Parenting – The Long Game

I think a lot about the conversations I have with my kids, especially my hyper-verbal daughter, and the way they set up the next conversations. I over-intellectualize, thinking deeply about the lessons I want to impart to my children, and how I might take small steps down the road even at this early age.

For example, Ellie and I sing a little song, “Don’t wear anything that’s not comfy,” as my mantra against girl-clothing designed to reveal rather than be useful.

When she replicates notions heard in pre-school: “Girls like pink, boys like blue,” I remind her that she likes blue (“Oh yeah!,” she says), that her eyes are blue, and that we alike all the colors of the rainbow.

We have a church across the street (evangelical, Latino) and she asks about the people coming and going or the (honestly, monotonous) music coming out into the street, I give her very careful answers. I want her to respect people who are church-goers, while understanding that her family doesn’t, and that all these things are ok – so long as one avoid being judgemental. And then we talk a little bit about values and where they come from.

We try to build life-long fitness habits, healthy eating, healthy sleeping, love for family, and so forth.

And I tell her that our family always, all the time, roots for the Red Sox.

In all these many ways, I’m playing the long game, trying to help my children develop the values and perspectives that I value. It doesn’t, of course, always seem to work out.

I thought about this as I read Anoosh Jorjorian’s blog on trying to talk to her kids about gender complexities.

“Is that a boy or a girl?” Silver asks, loudly, and while pointing. I
find myself fighting micro-battles. Yes, boys can have long hair, like
Abraham, and women can have short hair, like (butch) Aunty Hannah. No,
certain colors are not for girls or boys. Colors are for everybody.
(Difficult to prove when the boys around her never, ever wear pink,
except as dress-up.) Some boys like to wear dresses (like Ocho). Those
straight-leg purple knit pants? Not boy pants or girl pants. Anybody
could wear those pants. And you need to put them on right now or we’re
going to be late for school.

Some things I really like here. First, the notion of “micro-battles” as a way or articulating the little efforts to push back against the dominant cultural norms without indoctrinating. If we want our kids to be free thinkers, and I do, we can’t push too hard. Also I recognize JorJorian’s frustration with: “Difficult to prove when the boys around her never, ever wear pink,
except as dress-up.”

She works through the issues and talks about her parenting philosophy, then wrote out her first attempt at explaining non-binary gender to her daughter. She wrote:

“Well, actually, while most boys grow up to be men, and most girls
grow up to be women, some boys grow up and decide to be women, and some
girls grow up and decide to be men. And some decide they aren’t men or
women at all, but something in between, or something completely
different. And that’s OK.”

I winced a little. It wasn’t exactly right.
After all, many kids know they are trans long before adulthood. And, I
wondered, instead of saying “something,” shouldn’t I just say “trans”
and introduce them to the correct word? But then do I go into pronouns,
explain “ze” and “hir”? It was bedtime: they were tired, and so was I. I
have time, I reminded myself, I have time to try again. And again.

Silver was completely silent after I said this, and then she changed
the subject. It’s what she usually does when I say something that
confuses her, and she needs to think about it more. I feel like this is
completely uncharted territory. I am going to make mistakes. But I hope
that although the arc of parenting is long, I will bend it towards
justice.

 I appreciate Jorjorian’s vulnerability here in writing this out.

She knows, like I know, that this isn’t quite right, this isn’t quite what she wants to say, it’s not exact, it’s still using binaries, the “something” word is the wrong word. But her audience is a child and Jorjorian, like me, is playing a long game. She doesn’t have to get it all the way right tonight, she just needs to nudge the conversation along and set the groundwork for the next attempt.

Good luck!

Sexist firm claims it can’t be sexist.

Yesterday, Soraya Chemaly, one of the feminist writers I read regularly (Rule #3 – It’s about them), tweeted about a memo from a huge international law-firm to its female employees.

It’s sexist in entirely predictable ways, demanding women de-gender and de-sexualize themselves so that they can be taken seriously. I genuinely believe that the author of the memo thought it was helpful. And that’s the problem. More on that below, after some basic information.

Here’s a report from Today:

Prestigious global law firm Clifford Chance, which has 35 offices in 25 countries, is coming under fire for the five-page guide, sent to all the female employees in its two U.S. offices in New York and Washington, D.C. The tips, including “don’t giggle,” “don’t take your purse up to the podium,” and “no one heard Hillary the day she showed cleavage” was sent last week and leaked online shortly after.

