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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Simple Narrative and a Simple Question

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.

Today a friend of mine and I went to a local restaurant so my young friend of 23 years could apply for a job as kitchen help. (I have known him since he was born.) Actually we went twice. First we were there at 7 AM, but that was too early. We returned at approximately 11:20 AM. We met Kunte who works there and who put in a good word for my friend. We spoke briefly with several of the staff before seeing the manager. One of the staff told us that she believed in second chances. The manager arrived and was a very gracious woman who took a keen interest in us. She gave us an approximately 9 page application bundle to fill out. She also gave us a pen. We went to a table outside and spent some 45 minutes filling out the application. All pages required information or signature. The desired information included any arrest records. My friend put down that he had been arrested in 2012 on a possession of marijuana and cocaine charge. For this offense, a felony, he served three months in jail. After filling out the application we returned to speak with the manager. Our hopes were high but were soon dashed when the manager said that they hired no one with a felony on their record. She showed empathy for our plight since her own son was in a similar situation. The manager compassionately took the application and said she would give it to someone she knew who arranged for employment for those with felony records. Normally this person worked with the homeless.

My question is a simple one. What kind of nation destines a young adult in their early 20s to a life of sub-employment because of one arrest record? What kind of nation intentionally devises customs that relegate a large number of their population to a pariah class in a demented, self-righteous caste system? Is this really what our nation of second chances wants to do? Do we really strive for fairness and equal chances at success? Do we really know how it feels to have been born a crack baby into a life of poverty and upheaval? Do we really wish to further condemn that person to a lifelong sentence of discrimination for a single infraction? When the courts decided that he was to have a three month sentence which would fulfill the requirements of justice in the case, do we really wish to add an additional life sentence of marginal or no employment? I think not! I think we are a more compassionate country than this. I think we need to reassess our commitment to the idea of second chances not only for others but likewise ourselves.

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