Jill: To see that people are basically treated like animals, and in fact many ways worse, within the prison system. And that if people treated their dogs that way they might very well might go to jail for animal cruelty. It was really eye opening to see how absolutely stripped of human rights prisoners are, even when they haven't been accused yet of a crime. You know, even when you're just being processed, you're really treated like--brutally, brutally.
And I was in a cell that was intended for one person and--well, I was transferred in the middle of the night. So, I was in two different cells over the course of almost 24 hours. Two cells. In each case, the cell was meant for one person and in each case there were three people in the cell and in some other cells there were many more.
The cell was essentially like a generous stall in a woman's bathroom. You know, about five by six feet, something like that. And about a foot and a half of it was a bench. So, there was a bench where one person could stretch out and this bench was hard metal. So there was nothing you could sit on. If you're a skinny person like me, it's really hard to sit on any of this for more than 20 minutes at a time and I wound up standing for most of that 24 hours.
You could lie on the filthy bathroom floor in front of the toilet or you could lie on the metal bench but there were three of us. So, usually one person laid down, one person sat or lay on the floor and I mostly stood up.
It was freezing cold. My suit jacket was taken away. I had a tank top and a pair of slacks on. It was absolutely freezing for 24 hours. It was like being in cold storage, being treated like raw meat. And there we were using the toilet, eating two pieces of white bread and a piece of processed cheese. That was breakfast and dinner. We were eating, toileting, sleeping and sitting, all in the same five square feet with several other people; having no place to wash our hands or anything. It was an absolute public health nightmare. It's certainly a perfect feeding ground for any sort of infectious disease and--
Rob: You're speaking professionally. You're a physician.
Jill: I'm a physician. Yeah, it was just an incredible violation of the most basic public health standards. There often wasn't even toilet paper and you had to ask for it. The other women in the cell were trying to cover themselves with toilet paper, because they were just freezing cold and there was nothing to warm up with and you didn't even have your own clothes to stay warm with. It was like being in a minor torture chamber. The kind of the thing if you were subjected to those conditions for much longer, you would begin to have very serious health problems. And may already if someone walks in with Tuberculosis or the flu for the matter or even the common cold or chicken pox or Rubella or a whole variety of infectious diseases where there's not good protection out there. It could be an extremely dangerous and risky situation.
Rob: Would you do it again?
Jill: Absolutely. Yeah, and unfortunately, as we are denied legitimate pathways for addressing these emergences: the foreclosure emergency, the unemployment, the inadequate wages, the student debt burden and the climate crises, we are only accelerating in the wrong direction right now. And it's very important, I think, that we stand up and we vote with our feet and we vote with our votes and we not bow to the disinformation campaigns and the propaganda that tells us that, "We better just be good little boys and girls," and let them call the shots and that silence is the best political strategy. You know?
This is the time to reject that politics of fear and to recognize the politics of fear that has told us to be quiet; that we've got to just vote the lesser evil. That politics of fear has brought us everything we've been afraid of: the massive bailouts for Wall Street, the expanding wars for oil, the declining wages for workers, the off shoring of our jobs. This President is negotiating the latest Free Trade Agreement which is like NAFTA on steroids. The attack on our civil liberties in which President Obama codified all the violations of George Bush and then took it further to where he not only can throw anybody in jail for whatever his pleasure is. He doesn't have to justify it or even tell anybody; needn't accuse you of a crime or try you before a jury. He has the power of indefinite detention, including the power of assassination. It's just staggering how our civil liberties our being stripped from us. We cannot afford to sit back and let this happen.
He sabotaged the international accords on climate so that there will not be an agreement until after 2020 when it is too late. The science is telling us now that it was too optimistic. It's going to be far worse. It is far worse already than the worse models predicted and that model said, "If we haven't made substantial progress before 2020," we're basically going up in flames.
It's not like the climate goes through some limited change and then it's a in a new steady state. It never gets to a steady state. It moves into temperature acceleration. That's not okay. That's not compatible with life, let alone compatible with an economy or civilization as we know it. So, the politics of fear has brought us everything we were afraid of. It is time to reject that propaganda campaign. "Bought and paid for by Wall Street and corporate America." It's time to reject the politics of fear and stand up with the politics of courage and move forward now with the solutions that will actually fix those problems; that will provide the jobs that can stabilize the climate, that can create health care and education, for that matter, as a human right that will downsize the military and right size the military, that will tax the rich and ensure that we have the resources to do it. We do have the resources. We're just running out of time. The clock is ticking. So, be afraid, be afraid of passivity, be afraid of being co-opted, be afraid of betrayed but do not be afraid of yourself and the knowledge that we are the ones we've been waiting for and we need to move this forward in a hurry.
Rob: Now, there are people there saying that the electoral system is broken, it's not worth voting. And they're actually trying to recruit people to not vote in the next election. What do you think about that?
Jill: Well, I really wonder who's picking up the tab on that because there's nothing that benefits the political establishment more than silencing the opposition and this is another way to silence the opposition. One is to get them to use their vote as a weapon against themselves by giving a mandate for more of the same, whether it's Democratic more of the same, more Republican more of the same. That whole political establishment is essentially more of the same and it's extremely dangerous to go in and give them a mandate.
And even if you're voting for them as a lesser evil strategy, they will interpret as a mandate of approval for more of the same. So that's what's dangerous. It's also dangerous to sit this one out, because they will take your non-voting as an indication that, "Oh, you don't really care and it doesn't matter and you're okay with the way things are going." You don't mean it that way but that's how they will interpret it. This is how they work. We see this happen all the time.
Yes, our elections are rigged, but you know what? So is everything else. Find an area of civil society now where the playing field is not steeply tilted. You can go out and have an eviction blockade or you can go out and have a peaceful protest against the banks or on behalf of peace, but that is a tilted playing field too.