Free ‘Tonya’ McDowell

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I am not entirely sure how effective petitions actually are, especially in the case of determining legal decisions. However, here is a link to a petition that I just signed, urging that Tonya McDowell a homeless woman from Connecticut be cleared of charges for “stealing” school funds by sending her son to school. You can find the link to sign the petition here. I also wrote a message included in the petition, saying,

In Judaism, there is a concept of yetzer hara, the inclination of every human potential to be wicked. This inclination is the inclination of greed and selfishness. The lack of care of others around us and in our communities. We might be quick to argue that Tonya McDowell committed an act of selfishness. But I think this interpretation is incorrect. In Judaism, the education of one’s child is the most important thing a parent can do. Through education, a child can learn to think critically and to learn how to participate in community. We might consider this a broach of justice and in Jewish tradition, our courts and society must judge impartially (neither favoring the rich nor the poor) but this case clearly reveals that if we want impartiality in our court system, we must reconceptualize justice because time after time it favors the rich in our nation.  It is baffling to me that we are criminalizing a woman who is, in my opinion, doing the right thing for her child by sending her son to school, when it is precisely the corporations in our country that commit acts of yetzer hara daily. It’s clear that politicians in Washington favor the lobby of the rich over the overwhelming majority of its citizens and this is especially the concern for the impoverished in our country.

It is easy to pick out Tonya for her faults but the reality is, we are scapegoating her for a system that is broken and needs to be fixed. It is abominable that we scapegoat Tonya for doing something that, perhaps if we were in the situation, might do. I know that if I had a child, I would want them to come first and that is precisely what Tonya did. I am sure that Tonya felt it was the best she could do for her child in her circumstances. It might not be the best method, but when our system is biased against the poor, and women of color, what are we going to expect? By jailing Tonya, we are not solving a problem but already reinforcing the brokenness of our legal system. So I urge you to let Tonya free in order to address the underlying issues that allowed this “problem” to arise in the first place. For instance, let us address the fact that our failing school system might be due to the fact that our national budget spends more on our military defense than our education. Or the fact that institutional racism and sexism are pervasive in our society. These are just a few examples.

So I urge that you drop all charges in regards to Tonya McDowell’s case. I believe it is not only a just action but one of wisdom and compassion.

It is cases such as this that both piss me off and break my heart. It is also becoming abundantly clear in my own thought, that I am radicalizing. Perhaps this is what Rabbi Schwartzschild meant when he said, “God is the root of all things. He [sic] is the radical. Faith is, therefore, by definition radical.” I feel that public dialogue is no longer a real possibility but perhaps it never was to begin with? This is just one more headline making me feel this way.

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