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Diann Rust-Tierney

Executive Director, National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

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What will it take to move our nation and then the world to the place where we value and nurture people.

We pay a lot of lip service to the value of the individual or our investment in children as our future. But when you look at what we do there is a gap. We tolerate people and families living on the streets, we accept vast disparities in educational opportunities for children, we keep millions of people locked up and locked down in solitary confinement and we execute some.

I'm looking for concrete steps we can take to build a sense of commitment and connection that will allow us to be a healthier and more compassionate society. I have described the symptoms-- what can we do together to fix the real illness? How would you define it?

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    Jan 14 2014: I think the real illness is a lack of empathy with or compassion towards the poor. This to me seems spiritually similar to Buddha's crisis that lead him to leave the isolation of his royal palace, towards having compassion for those who are suffering, for that is everyone.

    I've been volunteering to help put together a video telling the stories of the homeless people you've asked about. I think publishing videos like these is one very good concrete step you can take towards achieving your goal. [Link to very small part of project I shot - raw, *unedited* footage, part of a larger project just getting under way telling the stories of local homeless people: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ibW3Nf6gq0]

    One of the larger issues, is the anger many people feel over the idea that some people would act as free loaders and take advantage of the system - which translates, for these people, into being personally taken advantage of. I think this is best solved at the grass roots political level. For example, local city councils may vote on how to resolve their local homeless problems, so show up and be heard. I'm not sure what can be done at the federal level as that is so gridlocked on this particular issue.

    Another very concrete step, at the Federal level but not sure how to achieve: Imagine if we created a Federal Social Reserve - works just like the federal reserve system, only the funds are used exclusively to combat poverty.

    Another larger issue is the general greediness demonstrated by the wealthy class - using the word 'greed' here in its stricter sense of desiring more of something than one needs. This gets back to what I think the real illness is - lack of empathy for those around us.

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