Thursday, November 19, 2009

Here I am.

Good day to all,

I would like to first thank everyone for their patience. I do understand that this is an especially unique way of communicating, and sometimes (because of my own situation) I'm not able to respond or post when I would like to. I would also like to point out that this way of communicating, (on such a mass level) is very new to me. When I was an outsider, (out there), they had not yet invented the Internet. (Or so Al Gore claims). No Internet, no laptops, i-pods or cell phones. So the only way I ever learned to communicate was either via phone or face to face. I rarely ever wrote a letter when I was out there. In fact, I don't ever recall writing one. So, as you can imagine, this new age of communication is at the very least like a brand new shiny toy on Christmas morning! Or in adult terms, a God Send, to me.

I really appreciate each and everyone of the responses i get each time. And these last one's are no less fantastic than the first ones. Here goes.

LAURA-- Thank you for your concern about my health situation. I wish I could tell you it has improved. I've seen a doctor twice, but as yet have not been physically examined. Each time I'm told that x-rays are scheduled, and I'll be seen soon....and the waiting list is looooong, etc.. Hopefully I will see someone and get some answers real soon. When this happens (good or bad) you will know by my own post. As far as what I like to draw, all kinds of things really. My favorites I guess are both nature scenes and certain animals. If it is possible, I'll post some of my art soon. Thank you for asking. I hope you are well Laura. Much peace, BDW

ZENGOOF-- You are correct in your comments about how the row is not where one generally expects "the truth" to come from. But i think that is pretty much the truth for any level of incarceration and especially solitary confinement. Anytime you toss a bunch of souls into a pen (from all walks of life) it is like placing them all in an arena at the same time. The strong are going to prevail, and the weak will fade away into the shadows. I guess what i mean to say here without taking up too much space is that it's really easy to walk into this place and pretend to be someone you are not. If you throw 9 blue chips on the table and one white chip, then the white one will stand out the most. So goes the same for personalities in here. It's real easy to act the part of a bad ass, because everyone expects you to, or you become a target. But it's really hard to walk in these doors as you are and retain that genuine personality and survive. But in my mind, a real survivor is a man who stands fast no matter what life throws at him. Someone who is unwilling to compromise his core beliefs and go with the flow. Then he will survive no matter what. my definition of survival may be different from yours. I feel like in many ways, I've already survived the brunt of the storm. It's so easy to put on an act when you walk into this arena. It's much harder to walk around in your own skin. But if life has taught me anything, of value, it's that you can swim in a pond full of sharks, but you don't have to be one to survive. you only need to remind yourself (constantly) that the sharks are trying to survive the only way they know how as well. As for the truth.... you really have to reach far beyond this place not only to find it, but to "be" it. The only way I know that to be even a possibility is to have people in your life that believe in you. You won't find that in here, unless you seek it within. In here, the more colorful you are, the better your chances of fitting in.

Strength and determination are not qualities you can fabricate or buy off the canteen. You either have them, or you don't. These qualities are developed and refined through the most difficult periods of our lives, through our mentors, and the people we choose as friends. I'm not any more unique than the next person. I just refuse to be another statistic when i have a choice. Much peace to you Zengoof, BDW

MAY--Thank you very much for your comments about my last post., its sad to say, but the article you mentioned (you read in AZ) is very common in prisons. Not only across America, but on a global level. i remember when I first came here. it was around this time of year, and the prison I was in had basically no windows, no heat, no AC. It was infested with rats and cockroaches, ants and the building itself was well over 100 years old. Then i eventually moved to a new facility designed for death row under the assumption that our living conditions would be better. They were not. There was still no heat in the winter and no A/C in the summer. And like many other places across the country, we battled the inhumane conditions out in the federal court system, "and lost. the only compromise was an 8" fan in the summer which merely circulates the 100 degree temps.

I do agree with you that our judicial system is not meant to encourage rehabilitation. it's designed to punish and keep on punishing. Under the Clinton admin, a bill was passed called the Death Penalty Reform Act. In that bill many of the rehab programs that were in place (Not just D. Row, but population too) were eliminated. We used to be able to finish school, go to Junior College, learn a trade, get counseling, and at least have the opportunity to prepare yourself to re enter society. Most of these opportunities are a thing of the past now. The only education there is now is how to be a better criminal. The system is not meant to rehabilitate, but to encourage recidivism. Prison is an industry as much as an institution. The more beds it fills, the more jobs it creates. It is really sad that the true reality is that no matter what you are in prisoned for, nothing in your life that you did good counts for anything. you are forever judged by what brought you to this place and in mainstream society, it's the general consensus that you are no longer worthy of rehabilitation. it's because most people are led to believe this. Unless you personally know someone who is incarcerated or someone close to you knows someone, you rarely give this subject (or a more appropriate title, "human rights issue") a second thought. When you do become enlightened you feel as you so well put it: distrust, paranoia, and resentment in a system you were/are led to believe works to better a person who has made mistakes in life. Thank you so much for your insights and concern. I hope I hear more from you. Much peace and best wishes to you, BD

