The problem with those who do not learn from the past is that they do not learn from the past. That tautology was brought to you by fear, an emotion that keeps people firmly rooted in the present, unable to think back to precedents or to consider the effect an action will have in the future living outside of that moment. And this whole paragraph is inspired by Adam Gopnik’s piece for the August 29, 2016 New Yorker, in which he looks back at the massacre that occurred in the Attica Correctional Facility back in 1971. Gopnik, in reviewing Heather Ann Thompson’s chronicle of the events, takes a step back to note the historian’s failure to properly contextualize (or to forgive) the actions of certain revolutionaries like The Weather Underground and the Black Panthers, but if anything, that only gives more weight to the staggering reality that the two aren’t willing to let go.
It wasn’t that conditions in the Depression-era prison were, by prison standards, uniquely horrible. It was that they were systemically horrible; procedures designed to instill a minimal humanity had been allowed to degrade in ways that made every day a trial.
That, sadly, could still be written about prisons today, especially some of the private, for-profit prisons that are incentivized to cut costs (i.e., quality)–and which are thankfully, wisely being phased out by our government. But worst is the way in which the riot ended: Continue reading