Don’t giggle. Don’t take your purse. Don’t show your breasts. Above the Law, which leaked the memo, mocks the memo (their emphases):

We’ve listed some of the most ridiculous “tips for women” here, along with our commentary:

“Like” You’ve got to Lose “Um” and “Uh,” “You Know,” “OK,” and “Like.”– Um, Clifford Chance, do you think that women associates are like, uh, valley girls?
Use a relaxed, open throat, breathe from the abdomen & keep your mouth open.– Ladies, please remember to thank your firm for these excellent blow-job tips.
Think Lauren Bacall, not Marilyn Monroe.– Because the goal in Biglaw is to sound like an older woman dripping with sex, not a younger one.
Don’t giggle; Don’t squirm; Don’t tilt your head.– Don’t act like a teenager. Don’t act like a four-year-old. Don’t act like a confused dog. Got it.
Practice hard words.– Wrap your tiny female brains around this one (or consult with George W. Bush if you’re having difficulties).
Watch out for the urinal position.– We thought these were tips for women, but it’s best to avoid looking like you’re pissing on your audience.
Wear a suit, not your party outfit.– In case you’ve forgotten, there’s no such thing as work/life balance. Their suits are their party outfits.
No one heard Hillary the day she showed cleavage.– Similarly, no one heard Bill the day he waved his dick around.

All of this is pretty standard sexism. Women have to be told how to behave because they are women, and men cannot think of them as professionals if they act like women. Also hard words are, apparently, hard for women (I gave a talk yesterday. I need to practice “inundated.” It’s just so vowel-driven). Men do not have to be told how to behave, because male behavior is the default.

But here’s the point on which I fixated:

A spokeswoman from Clifford Chance dismisses the allegations that the firm is sexist, saying that the memo was actually written by a woman. “It was put together by a female partner from her personal perspective after years of public speaking,” the rep told TODAY.com.

This is a manifestation of two things:


One, the fallacy that women can’t be sexist towards women (or men sexist towards men). Anyone can be racist, sexist, or otherwise discriminatory towards people inside or outside their own groups.


Two, I think it shows the power of pernicious, internalized, sexism. One of the ways that patriarchy sustains itself is convincing women that the only way to defeat patriarchy is to become a patriarch. I can only imagine the complexities with which this partner has wrangled over her career, internalizing and replicating messages about femininity and weakness.

Professionalization is important. I teach people from 18-22 mostly and I hope I help them professionalize. But it’s not a gendered process – young people often need to learn formality, code-switching, appropriate behavior, right along with the skills and knowledges that come from education. A big law firm needs to help its young employees of all genders (not both genders) professionalize.

What they’ve done instead is make sure that women feel weakened, self-conscious, and painfully aware that they are working in a man’s world.

2011 Cult of Compliance – Police beat man with Down Syndrome

A friend sent me this link. It’s a story I haven’t heard before, but I just want to demonstrate that here, again, is the veneration of compliance by police. This is much like the Saylor case or the Antonio Martinez case in California where police explain the violence due to non-compliance and police demonstrate their inability to work with people with Down Syndrome.

Gilberto Powell was walking down the street. He has a colostomy bag, and the police decided it might be a gun.

During that time, the patrol officers stopped Powell because they saw a “bulge in (Powell’s) waist band,” the report said. That’s when police, “decided that a pat-down should be conducted.”
While attempting to pat him down, police said Powell “pushed off the vehicle and attempted to flee.”
After police gave “multiple commands to stop moving in attempt to handcuff him,” he “fell on the ground and struck his forehead,” officers wrote in the incident report.

So the police explain their violence by saying – We gave him multiple commands. Anything that follows is a result of him not following commands.

Just to remind you of the Antonio Martinez case:

Sheriff’s spokesperson Jan Caldwell said, “It was a dark night. There was a non-compliant person that was hiding his face and hiding his hands. It’s clear in the light of day that this man had a disability, but the deputy at the time didn’t know that.”

Caldwell is saying that if someone was hiding his face and hands and did NOT have a disability, it would be fine to beat them. In the Powell case, if there was a man with a bulge who didn’t comply, it would be fine if he “fell on the ground.”

The language of the police in explaining why someone with disabilities was hurt reveals the danger we all face thanks to the cult of compliance.