DEXTERDAMA-- You pose a really good question on how do I cope on a day to day bases. It's one of the most difficult questions for me, and I've yet to be able to give a reasonably logical answer. I am usually asked this question in person and my response is always the same. "I cope because I have to" My response works for me because I don't know how to answer that question in my own words without getting too emotional when asked in person. Everyone here copes in their own way. Most just simply accept that this is all life will ever be for them, and they simply surrender to the beast and become institutionalized- inside and out. They eat, drink, sleep, breath this environment. Most shed whatever part of their humanity they brought to this place. I used to look at this as a sign of weakness, but I now know that it's the only way most people know how to survive under such extreme conditions. For me, the reason i choose to take the different route and try to hold on to who I am verses becoming an institutionalized zombie , you would have to know where I come from. (That would take a novel!) But the short answer would be that from the moment I was born the odds have been very heavily stacked against me. I've had to struggle and fight my whole life to survive... an as you can guess, this has been by far my toughest hurdle yet. Just the thought of coming this far and giving up now , after fighting so hard to survive, and knowing that I have certain people in my life now who have sacrificed so much of themselves because they believe in me. That alone is reason enough for me to find a reason to wake up each day and take on whatever challenges await me. But I also refuse to believe that for all the adversity in my life I've had to endure, that this is my reward. How can anyone in their right mind believe that this is what (whomever they chose to hold these religious beliefs with/to) their creator intended for them? Religion is something I've struggled with all my life and something I'm not very comfortable discussing openly. (It usually gets me into trouble :-) I am in my own way very spiritual and it does help me cope with the day to day world in here.
I really appreciate your curiosity /concern as to how i manage to access a sense of peace or joy in the midst of my reality. Knowing that you are not forgotten and are still loved is a ray of light. It's a constant reminder that this is NOT my reality, but a reality I'm forced to exist in for now. I hope what little I've offered here helps to answer your question DD, and I hope to hear more from you in the future.
Much peace, BD


Zengoof said...

I’m breaking this into two parts as it exceeds max limits for post length.

Part 1.

I am inspired by the obvious effort you go to, to dive deeply into the questions posed to you or to the ideas that posters splash onto the page. The glimpses of the inside you send our way serve those on both sides of the walls. You mention how much technology has bloomed since you have been away and it reminds me of the marvels that came about in my lifetime even before the computer and internet revolutions – things like answering machines, microwaves, and Doritos. The world is changing at an ever increasing rate and I am becoming aware of how soon I’ll be the dinosaur that I perceived my parents to be. I already am in some ways: I don’t text, don’t want to text, don’t see the point in texting and I certainly don’t want to watch TV on my 2” phone screen. I want a phone that is a… phone. Grumble, grumble. I guess what I’m saying is that even though it’s true that you’ve missed out on a helluva lot of changing tech, even we freeworlders are slowly getting behind the curve as a new generation effortlessly integrates all this new gadgetry. Happy thoughts! I think I’ll just respond to your responses. Hey – that makes this almost like…dialogue!

My Response To Your Response To Laura: I cannot imagine how frustrating this particular aspect of prison must be—the apathy, stupidity, incompetence regarding one’s health. Creating art depicting the natural world seems like as good a way as any to try and find peace with it.
My Response To Your Response To Zengoof: I think you are right on in your analysis of how those on the inside tend to deal (or not deal) with the situations in which they find themselves. Maintaining your personal integrity is a challenge wherever you are, but I can only imagine how incredibly difficult it must be -- where weakness is not just preyed upon, but where preying on it is accepted, even encouraged . I also imagine that if I were in that spot, I’d develop two distinct faces: one that allowed me to survive – to blend in, to be tough, to “get along,” -- while my real face, my soul, was kept hidden for the most part, to be nurtured however I could. Camouflaged.

I disagree that strength and determination are something you have or you don’t. As our experiences shape us we encounter opportunities to grow in many ways, and finding strength we did not know we possessed, or discovering ways to persevere can make whatever strength of will we came into a situation with become more solid. Maybe I’m missing you point: that those qualities aren’t something you can just order up one day from the universe – like chips from the canteen; and that I do agree with. The traits we cumulatively refer to as “character” are built through sweat and effort, through struggle, failure, triumph, dumbass decision making, reflection, blind luck etc. There is an old saying, I’m not sure how it goes, but it’s something like, “Wisdom cannot be taught, it can only be learned.”

Zengoof said...

Part 2.

My Response To Your Response To May: I was going to paraphrase another quote but then found the one I was looking for on the fabulous Internet: “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” Feodor Dostoyevsky. Clearly we have a lot – an awful lot – of work to do.

On an interesting note, many states are now looking at fundamentally altering the punishment-oriented nature of their judicial systems. There is a lot of momentum even among traditionally conservative Republican factions to alter the economics of the justice system. Prisons are bankrupting many states, not to mention a criminal justice process that is stretched so thin even the most ardent supporters of “tough justice” acknowledge it is not working. Forget about what’s right for a moment, we’re discovering that rehabilitation is cheaper! Imagine that. We may see some positive change, not because we’ve had any sort of societal awakening, but because economics demand it. Strange ol’ world.

My Response To Your Response To Dexter Dama: Sort of a continuation of your response to me: The challenge of staying sane on a day to day basis in a basically insane situation and an insane and horribly dysfunctional environment. How do you do it: any way you can. In your case, drawing on your past struggles and your finding ways to overcome in spite of them is something that strikes a chord in me – not because I’ve endured anything as challenging as you have, but because I can see that, that would give me strength to go on in the face of long odds: I’ll be damned if I’m going to let all my previous struggles, energy, triumphs and efforts of all kinds come to nothing. That’s a reaching inside for a well of strength. What I find cool is that the other thing you mention perfectly complements that – reaching outward for a source of strength -- in those who have made it clear – in word and act – that they care about you, that you are valuable. And loved. Peace brother.