show that the chance for recidivism is great or the person is depraved/incapable of rehabilitation and control outside of prison.

Peter Bain expresses in a beautiful way the problems with where we are now on the purpose of the system and the horrible punishment extracted by society even after the “debt to society” is satisfied:

We should note that we have gotten derailed on the incarceration issue in the same way that we have become derailed on so many other issues of social justice: appealing to people’s fears and prejudices moves the conversation away from the facts and true focus. Let us remember that deTocqueville came to this country for the specific purpose of studying our system of incarceration, because it represented such a forward-thinking approach at that time. We established the idea of separation from society as not simply punitive (pretty much the entire purpose of prisons in Europe at that time), but as an opportunity to engage in rehabilitation. This has been overtaken wildly by movements that have nothing to do with rehabilitation and everything to do with a society bent on retribution and trying to assure some of its citizens that “law & order” are firmly in charge (an entirely delusional reassurance, I might add). This devolution is documented so clearly in the film “13th.” It extends obviously into policing, and I would recommend to all a little known documentary entitled “Walking While Black,” released in 2017. I would add my two cents on the situation our returning citizens are locked into by society even when they are released. Prison records following you like a ghost, loss of voting rights, and other stigma act as ongoing imprisonment. If our jurisprudential philosophy is that, once you have served your time, you have “paid your debt to society,” then why does society keep extracting payment from you after your release? Once someone has served their time and been released, that should be that. Of course, there is a valid discussion to be had about serial sexual predators and violent recidivists, but the starting point should be that release is true release and your record is not an albatross forever hung around your neck.

Best regards and remember to wear your mask in public,


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