Cult of Compliance: Was Andy Lopez killed for wearing headphones?

Imagine you are walking down the street listening to music. Police see something about you that they don’t like. They are behind you though and call on you to stop. You can’t hear them. What happens next?

I’ve written cases in which Deaf people experience just this – the police feel disrespected and they react. Here’s one recent example. Trust me, there are others.

I re-posted yesterday’s blog to DailyKOS, as I often do for police violence cases. In the comments, I heard that at least some witnesses reported Lopez, the 13-year-old boy shot by police last week, was wearing headphones. I cannot confirm this directly, but here’s one link

**Additional details to this tragedy.. Andy Lopez was shot in an open field where local kids go to play and do target practice with BB guns. He also had headphones on.. He was shot as he was turning around and then shot several more times as he on the ground. Police handcuffed before giving him CPR..more details to come..****.

I am working hard, in my writing, to push the abled to care about the rights of the disabled. In my  CNN piece on Ethan Saylor, I talked about the concept of being only temporarily-able bodied, a core Disability 101 concept. Unlike other kinds of identities – race, gender, sexuality – we are all nearly guaranteed a trip into disability, and perhaps back out again (pregnancy, a broken leg, a serious but curable illness). Disability waits for all of us as we age. So I concluded that essay by writing:

Disability rights are universal human rights, not abstract principles. But if it takes a personal reason to care about rights for the disabled, remember this: You might need them someday.

I was thinking about age, illness, and accident.

But now I’m thinking about headphones and ear buds, devices designed to block out the sounds of the world, rendering us unable to respond to police commands.

There’s more to the Lopez case. Witnesses are coming forward to argue that the deputies’ story is untrue:

Rojas and Marquez say they heard the deputies yell in english “drop the gun.”
“Abrieron la puerta de cada lado y sacaron la pistola y tas, tas,” Rojas said.
She says almost immediately, both deputies then opened their doors and shots were fired.
Rojas and Marquez say deputies only yelled once before opening fire.
“Imediatamente le dispararon, no le dieron oportunidad de nada,” Marquez said.
She says they fired immediately and didn’t give him a chance to do anything.

A spokesperson says:

But the description of events these women give is different than what investigators have described.
“Both deputies exited their vehicles, but maintained cover behind their opened doors. One of the deputies shouted at the subject to put the gun down,” Santa Rosa Police Department spokesperson Paul Henry said.

Of course I’m suspicious that once the deputies found out they had killed a boy with a plastic rifle they changed their story, but either way, the boy clearly had very little time to react. Maybe he was wearing headphones. Listening to music. Lost in a daydream. And then shot, cuffed, and dead.

How fast could you react? Sure, you might not get shot, but you might get tased, beaten, or pepper sprayed.

This is the cult of compliance. Police speak. You comply immediately or you are punished. And then you are blamed for not complying.

Sunday Roundup

I began today’s writing with a new post on the Cult of Compliance, but I don’t want to skip the round-up, as there were some pieces I like here.

But go read today’s post on the Cult of Compliance if you would and weigh in on my definition. Thanks!

Cult of Compliance: Boy with Toy Gun Murdered by Police

Last week, a 13-year-old boy named Andy was walking home carrying a toy rifle. Police seem to have mistaken him for a grown man, called for him to drop the gun. As he turned towards the squad car (I think, based on reports), police fired on him. They hit him with seven bullets, according to initial reports. Then they handcuffed him. Then they started to perform first aid. He died.

I argue that this is a case of the cult of compliance. Here’s the link to my original post coining that term, but let me define it here. Can you help me improve it?

The cult of compliance – I argue that compliance has been elevated beyond other American values, such as our Fourth Amendment rights to due process. Authority figures from military leaders to beat cops and security guards, media covering authority figures and state violence, and even wide swathes of the American people believe that violence is the appropriate punishment for non-compliance.

The cult of compliance manifests most commonly in police-civilian interactions, but I argue that it has spread beyond those limited confines, such as in schools, in gender relations, in families, and anywhere else where one person believes they have formal authority over another.

We mostly observe the cult of compliance when something horrific happens, often involving a child or person with disabilities being treated as “non-compliant,” and tragedy ensuing. For every one of these cases that attracts media attention, there must be hundreds, perhaps thousands, that no one notices. The cult of compliance has become normal. And that’s why I write about it.

