Thursday, June 26, 2008

Buddhism and Inmates

Normally, my newspaper has editorials that make my blood boil. Vitriolic rants against feminists, homosexuals, liberals, global warming, and everything else that isn't inherently conservative under the sun, the paper's Opinion section is more like a long winded vision of Mallard Fillmore's comic strip than anything of intelligence or relevance. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson would fit right in. It is the lowest of the low of Republican opinions, so far to the right and so poorly written as to play into the worst stereotypes. And, as my hatred of Mallard Fillmore may suggest, I am not only unabashedly liberal but also a hater of stereotypes -even those about the people I disagree vehemently with.

I scan, and sometimes find an article to get good and angry about. But today, their rant was actually... ...funny. And true. The world is apparently coming to an end, because I agree with a Republican-American editorial. Entitled "Let them eat tofu", it discusses an inmate's "right" to vegan meals. As a Buddhist, Daniel Yeboah-Sefah, formerly Henry K. Boateng (and who picks a hyphenated name if they choose their own?), requires a strict vegan diet in order to conform to the rigors of his faith. He contends that the vegetarian meals the prison provided were not sufficient, and a US District Court judge agreed. Serving only vegetarian meals was tantamount to "cruel and unusual punishment", and Mr. Yeboah-Sefah's lawyer stated that "The statute [regarding religious persecution] is designed to protect these people who are stuck in an institutionalized setting".

I quite enjoy that statement for a number of reasons, number one being that it infers that inmates are not guilty of a crime so much as picked up off the streets and forced to live in the prison system. But I would love to know how the opposing side argued the case. Since Mr. Yeboah-Sefah was a prison-converted Buddhist, and since his crime was a particularly brutal one (he violently murdered his 5-week old son when he "threw him onto the hardwood floor, and repeatedly stomped and kicked him"), had I been the attorney for the state, I may have mentioned that Mr. Yeboah-Sefah gave up the rights to a purely vegan meal -as opposed to the vegetarian option- when he violated another person's right to life. 

I would have potentially also pointed out that the statute was to prevent religious persecution, and that Mr. Yeboah-Sefah was allowed to practice his Buddhism to the fullest extent of the state's ability, that no one was preventing him from conforming to his religious beliefs. That there are weekly meditation sessions offered to Buddhist inmates, and that at a certain point in time an inmate's rights to religious freedom are tempered by his crimes against humanity. Succinctly put, inmates should not be tortured or starved or placed in inhumane conditions themselves; but they also should not be coddled. And, if I were feeling particularly whimsical, I would point out that given the nature of the crime, it was highly unlikely that Daniel Yeboah-Sefah would reach Nirvana in this particular life anyway; so potentially eating some dairy products wasn't exactly the deciding factor here. The Buddha isn't down with the killing.

The Republican-American makes note that "[i]n a just nation, the rights of crime victims would be paramount and Mr Yeboah-Sefah would be reincarnated by now". Which, after an almost entirely reasonable editorial, was particularly funny. I guess I'm just a sucker for Buddhist-reincarnation jokes. It's a quirk. I may not fully agree with what the Republican-American thinks would make up a "just" nation; but it is rulings like this that make the left look crazy-stupid. This is the sort of thing that makes people elect conservatives; this is the sort of thing that makes me want to smack my own head into the wall, because it is just so ridiculous and makes us look bad. And it is rulings like this that make the blow-hards of the Republican American seem just a little more reasonable to many people. And that, frankly, is unacceptable.


jjfs85 said...

Boy am I glad that I'm an independent. This way, I can take the reasonable values of both the republicans and the democrats AND, as an added bonus, I'm not made to look bad by such rulings as the one mentioned in this post. Yay!

petpluto said...

I'm technically an independent; but I'm definitely on the liberal side of the spectrum, even by New England's standards. Not crazed liberal by any means, but liberal nonetheless. And this type of crap is why people hate liberals.