Monday, July 27, 2015

William Myrl; Letters to No One (16)

Dear No One,
Today is my birthday. As a general rule, I am not a fan of these. I am twenty-six now, and I was nineteen when I was arrested. It means I am closer to my release date, naturally, though still not close. Stronger is the feeling that another year is gone and I will not have it back. Again, the primary hardship of imprisonment is not any individual discomfort or experience; it is being deprived of the life you would have lived were you not in prison. Imagine if prison really were a summer camp, and you stayed there for years, or forever. Actually imagine it. People bring up the summer camp thing like it’s a desirable outcome. I’ve been to summer camp. Living there would be horrible. Anywho...
I sang a little this morning. The band room is the size of a large closet with a drum set in it. Jark and I went over there with first period movement, got with the group that actually belonged, and hung up our IDs like we were a part of that group. The CO (Corrections Officer) that patted us down doesn't keep perfect track of who's in the bands, and the rec supervisor was elsewhere. I have never auditioned for anything or sung into a microphone. Before I started up “Hallelujah” (Rufus Wainwright) my calf muscles started spasming. This has not happened to me before. I was literally quaking in my boots. It passed. I did the first stanza (I think calling them verses and choruses is a bother. Stanza and refrain for me) and I wasn't bad, I think. I know I could have done better. Jark did the beginning of “Demons”. Then the singer worked with us to back him up on “Rude”, which is a fun song. We made progress, but were kicked out early on account of not supposed to have been there. The rec supervisor was in a good mood, so he didn’t give us charges. (Unauthorized area, a 200 series, and therefore not that serious.) He gave us a bit of a talking to, and we went back to our housing. So kind of like summer camp, yeah.
My celly cooked me a birthday meal. Ramen noodles and sausage and cheese, (both the kind we buy on commissary and the kind we smuggle back from our trays in the chow hall.) It also has some kind of beef in it that he bought on the "holiday pack". It’s like shopping at a gas station. He doesn't have functioning saliva glands or teeth, so he tends to waterlog what he cooks and deride any regular food as dry. This meal wasn't like that, because he made it early in the day and expected that we wouldn't eat it all at once. He kept suggesting that I put more water in it before I reheat it. If I was reheating spaghetti, would I put more water in it first? Maybe you would. I don't know.
Jark talked to the bandleader at chow, doesn't look like we'll get in because it's too close to the performance. Also he's a ditherer who can't focus on the essence of things, but only the appearance of complexity that he desireth not. I’m going to try to catch the singer on the rec yard tonight to get his take on things. I’m going to chivvy him into coaching me regardless of whether I get in their group. It’ll be fun. He’s amenable.
BTW someone told me today that I might be recommended for a good job sometime in the next couple of weeks. Hush, hush. Tell no one.
So how about that Bill Cosby? It's a horrible story, and also educational. There is something called the halo effect. It refers to the tendency we have to see people as all good or all bad. First impressions are so powerful partially because they establish a default. It requires effort or extreme information to overcome that default impression. When a person we like does something we don't like, they are viewed less harshly than they would be if we hadn't liked them in the first place. It seems like common sense, and it is, but the extrapolations can take us to unusual places. Good people are all good, and bad people are all bad. Bill Cosby is a beloved and respected moral authority, and therefore we are less likely to believe negative stories about him. Is this a bad thing? The famous are more open to false accusation than average people because they are known by more people than the average person, and they have more reasons to be targeted. Attacking a famous person can give us a taste of fame, it can win us monetary reward. It does happen, false stories and claims, so shouldn't they be given the benefit of the doubt? Well, ideally, everyone should be given the benefit of doubt, and be innocent until proven guilty. Claims, however, must still be investigated. In Cosby's case, they were not. Accusations were ignored because Cosby was Cosby, and Cosby was a priori a person who did not drug women to have sex with them. Because of his public persona, he was, in many minds, immune to such claims until the evidence was overwhelming. Now, they want to take away his medals and honors. Now, when he is spoken of, it is only in reference to the scandal. He is no different, he has not changed, but his halo is gone. His shows are being pulled from syndication. Are they no longer entertaining? It is an attempt at correction for the victims who were so long ignored. A nice sentiment that misses the point. All good and all bad is not a realistic way to judge human beings. Cosby almost certainly committed the crimes he was accused of, though he has not yet been convicted by a court of law. That does not mean he wasn't funny, or that the things he said about pound cake weren’t true. I hope his victims find some solace in the proceedings to come, though what was done to them cannot be undone. The halo effect hits both ways. Bad things are all bad, like those two guys who escaped from a New York prison, like anybody who commits a serious crime and is committed. Even after they are released they will be watched, lose many of their rights, and a black mark put on all future job applications. They may not ever be whole people again.
Yours, William Myrl (16)

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