Last week’s killing is a good example, because it’s a little complicated.

Here’s Fox News‘ coverage: “Police investigating the shooting death of a 13-year-old boy carrying a replica assault rifle said the boy was told twice by sheriff’s deputies to drop the fake weapon and at one point, turned with the barrel of the gun and pointed it in their direction.”

So FOX acknowledges that this was a bad result, but the boy shouldn’t have pointed the fake gun at the cops, and the boy should have followed orders. If he had just complied, he’d have lived.

Meanwhile, TIME focuses on the fake gun.

The shooting is the latest in a long line of incidents of police shooting — and sometimes killing — people whom they have mistakenly thought to be armed with a real firearm. Last year, police fatally shot a Texas eight-grader who was carrying a pellet gun that resembled a black Glock. The year before, Miami police shot and killed a 57-year old man who had a realistic replica gun after getting 911 calls about the ostensible weapon. “This is not the first time,” says Karen Caves, spokeswoman for a California state senator who has pushed stricter regulations on imitation firearms. “It happens every year.”

In a press conference on Wednesday, Santa Rosa police investigating the incident emphasized that Lopez’ airsoft gun did not have the required orange marker and public information officer Paul Henry says that the front portion had been removed. Unzipping two cases, an officer showed reporters a real AK 47-style rifle and the imitation that the teenager was carrying. “The firearm and airsoft rifle appeared remarkably similar, with matching black banana clips and brown stocks,” wrote the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. “Yet in the light of the [building where the conference was held] the model Lopez carried was clearly plastic with a transparent center section.”

I found more nuanced reporting from the Christian Science Monitor.

One officer, apparently perceiving that the tip of the gun was being raised in his direction as Andy turned, opened fire. Given that the entire encounter took place in the span of 10 seconds, Andy’s friends and family are raising questions about whether overly jumpy police officers acted too rashly. Police say officers could not distinguish a toy gun that shot plastic pellets from a real one at the 30-foot range, and reacted in line with training.

I suspect that they did act in line with training. And that’s the problem.

According to Sonoma County police officials investigating the shooting, the two officers – one a veteran, one a rookie – spotted a person on Tuesday afternoon wearing a hoodie and holding what appeared to be an assault rifle in his left hand. They stopped the squad car and took cover behind its doors, police said.

The officers told investigators that the person appeared to raise the barrel toward the officers as he turned around. Only after approaching the body did the officers realize the truth – that it wasn’t a threatening gunman but a boy with a toy rifle.

“The deputy’s mind-set was that he was fearful that he was going to be shot,” said Santa Rosa police Lt. Paul Henry.

We might ask why the deputy was fearful, because again, I believe it. In that context, I note the racial and clothing component. Andy Lopez seems to have been a Latino boy, dressed in a hoodie, playing with a toy gun. I cannot prove that race and clothing shaped the outcome of this event, but I’m suspicious.

There’s more, though. From The Daily Mail (which revels in U.S. violence cases). First a deputy shot Lopez, perhaps in two bursts, then approached him as he bled out.

After ordering Lopez to move away from the rifle, deputies approached the unresponsive teen as he lay on the ground and handcuffed him before administering first aid and calling for medical assistance, O’Leary said.

He’s literally dying and can’t obey, so before they help him, they handcuff him.

So here’s the question: Are we willing to ask our police to take on a little more risk in exchange for not having kids with fake guns shot. I guess I am willing to make that exchange. Bruce Schneier, a friend of mine, writes about our fear of risk as a cultural moment as his response to some of these police incidents.

We need to relearn how to recognize the trade-offs that come from risk management, especially risk from our fellow human beings. We need to relearn how to accept risk, and even embrace it, as essential to human progress and our free society.

And he’s not wrong. We do need to make the trade-off of slightly more risk to police in exchange for more safety for the rest of us. But I still feel that risk isn’t the only issue here.

It’s compliance.

The police tell you to do something, you do it instantly, or they will respond with force.

Until this changes, we’ll keep seeing these events in the news when something tragic happens. What we won’t see are the cases where the victim isn’t so sympathetic. The cult of compliance rolls on.

Inclusion – Not same-ness.

