You Lied! I Want My Power Back!
You promised us that you would protect us. You promised you would put us first. You LIED!
People are going to yell at you about the atrocities of this world, and yes they are completely right but other than natural disasters, every problem we have was man-made by you. These issues created to teach us that we have given you too much power. The ones in charge did this to us because we thought they knew better than us. They have used and abused the power we have imbued them with for personal gain, and now we are at our wits end on how to solve these problems. Someone is going to ask for a solution, but here is the issue with a solution: Those solutions are based on the lived experiences of those individuals (how the problem is perceived by the person experiencing the problem), will supersede the collective’s experience even if it’s a similar lived experience. So, getting a collective together to agree on a solution will take time, effort, and COOPERATION from all parties because everyone involved must agree on a solution and how it is put into practice. Cooperation and war have been the world’s solutions to solving problems, but cooperation has been the only solution for humans to continue to evolve. But those we have trusted with that power have become greedy and self-serving only worrying about their people and leaving the rest to die. I personally take issue with that! Humanity being lost for something that only has intrinsic value will be the downfall of man. To me a human life is more valuable!
For my friends
ATTENTION: You are receiving a story from a slave—ahem—from an inmate inside the Bad People Department of Corrections. We are adding to our multi B-B-Billion dollar purse just by letting you communicate with our property. Please remain in the “grab your ankles, bitch” position as we continue to fuck society in the ass.
Thank you for your continued ignorance—hah, whoops…
Thank you for your cooperation :)
Holy shit. Prison is nothing like County. Intake was just as violating, but this place is actually clean… ish. It smells like stale air and generic Windex rather than the lingering aroma of sewage pipes and boob sweat.
Walking through the unit, I see that there’s more than just 5 showers per 100 women, and every line has less than 10 zombies shuffling along in it. I must’ve won the lottery of prisons because County was nothing but endless wall-sliding and single-file, consuming your whole day just to eat, bathe, and call home.
The biggest mind fuck is my cell. I have a door that I can not only close, but I have keys to lock it. Even more shocking, my bunkie is apparently in the infirmary (so I’ll have privacy for once). All a far cry from the cramped pole barn at the jail where personal space is nonexistent. It’s like I just moved to a different planet. I’m hesitant to feel comfortable, but the slightly muffled noise from outside my closed cell is a bunch of sweet nothing compared to the echo chamber of hysteria I’ve lived in for the last 13 months.
I finish organizing my bunk and change into my standard-issued prison blues to try to make use of the day I have left. I lock up my cell and head towards the rec area to get in line for the mail kiosks. I’m feeling good because blue is so my color (and my husband’s favorite). He says it brings out my eyes. Oh, my heart! I can’t wait for our first visit next month! I just know he’s going to tell me how good I look in this dark indigo instead of that gross bright orange I’ve been wearing. We never had kids so he calls me his pride and joy, and I’m finally feeling like it again in this pretty color. I’ve learned to really appreciate the small things in life.
I hop in line for the kiosks so I can write a letter to my baby. I need to let him know I’ve made the transport safely. I don’t have a tablet yet, so I’ll have to type something quick on the big screen. The girl ahead of me is much younger, but she looks familiar with the place.
“Hey girl, what’s the time limit on the screens?” I ask in that high-pitched tone us females use when we want to appear harmless.
“Fifteen.” She replies over her shoulder.
Wow! We only got ten at County! Five whole extra minutes when you don’t have a tablet is a godsend. It’s a pain in the ass to type on the big screens that barely register your touch to begin with.
When my turn arrives, I see a new message from my husband… from today? Whoa! Mail actually comes on time here? It took up to 5 days to receive digital letters at the jail (even for short messages), and weeks for snail mail. I’m starting to feel like I’m in the twilight zone. Like this is all too good to be true. Let’s see what my dearest has sent me:
FROM: Ian Flores
TO: Jasmine Flores 11130013
I hope the bus ride went smoothly this morning. Must’ve been a sauna in there without AC. The high is supposed to be 99 today. Please let me know when you’ve arrived. About to jump in the car with Pop. He’s ready to go to the airport now. Your sister wants to come for the drive. Pop’s flight was delayed to 12:13. He sends his love. Stay safe.
Aww! My baby just cares for me. I don’t know what I’d do without him. My husband is the only thing that keeps me sane as a prisoner. I’m actually excited about the future for the first time in over a year because I get to have family visits here. Well, with the family I have left, that is. My sister barely talks to me anymore, and the trial was hard on Pop’s heart. My father-in-law is the only parent I’ve ever known, and I’m the daughter he’s always wanted, but he doesn’t fly down as much now with his failing health. This whole situation has been tough on everyone.
