Friday, July 3, 2015

William Myrl, Letters to No One (13)

Dear No One,
Let me tell you about Wicca. I joined the group well over a year ago as a means of qualifying for common fare trays. At the time they were a healthy and palatable alternative to regular meals. As I mentioned in an earlier letter; that is no longer the case. 
There are a number of available religious services; two types of Christian, three kinds of Muslim, and a few fringe items like Wicca and Asatru. My first day in the service they happened to ask why I had joined, and I said it was the service "least detestable to me" among those that were offered. I told them that I had gone through a big mysticism phase when I was a teenager and that though magic itself was not real, prayer and meditation had many perfectly empirical cognitive uses. There was some slight disagreement as to the whole, "magic isn't real" thing, but we moved on. Since then, I have stated more than once that I was an atheist, and yet they seem to have forgotten. It isn't a large group, the number fluctuates from 8 to 18, usually on the lower end of the range. If you aren't familiar with Wicca practices, it is a hodgepodge of source-less mysticism and salvaged religiosity invented in the 50s and 60s. As a Wiccan, you can believe whatever you want, and practice those beliefs in any manner that you choose, as long as "ye harm none", and you praise the goddess now and again.
We have rituals for the solstices and the equinoxes. The summer solstice passed last week, and we celebrated it when we met for group on Tuesday. We have a pentagram on a piece of paper, and elemental symbols (the Greek ones, not the real ones) on handkerchiefs. We all stand around the table and read off our parts. I invoked the god, which is different than evoking, apparently. The chaplain found us eight ounces of grape juice to fulfill the "cakes and ale" portion of our "rite". It was delicious.
I am distracted from this topic by the news. CNN is yapping about those two escaped prisoners again. The dialogue surrounding them, the blatant fearmongering, bothers me. They always emphasize how vicious these men are, how sociopathic and devious and deadly. Bitch, please. I know these people. I spent two years at a maximum security prison. Not the same prison, not the same prisoners, but I have known murderers, rapists, drug dealers, sex offenders, and bank robbers. That was practically a list of my cellies. I am the bank robber. I've eaten with them, played D&D with them, and worked out on the yard with them. Is everyone here nice and friendly? No, but they aren't all madmen either. Most crimes are highly contextual, and a person who commits a heinous act in one environment may be a model citizen in another. Murderers are the prime example of this. Most killers go practically their whole lives without killing anyone. In my experience it is petty criminals who are the hardest to live with, who lie and thieve and go home next year. I've known a lot of bad people, a lot of people I wouldn’t like to meet in the real world, but I would never talk about them the way Wolf Blitzer does. He was having an interview minutes ago where he kept asking questions like "Why are these prisons run like summer camps" and "How can murderers have civil rights?"
Hey Wolf Blitzer, fuck you.
Yes, I realize that you are asking what you feel to be "the people's" questions. But as a newscaster your job is to edify, not to put words in the "people's" mouths. So I would enjoy it if you acted like a newscaster and instead of a ratings finger puppet.
And the money, the manpower being spent on finding these two escaped criminals, it is horrendous. How many lives could be saved by these millions of dollars? Certainly more than are at risk from these two men. These guys have done terrible things, and they were put away for what was supposed to be forever. There was to be no redemption for them. There was to be no rehabilitation. They were thrown away and Wolf Blitzer is on television begrudging them their pod rec and ramen noodles. Prison is not a summer camp. The things I tell you about are generally pretty mundane, and no, we aren't being constantly berated or abused. Some expect these places to be some version of puritanical hell, and it’s not. But you aren’t allowed to step on the grass, and if you try to leave you get shot. It's as if he expects us to be locked in boxes and hosed off once a week for the sensitivity of the guards. Yes, we get to go outside and lift weights. Yes, there is a library and television and basketball. Yes, there is a microwave. But being allowed to walk around in a cage does not mean it isn't one. I am tired of hearing Wolf Blitzer wonder why we have so much freedom.
I need permission to poop. The reason I need permission is because a CO has to open and close my door, I can't open and close the door to my cell. I have to wave at the booth officer so he can flip a switch and I can reenter my cell. Sometimes, this is easy. At others, it requires several minutes of waving and calling, ten or more at the extreme. Then they can close it, as long as they don't wander off before you get in and the waving calling business starts over. Then you kick your celly out, then you can poop. The next bathroom break you take, stand in front of your bathroom door and wave at no one for three minutes before going in. If it feels silly to you, it feels silly to me. During lockdown, we throw a sheet up as a privacy curtain and go to town.
I promised to never talk about my bowels. I’m sorry.

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