The Defining Dignity Initiative, an Essay by Matt DeHart

Published exclusively in The Gad About Town.

This is the fourth article in a series of prison essays by Matt DeHart. The first: “You don’t act like an American,” the second: “Hospitality in Mexico,” and Matt’s third: “Shattered.” It is a personal honor for me to publish his words from prison.

Matt DeHart’s voice is one worth listening to. In “Defining Dignity,” he challenges us all to put meaning—and action—behind that commandment that is so often expressed and so little heeded: “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” which of course is found in the Book of Matthew.

The essay published below is one of the few public statements he has made. It was sent to me by his mother, Leann DeHart, with the request that it is published as written.
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#BR2016: Hackathon for the Homeless

Business Rocks 2016 hosted a global hackathon in a bid to help solve through technology the ever-growing problem of homelessness

[Two weeks ago, The Gad About Town web site participated with many others in publicizing the international tech meeting in Manchester, UK, Business Rocks 2016, with a focus on a planned hackathon to bring brilliant minds together to collaborate on solutions to homelessness. The two-day-long hackathon took place, and real solutions were created. Here is a report from the Hacktivist Culture web site.—Mark Aldrich, The Gad About Town]
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Hacking Homelessness at Business Rocks

What do you get when you combine a hundred hackers with a bunch of business billionaires? Just maybe a solution for global homelessness!

Manchester, UK, April 15, 2016:  At 9:00 a.m. on April 21, the Business Rocks conference in Manchester will welcome the 48-hour Hackathon for Homelessness, bringing together hackers from around the globe, billionaire business leaders, and international activists to collaborate on producing a technological solution for the growing problem of global homelessness.
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Brave in the Face of Evil

Bravery is a skill. I do not know if I have cultivated it in myself. Bravery is, of course, not what one does in the absence of fear but what one can do—what one actually does—when fear is present. [A comment: Today is June 6, 2016. I wrote this essay seven months ago. Sadly, the only update that can be provided is that all the parties described below are, simply, even more brave than they were several months ago.]

A young man sits today in a prison, awaiting a death sentence to be carried out, quite possibly this week. Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was arrested in 2012 when he was 16 or 17 years of age (both ages have been reported), making him a juvenile at the time of his arrest. He was arrested at a protest. His country is Saudi Arabia, and the protests in 2012 in other autocratic nations in that region had been effective in fostering No government likes protest; his government is violently allergic to it.

At trial, Ali was not given access to the “evidence” amassed against him, in no small part because there was no such evidence. A “confession” was extracted from him. He was convicted, and this is no joke, of stealing every gun and every uniform from a local police station, single-handed.

He was convicted and sentenced to death. Without informing him, an appeals court reviewed his case this summer and that court upheld his guilty verdict and death sentence. He and his family did not know about this until it was announced. He never mounted a defense. His country announced yesterday that this is an internal matter. (It is not, as his nation’s actions and threats of action contravene international agreements concerning human rights that it has signed, as well as simple decency.)

He is to be beheaded, and then his body is to be crucified and displayed to show the world, well, what official cruelty looks like. Of course, one doubts the crucifixion will be publicized, as even Saudi Arabia knows such a punishment is uncommon in the rest of the civilized world. But the display will communicate what a bloodthirsty, autocratic regime wants it to communicate … and to whom it wants it to communicate: future protesters.
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Raif Badawi & the Optimism of Dissent

Raif Badawi was not flogged today, August 14. Official reasons were not given. Hope exists this week that his case and his sentence is being reviewed once again by the Saudi Arabian judicial system.

Raif Badawi is a writer who started a blog entitled “Saudi Arabian Liberals,” was arrested in 2012 and charged with “insulting Islam” and with apostasy for his writings, was found guilty of insulting Islam, and was given the fearsome sentence of 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes. On January 9, he was whipped in public for the first time; 50 lashes were delivered. He has not been whipped in public since; he has also not been seen in public since. The international outcry has been enormous—Amnesty International has revealed that Raif Badawi’s story has received more signatures supporting his release than any other in its history. Bono has spoken about the case in U2 concerts. Saudi Arabia has been forced to break its typical silence and comment on his case. Those comments have been disheartening, but Raif Badwi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, continues her remarkable and brave fight.
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#FreeRaif, Week 5

For the fourth week in a row, Raif Badawi, a writer in Saudi Arabia, was not whipped fifty times yesterday as part of his public punishment for insulting his nation’s official religion in his blog. No one is breathing a sigh of relief that this counts as sparing him, or that he is about to be freed.

Amnesty International broke the news this morning via Twitter:

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