The screen is slow to load, but the timer says I have just over 13 minutes left. I have a million things to tell my husband about this new world in Bad Girl Prison:
BPDOC INMATE ACCOUNT
11130013 Jasmine Flores
TO: Approved Contact:
Thank you so much for your well wishes. I made it in one piece. The travel time you looked up for me proved useless. I’m sure it will only take you about 1 hour to drive to the BGP, but for us, it took FOUR HOURS in that oven on wheels. They insisted on taking the back roads and confusing routes to make sure us “dangers to society” couldn’t ehscayp into populated areas. It took all day just to get to my new lockup.
I miss home so much, but I’m trying to stay focused on the positives. This new facility is MUCH nicer than expected. Prison is soooo different, babe. Well, this one is, at least. They try to make it look homey in the common areas, and there’s even decorations! They’re really pretty, actually. And guess what else? I heard the jobs here pay $1 per hour! ONE WHOLE DOLLAR, BABE!!! If I’m lucky enough to snag one, I could pay for my own medical visits! Yay! And get this: WE GET TO HAVE A 3 SECOND HUG AT THE BEGINNING AND END OF VISITS HERE!!! Oh, baby! I’m getting you know what just thinking about it! Will you wear that Tom Ford I bought for your bday for me? Mmm, I can’t wait!
I miss Pop already. Let me know how his next doctor appointment goes? I hope he’s feeling better. Tell him I’m so hungry that I could eat my chanclas. LOL! It’ll make him laugh. All we had was a sack lunch of slimy bologna and stale bread for the ride over. They should be calling last chow soon. I’ll let you know when I get my tablet and commissary. The money hasn’t gone through yet, but everything seems to run faster here so I’m sure I’ll get it tomorrow. Thank you for always keeping money on my books. You’re the light leading me home.
Hope you had a lovely day!
I love you!
PS: I tried calling right when I got to the unit but it says there’s no money on the phone. Perhaps you need to reset automatic payments for this new location? I’ll try to find out how that works. Thanks, babe.
I learned that I can’t write stuff like “escape” because the system will instantly deny my mail before the COs even read it (because I’ve typed a no-no word), and they don’t give refunds either. And I definitely can’t tell my husband I’m getting wet in anticipation of touching him for the first time in a year. A chick from County taught me to use bad spelling to have some freedom of speech in our letters.
I once got reprimanded for telling my own husband that I miss making love to him through the partition at the jail (shut it down folks, we’ve got a psychopath on our hands!). All the while, I had to watch certain male officers fuck us with their eyes every damn day. And since they don’t give a shit about those of us disabilities, they had no clue I could read their lips as they fucked us with their words, too.
The worst COs would sexually harass us right to our faces (both male and female). But, they can do that because they’re allowed to break the rules (and they get paid and praised for it). However, when the rest of us make mistakes, we don’t deserve to be human anymore. Scratch that—when you’ve been caught making mistakes. Until then, you get to walk around with a golden stick up your ass, shaking your finger at everyone else.
The screen confirms that my email has been sent 09/13/2023 at 16:13 PM. My account has been charged 1 stamp and—look at that! A whole 6 minutes to spare! Not too shabby! I’ll let the chick behind me step on early…
Wait! I’ve got a new message from Ian! Screw it, I’ll make a good impression another time. I’m taking this:
FROM: Ian Flores
TO: Jasmine Flores 11130013
We just got home. I want a divorce.
What the FUCK?! No. No, no, no! I read it over and over:
A divorce?! WHY?! How is this possible?! We’ve never so much as uttered the word “breakup,” let alone “DIVORCE!” Ian and Jazz are that couple who grow old together! And what does he mean by “we” just got home?! That’s our home! My fucking home! The house I bought for us! Is he talking about him and my sister?! Is he fucking my fucking sister?!? Has he just been using me this whole time to secure a way out? Is that why my sister stopped talking to me?! Or wait—did he fly home with his father?! What does he mean?! If he’s with my sister, I’m gonna fucking kill him. Everything was fine! Oh fuck, I’m gonna throw up…
I rush to the giant rubber trash can secured to the wall next to the kiosk and quickly puke my guts out. I hear a couple women in the line laughing at me as I leap to grab my last 5 minutes, but the chick who was behind me has already taken my place.
“Hey, sorry, I had 5 minutes left. Can I go back? Please? It’s urgent.” I plead to her in a guttural, low-pitched tone.
