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Outside the Lines


I’ve been a crybaby lately. Okay, not just lately. I’m an admitted sap, tears blurring my vision when I watch a poignant scene in a movie or read anything inspirational or depressing.

Cecily McMillan’s on my mind, in my heart, lumping my throat. When I read her sentencing statement at, I reached for the tissue. Grab one before you continue:

The law of love holds that we, all of human society, live one common life, our existence beats with one common pulse – that as we listen to one another, learn from one another, love one another – we draw closer to one another and towards our collective happiness. Therefore -whether in resistance or in retribution, whether personal or political, violence is not permitted. This being the law that I live by, I can say with certainty that I am innocent of the crime I have been convicted of. And as I stand before you today, I cannot confess to a crime I did not commit; I cannot do away with my dignity in hopes that you will return me my freedom.

Cecily received 90 days in jail and five years of probation. She not only was assaulted by a police officer but also by a judge who sent a message from the government that dissent and protest will not be tolerated. Cecily has been made an example in the expanded suppression of freedom by a militarized police force and the surveillance state.

Insert: There are many women, younger than Cecily, locked behind bars for absurd reasons. Our corrections system is a failure with over two million people in prison.

Someone wrote, suggesting I gather my friends for massive action, “another Occupy”. When I mentioned this to my son H, he asked if I’d heard of Active Denial System. I hadn’t. It’s a weapon, designed for crowd control. At a minimum, it warms the skin of victims but also can produce pea-sized blisters. And more:

Like all focused energy, the beam will irradiate all matter in the targeted area, including everything beyond/behind it that is not shielded, with no possible discrimination between individuals, objects or materials. Anyone incapable of leaving the target area (e.g., physically handicapped, infants, incapacitated, trapped, etc.) would continue to receive radiation until the operator turned off the beam.

I’m thinking of that bumper sticker: “If You’re Not Outraged, You’re Not Paying Attention”. Imagine if all the outraged, and the mildly outraged, and the potentially outraged unplugged from distractions and acted on that slogan. We’d have a population of skin-blistered activists, wishing they’d identified in as advocates for justice before peaceful protest was criminalized.

Reread Cecily McMillan’s words and weep. Because Raytheon and other developers of mass destruction and torture arsenals are busy, conceiving and manufacturing even greater high-tech punishments for anyone who believes that we should love one another, anyone who colors outside the lines.

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

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