I once read Of Mice and Men in a book club with a few of my fellow incarcerated individuals. We were a mixed bunch with all possible demographics represented and it produced some lively discussions especially when I mentioned that I felt the book was pointing out ableism mentality while also demonstrating sexism as normal. I said this because many readers of the book empathized with the character Lenny (who was brain-damaged from a horse kick to the head as a child) while the one female character was slightly despised, despite having been murdered.

This lively debate led to one person’s comment that Lenny should have been “put down” and that there is no place in society for people like him, that he should be shot. Now it’s interesting that this book club was full of social justice and criminal reform students from a major university who, quite frankly, weren’t sure how to respond to the comment.

The reactions of everyone and the ensuing discussions were interesting and memorable for all parties involved, but what really stuck with me is how when some people are faced with differences and/or complex problems their solution is a handful of bullets, to shoot ’em. At the end of the book, I was upset with the main character, George, and felt he was the true bad guy, the true coward because he felt murder was justice and I cannot and will not agree with that statement. Murder is not justice.

Of course, this leads to thoughts of what then do we do with those individuals like Lenny, or those who commit crimes (I am intentionally avoiding the terms murderer, drug addict, burglar, rapist, sex offender because it attributes a permanent characterization, a label that allows for dehumanization.)? Yes, I agree that as a society we have some more thinking to do, we have room to grow and be creative about solutions. This is why I like Adrienne Marie Brown’s book “Emergent Strategy” because it encourages us to not try and simplify complex problems but instead look to see how nature solves and/or works with complexities. Sometimes one solution isn’t enough and sometimes we have to get involved as a community and stay engaged, even when it’s inconvenient.

What do you say?

With Love
Ruth Utnage
(For interviews or media inquiries please contact me directly!)

Ruth Utnage fka jeff 823469 C-510-2
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA. 98272

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Jeff Utnage