“You snooze you loose. Well, more like ‘you puke you lose.’ Yuck. Go to the back of the line. Your breath stinks.” She doesn’t even look up from the screen as she shoos me away.
I race to the back of the line. There’s 6 people ahead of me. With 3 machines, that’s up to 30 minutes of waiting just to send a “WTF” to my husband. My husband! The love of my life! I feel like I’m about to shit my pants. My whole world is spinning. What the fuck is happening?! I shift from one foot to the other, holding my stomach as I wait.
Just as I’m about to take my turn on the next available screen, they blow an emergency count. The siren is deafening and my head is already pounding.
“No! Please! I just need one minute!” I beg the officer headed our way to wrangle us back to our cells.
“Sorry. No can do. You’ve got 3 minutes to be in your bunk. Go on, get!” He, too, shoos me away like a dog.
I speed walk in the direction of my cell, ducking under the stairs to save a few seconds, as if that will help count go faster. I’m already calculating the time it will take to tally every single woman in the prison. My stomach turns even more.
They sound the alarm again, signaling the end of a successful count. I immediately race back to the mail kiosks. A woman gets on the loud speaker to call our unit for chow, but there’s no way I can eat now. Maybe I can grab a phone when everyone is at dinner. I hope the money went through. Shit, now I’m unsure if Ian put money on my accounts at all.
I have no way of accessing what’s left of my funds without Ian. How will I buy my necessities? I don’t even have tampons yet and my period is supposed to start this week. The pads the DOC gave me in my indigent kit couldn’t absorb a ball of spit, let alone my endometriosis horrorshow. The last few e-stamps on my account are my only hope. I need to find out what the fuck is going on. I hope Ian hasn’t blocked me by now. No. He wouldn’t. He wouldn’t leave me all alone in here. Would he?
The same douchebag officer stops me just before reaching the kiosks.
“Phones and screens just went down. You’ll have to try back after dinner.” He scoffs while holding his duty belt, creating a firm barricade between me and my only link to the outside world.
“Sir, please! It’s urg—"
The CO stops me by putting his hand in front of my face.
“Go to the chow hall or back to your cell! NOW!” He commands, pointing his finger over my shoulder, waiting for me to turn around and leave.
I huff away, knowing full well he can give me a ticket for “poor attitude,” but I couldn’t care less right now.
I storm into my cell, lock the door behind me, and climb up to my bunk. I plop down onto the 3 inch mat and shove my face into the flat pillow so I can scream. My anger is boiling.
We’ve been married for eighteen fucking years. Together for twenty. It’s always been just the two of us. Ian and Jazz against the world because we are the perfect couple—minus my convictions. But my side hustle paid off our mortgage! We would’ve been homeless without it! All because my darling husband ruined our legitimate business. When we went under, I found a way to keep our heads above water. Me! I’m the one who paid off all our debt. How could he leave me like this? And without explanation? Now I’m here, paying our debt to society for the both of us! Like always! Am I really this easy to throw away? After all I’ve done?!
My thoughts spin out of control, and before I know it, the stress of today knocks me out cold.
I wake up startled by the horn, not realizing where I even am. Oh—it’s final count. I wave at the flashlight shining into my dark cell through the window to prove I am where I’m supposed to be. I see the silhouette of someone walking in front of the light. A woman unlocks my door and enters the cell. She reaches for the lamp below me and flicks it on. It’s my bunkie, back from the infirmary. She’s very young and frail looking. She waits for the second horn and closes the door, locking us in for the night.
“Hey.” She says quietly, looking up at me as I stare down at her.
“Hey.” I reply softly.
We both instantly recognize deep sadness in each other.
“I’m Sandra. You just get here?” She asks, trying to be polite despite her obvious melancholy.
“Yeah, earlier today. I’m Jasmine, but everyone calls me Jazz. How long you been here?” I ask, trying to match conversation.
“I got transferred here 3 weeks ago, but this is my second time down… and last…” Her voice dwindles.
“You come from County, too?” I ask.
“No, the Max. Way out in the woods. I just made Level 2 after seven months there. I worked hard to complete my treatment plan in time for… whatever. Now I’m here.” She looks away, hiding her pain.
I heard a couple of female guards gossiping about my bunkie when they assigned my cell. She apparently took a murder plea for stabbing her husband to death after he beat her for years. If that’s true, I say he had it comin’ and he ran his damn self into her knife. Ugh, I shouldn’t think like that. How horribly sad for her and her family. But, it must’ve been a good deal to not fight a murder case like that—any murder case. I want to find out more, but I’ve learned not to ask about people’s cases. She’ll tell me eventually if she wants me to know. I just hope she has a chance to get out someday, as young as she is.
