Posts Tagged ‘Hollywood’

To Stand or Not To Stand

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

to-stand-or-not-stand_where-excuses-go-to-dieIn high school I stitched an American flag to the seat of my pants and marched onto campus. Just before 3rd period a friend said, “You’ve gotta get out of here: the whole football team’s looking for you!”

I was beaming as I headed down the hallway, but the Vice Principal caught me on my way out. He calmly escorted me to his office, then locked the door, shoved me against his desk, and threatened my life. The pain and anger in his eyes as he described guys my age who’d died in his arms in Vietnam showed me far better than any lecture that I’d bitten off more than I could chew.

That began a lifelong need to understand the American flag. All these years later I can’t say I have any real answers, but I do have a relationship with the Stars & Stripes that’s filled with regrets, worry, and growth. The last one is what I’m most proud of. 
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RELEARNING REENTRY ISSUES

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

STAR IN YOUR OWN NETFLIX SERIES_Where Excuses Go to DieLearning prisoner reentry issues means relearning prison.

If we don’t resist the manner in which we’ve been trained to recognize incarceration and the incarcerated, offenders will only continue to be recycled through the system rather than redirected.

Black has always been the New Orange_Where Excuses Go to DieAmericans need to unlearn prison and relearn life behind bars, but not because prison reform is a growing national dialogue: bandwagons produce hot exhaust already. We need to be reeducated because our understanding of the poor coping skills, pressure, and PTSD faced by those emerging from detention has been the stuff of movie jokes for as long as any of us can remember. Mutated by Hollywood and put off by unpleasantness, most Americans can’t get past convict caricatures to see key subtleties that must become part of our awareness. And I do mean ours: taxpayers, you, me, and Law-abiding Larry — not just the social workers we usually leave to resolve issues of recycling vs. redirecting.

Following my own successful parole, I never expected to become a prison commentator or a conveyor belt of questions about confinement, but I can never seem to escape the little strings in life that lead back to my experiences behind bars. Each one returns me to lessons learned “inside” that now take civilian form on a daily basis. In fact, those lessons accompany me so doggedly, I’m constantly comparing in-custody versions to civilian values and principles. Witnessing inmates upholding the same rules they utterly failed to live by “outside” was and remains fascinating. At the same time, it makes sense that a closed culture like the one behind bars would enforce a rapid and uncompromising assimilation process. (more…)

On the Concerns of Others…

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

I'm feeling happiness for someone else? This never happens!Deny this ugly age of self mania; recognize the concerns of others.

Something I dislike about myself is that I’m occasionally caught off guard by my reaction to the concerns of others. I spend so much time pretending to care that when it’s real, my whole being awakens. And it doesn’t matter if my bureaucratic, rubber-stamping brain comes along or not.

Finding myself 100% unreservedly happy for someone else’s joy, for instance, makes me need to find a chair, fast; to think and relish the awareness before it fades. Sadly, I can only remember nine or ten instances in which I recognized the strange sensation of wanting to sing out-loud because something good happened to someone else.

It works the other way too, like it did with Big Wednesday, a well-fed, fifty-something homeless guy with sun-bleached dreads. I hadn’t seen him when I pulled into the gas station, but suddenly he was at my bumper. (more…)