George Floyd Jr., Eric Garner and Jean Valjean, the main character from Les Miserables, were all punished for committing crimes of survival, the first two with their lives at the hands of police. Floyd was killed for trying to use a single counterfeit twenty dollar bill at a convenience store, Garner was killed for selling loose cigarettes outside a store and Valjean was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his dying relative. All three lived in a society that made it impossible for everyone to live securely.
Les Miserables is a story about a victim of society set in the late 18th early 19th centuries revealing a lack of human compassion for a man committing a minor crime out of desperation. Now, in the 21st century human compassion is still lacking for the marginalized.
Lack of opportunity, hopelessness and just trying to get by are solvable societal problems through education, affordable childcare and healthcare, and livable wages for essential workers. Misdemeanor crimes should not be punishable by death on the street at the hands of police.
Crimes of survival must be met with compassion, accountability and opportunity. We can, collectively, do better!