Sandra finishes organizing her things and slowly sits down on her bunk, wincing loudly in pain.
“Hey, you okay?” I hop down from the top bunk to see if she needs help. “You were in the infirmary, right?”
“Down the road at Saint Mary’s, actually. Or ‘Hell Mary’s’ more like it.” She holds her hips in pain and lowers the elastic waistband of her bottoms to find comfort. That’s the first time I notice her big belly.
“Oh! Did you just have a baby?!” I ask in excitement, but immediately realize my mistake and apologize with my expression.
She stares up at me in despair as tears rush into her eyes, trying to muster a response.
“Yeah.” Her voice cracks.
The pain on Sandra’s face is haunting. That’s not just the “baby blues,” that’s someone who’s been through torture. Oh my God… I can see the marks on her wrists from being shackled while giving birth.
“I’m gonna get some sleep. Nice meeting you.” She whispers.
Sandra turns to her side and kicks her slides off the bed. She’s clearly in too much agony to even change into her casuals. I see her inmate number splayed across the back of her blues. Oh, no. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Her number is my wedding date: 10132005. Well, I guess October 13th used to be my anniversary. I’ve always had shit luck, Pop even says that I must’ve been born under a bad sign, but this feels like a cruel joke from God. And what happened to Sandra is just fucking cruel.
“Goodnight.” My voice trails, failing to offer her any comfort because I’m a sad sack of shit.
I climb back up to my bunk. Sandra waits for me to get settled to turn off her lamp. Her kindness makes my heart ache even more.
This is insane! I woke up this morning the same Jazz I’ve been for the last 18 years. I’d never felt special until I became Mrs. Jasmine Flores. Ian always called me his spring flower when we were newlyweds. I hate my maiden name. Am I plain old Jasmine Withers again? Oh, God… old. What will a middle-aged woman with no family and a record do on the outside? I’ll be forty-fucking-six and ten years gone when I’m released. Who’s gonna give a shit about me now? Nobody knows you when you’re down and out. Shit, I don’t even know me. The only identity I’m absolutely sure of right now is 11130013.
The shapes of the room fade to black, but my mind refuses settle. I toss over in frustration, making both bunks squeak and clank. As soon as the clatter stops, I hear Sandra start to cry.
Holy fuck. This poor girl. She just gave birth and can’t even hold her child—hell, can’t even see her child—when all mom and baby need are each other right now. Captivity breeds madness, but being forced apart from all that you know and love… that’s the real punishment.
I can already imagine ignorant ass people talking their shit about someone like Sandra. They would say she’s not a “real” mother, or that she doesn’t deserve her child. But I can feel her maternal desperation in my bones with every uncontrollable wail coming from her soul. It’s the most agonizing sound I’ve ever heard.
I begin to cry along with Sandra, trying to hide my own sorrows in her sobs. I feel pathetic for drowning in self pity when she is going through something much worse, but my pain hurts, too. It really hurts! And it’s all my fault. What have I done to my marriage? To my life? I did this! Me!
In our own way, no matter how much time we get, we are all serving (and giving) life sentences. We will always be paying for our mistakes, and no amount of pain in here can fix the pain out there. It just creates more pain for innocent people who don’t deserve to be motherless, daughterless… wifeless. I don’t know how to fix any of this, but hurting more people can’t be the answer… can it?
The sounds of Sandra’s loud, painful bellowing causes women from other cells to start shouting all over the unit.
Woman 1: “I’m trying to sleep!”
Woman 2: “Stop being a little bitch, Sandra! I had to do it, too! Shut the fuck up!”
Woman 3: “YOU shut the fuck up, Dee! Put your headphones on, you heartless bitch!”
Woman 4: “JUST SHUT UP!!!”
Woman 5: “Y’all bitches are crazy! Haha! Craaazaaay weeoo weeoo!”
The douchebag guard from earlier comes to our door and bangs on the window, scaring Sandra and I so bad that we both jump.
“Hey, Flores! How do you like it here? Hah! Welcome to the machine!” He taunts me loudly, making sure I know I’m on his shit list. I can hear the other guards laughing, joining in his schadenfreude.
Ah, yes. There it is. This is more like the punishment I deserve. Nonstop chaos. The optimism I had when I arrived was but a momentary lapse of reason. Prison isn’t this cozy, decorated home they’re trying to fool us with. It’s fucking prison: a torture chamber designed to destroy human beings… and it is succeeding.