I have been going to a bluegrass jam at the Oak Park Farmer’s Market for years, when I can (which is about once a month, and often not for more than an hour). We go as a family and Nico fixates on the music, because he truly loves music and dancing, especially live music involving guitars and fiddles and the like. 
I rarely bring my guitar, because carrying a guitar while dealing with the two kids is hard, but a friend who also plays banjo is usually willing to lend me his. When Nico was little, he would sit still, snack, and listen for hours. As he’s aged, his attention span drifts and he wants to wander a little, but he always returns to the music. 
Especially when the music is outside (weather permitting), there are dozens of children, scattered around the edge, but Nico usually walks carefully into the middle of the circle and starts to dance. It’s almost never been a problem. First, if he does lose control then I’m right there, but he doesn’t. And people just accept his presence. They understand, I think, that in the middle is where he needs to be, that including Nico requires a different level of rules and management than one could do with a typical child. I could stop Nico, and do when he needs to be stopped (out of control, tired, hungry, etc.). There are lots of rules for him, but the line of “don’t stand and dance in the middle of the musicians” is not one I need to draw.
That said, if every parent made the same decision, there would be too many kids in the middle.
I have no idea how this works. But it does. 
Nico dances in the middle, both carefully and filled with joy. It works. 
It’s inclusion – not equality, not same-ness. 

Historical Analogy and the Tea Party

Recently, among the various smart journalists that I follow, there has been a lot of debate about to what one should compare the current American far-right movements. During the shutdown, journalists talked a lot about the Civil War, for example.

As a historian, I’m always interested to see how people invoke history to explain contemporary moments (a practice in which I engage as well, of course).

But I’m finding the following fairly compelling, from Adam Gopnik:

My colleague John Cassidy wrote not long ago about his difficulties, shared by the fine historian Jerrold Seigel, in finding an apt historical analogue for the Tea Party caucus as it exists today. Nothing quite like it anywhere else, he mused—and then Cassidy won this Francophile heart, at least, by citing as a possible model the Poujadists and Poujadisme, the small shopkeepers’ revolt in France in the nineteen-fifties—a movement that seemed to wither away when de Gaulle came to power, though it’s still alive today in many of the doctrines and practices of the French National Front. (Siegel, being provocative, must have enraged a few others by comparing our shutdown artists to the Islamic Jihad.)

But Gopnik doesn’t think we need to go so far afield, we don’t need to dip back to the Civil War, we don’t need to compare them to anyone really … except for themselves.

As it happens, I’ve been doing some reading about John Kennedy, and what I find startling, and even surprising, is how absolutely consistent and unchanged the ideology of the extreme American right has been over the past fifty years, from father to son and now, presumably, on to son from father again. The real analogue to today’s unhinged right wing in America is yesterday’s unhinged right wing in America.This really is your grandfather’s right. [my bold].

Gopnik then lays out a good case for consistency, finishing with:

So we don’t have to look any further than our own past to find exact cognates for today’s movement to the right. The fever won’t break, because it’s always this high. The best hope one can hope for is that, somehow, the adjustments to reality get made, even in the face of the ideology. Reality has a way of doing that to us all.

So the question is what do we do with this information? To me, I’m interested in why it SEEMS new even if it isn’t. The fault, I think, lies in us, our media, a lack of historical perspective in our news commentary, and so forth.

But most of all, I think this: There’s something radical and disturbing about a movement that does not change. The world has changed. We as a nation and as a species (in terms of our relationship to technology) are changing. Our understanding and values shift. Against such change, the rock of American right-wing radical constancy seems to me to loom as a terrible hazard.

Pat Robertson and Ableism

Pat Robertson says many inane, stupid, and/or offensive things. This is not news. I just want to point out the way that anti-disability language emerges out of a certain kind of religious discourse.

There’s an idea that links disability to sin, that thinks of it as a punishment from God. It’s an old idea, though not a consistent one in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions. I actually work with a 13th-century text telling parents to rejoice if a child is born blind. I have problems with that too, but that’s another post.

Here’s Robertson, from Right Wing Watch (video at the link)

Pat Robertson says you must be doing something wrong if you can’t “heal” your son of deafness. After all, Robertson himself has healed deafness before, he said on the 700 Club today. Responding to a question from a mother who asked why her hearing impaired son hasn’t been healed despite her prayers, Robertson said that her son may be hindered by a “spirit of deafness.”

“I have dealt with people who are deaf and you rebuke the spirit of deafness and they get healed,” Robertson said. “I don’t know what you’re doing wrong.”

“Why don’t you try that and if it doesn’t work, try something else,” he said.

The language of “curing” is especially complex in the world of disability in general, but especially in Deaf Culture. Many deaf people consider themselves wholly equal with the hearing, partaking in a unique culture, with their own language and modes of expression, and resist the notion of curing deafness. Some refer to cochlear implants as genocide. For me, I like to think about medical technology and drugs ameliorating challenges, rather than curing, alongside reasonable accomodation and inclusion. This is part of  a much broader conversation.

But at the core of Robertson’s comment is a problem with simplistic readings of monotheism, in which God acts like a human but with more powers (I’m reminded of the medieval Jewish writer Maimonides, who, in his Guide to the Perplexed, wrote that God is not simply superman). In that context, if God refuses to lift a curse of disability, it must be because you did something wrong.

Or, you know, you could just try something else.

And that’s one of the things so infuriating about Robertson. Millions of people listen to him, and he’s not even a consistent thoughtless god-as-superman theocrat. He’s just spreading random acts of bigotry and, in this case, ableism.

What if we are all just sinners?

“Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” The pope stares at me in silence. I ask
him if this is a question that I am allowed to ask…. He nods that it
is, and he tells me: “I do not know what might be the most fitting
description…. I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It
is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”

– From America – Their interview with Pope Francis.

What does it mean if we are all, equally, just sinners? If the human condition is to sin and the divine condition is to forgive?

As with many people, I’ve been following Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, very closely since he’s been elected. But I’ve been paying as much attention to the American Catholic Right and how they respond to the changes that Francis seems to be bringing to American Catholicism. So far, reaction seems to focus on his theological orthodoxy. I wrote about this when the interview went public – that the reaction on the right is to pretend that nothing has changed.

Homosexuality, for example. The Pope has not, and I think will not, declare homosexuality non-sinful, as much as I wish he would. There’s too much theological baggage here. Catholic homophobes, therefore, get to point out that sure, Francis suggests we don’t judge, but that homosexuality is still a sin.

As I read more and more, though, I’m increasingly convinced that this reading misses the main point. Instead, I think the point is that we are all sinners, so that we don’t get to judge people for their sins, we don’t get to label homosexuality as somehow more wicked, an “intrinsic evil” (I talked about this here). The condition of humanity is one of sin, so stop judging.

It’s a strange path to equality and not one I would take, but it enables Francis to make radical steps without changing theology. This isn’t a weakness of his revolution, it’s a strength.

That said, discrimination goes on. A lesbian was just fired from a Catholic School in Arkansas 45 minutes after getting married. They invoked Francis in a plea for equality, but so far, to no avail. It’s going to be a long slog.

————————————————-

Meanwhile, Francis is just beginning to put some action behind the rhetoric on poverty. I finished my CNN essay on the interview by writing:

In a recent interview
with the New Catholic Reporter, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York
talked about the new pope. He said that in the wake of Francis, he found
himself “examining my own conscience … on style, on simplicity, on
lots of things.” The cardinal wondered whether his living arrangements,
in the historical residence of the archbishops of New York, were
appropriate. But the cardinal wasn’t quite sure what to do about it,
given that he can’t sell the building.

St. Francis would have
agreed. He carefully never argued for the church to sell of its property
or divest itself of income. Of course, he was outside the church
hierarchy and relied on papal protection for his safety.

Pope Francis, on the
other hand, might have a plan for an empty archbishop’s residence if
Cardinal Dolan wanted to downsize. After all, he did recently suggest
that empty church property should be used to house refugees.

Maybe the Pope isn’t going to push Dolan on his residence, but he did recently draw a line by suspending the “Bishop of Bling,” a German Bishop spending 42 million dollars on his home renovation, including a $20,000 bathtub and marble floors. It’s a start, a small one, but a start.

—————————————————-

Update – another example of the way the Pope’s understanding of our fundamental equality stems from his position that we are all sinners. On why he is drawn to prisoners:

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis said his care, concern and prayers for those in prison flow from a recognition that he is human like they are, and it’s a mystery they fell so far and he did not.

“Thinking about this is good for me: When we have the same weakness, why did they fall and I didn’t? This is a mystery that makes me pray and draws me to prisoners,” the pope said Oct. 23 during a brief audience with about 200 Italian prison chaplains.