The personal laments of 100 women continue to fill the thick, nobody gives a shit atmosphere. I cover my head to shut out the madness, but it’s just no use. There will be little sleep as this symphony of destruction plays in the BGP tonight.
This has been the worst day of my life…
And it’s just day one.
A “Those Damn Enigmas” Production
This is a work of fiction. However, it was written with real men and women at heart, because their stories matter. They, matter.
Beatnik of Banjo Playing –
While trying to drum up some theme to write about (on this cool and rainy September 24th, 2023), I came across a short noteworthy character sketch regarding... well let not me harp about mystery musician, but launch without further into the nonpareil personality.
Even though a neophyte to fame, my doppelganger Pete Seeger is the most awesome recently deceased historical figure I would like my strung out fretful dishabille skid row brothers to meet.
The reasons will be expounded within the following paragraphs in tandem with cursory synopsis of said larger than life performer, whose legend did limber along lumbering unencumbered.
His disembodied spirit viz zit meself via transmigration filling me up with illustrious je nais sais quois corporeal entity as death stole him away.
Whatsapp pair rent now? This songster visionary ultimately sold out shows even when his existence neared centenarian.
His sidereal soaring spirit sprinted within my being with succor, whence his esprit de corps imbued and transmitted within myself.
This legendary weaver of folk songs with heft characterized a Bluegrass rooted rebel rouser, who struck up pluck.
He sang out protest anthems well nigh till his last dying breath. Salient voice yielded just shy of testing legal paradigm, whereat the establishment eventually felt gifted per this musically fluent, pliant, and talent helped mine crafted ill fate, fraught with hardscrabble existence.
Born with a figurative silver banjo shaped spoon in his mouth, this musical propensity per plucking up a barnstorming melee steeped within his blood, and the microscopic genetic deoxyribonucleic acid strands like loose chords awaited to be fine-tuned.
His father, Charles Seeger, taught music for some time at the University of California, Berkeley; and his mother, Constance (de Clyver Edson) Seeger, taught violin at the Juilliard School.
Thus while in utero (I imagine and can actually call back at will), his conception noted for being daily enfiladed with suite melodies abetted a winningly woven wellspring witnessing defiance against the establishment.
Once this scion of a musical family hitch hiked the ribbon of highways that criss crossed the then much more rural United States as a young whippersnapper parlaying his agnostic, dogmatic, and genetic joie de vivre mixing melodies with protest lyrics, he never turned back to the sanctity and anonymity of being one piece of human flotsam and jetsam within the teeming big red bull let tinned apple.
As an avid fan, admirer and smallish medium at large of recently deceased American powerhouse, he became imbibed with seminal seeds, which stirred and sowed stalwart spirited musician, whose catchy masta stanzas spearheaded putting a stop against suffering foisted upon Mother Earth and sundry flora and fauna that took an unfair thrashing.
Formative unconsciousness unwittingly got usurped, which geyser like surge of sensory stimulation (re: badinage, imagistic language, and persiflage) ingested while in the womb, which external impact likened to a hard drive, ventifact smoothed common sense sotto voce voices, would coalesce to brand vaunted vicar with imprimatur of serving as prizefighter with plowshares for the less valiant citizens.
The nascent nebulous ninety plus mortal melded his melodious manhood with mine.
Thus, he ranks as mine hero and super ego, he who did sport that trademark Pete Seeger undertone resonating with justifiable ranting, raving and seething wherefore sacrosanct sensibilities sabotaged.
This natural segue way to secure apropos fastness and vibrant issues extant and pertinent to each passing decade (until the grim reaper he did not fear), the sanctity of living things reduced to shambles the machinations of consumerism.
Suppose zed just a conjecture viz zit head upon while thine folk hero, a mere negligible cluster of amorphous aggregated, yet undifferentiated cells from initial fertilization.
No doubt, once the onset of biological activation fused flagellated spermatozoa with an ova, thence begat activation sans fetal process.
Thru full term embryonic pregnancy musical vibrations soundlessly steeped the nascent accretion with industrial strength slaphappy, contagious, illustrious and raucous laughter.
Such frequent occasions when hearth and home crackled, popped, and snapped with boisterous, joyous and riotous rafter rocking regular social tete a tete, tis no surprise this cherry fun-loving offspring prospered as a seminal trailblazer for countless causes.
A progressive upbringing (in consonant with a parents who espoused spiritual philanthropy), could only vaguely hint that such a precocious baby (whose mind piqued with indelible righteous fervent advocacy), would epitomize a salutary socialistic role that spanned the better part of the twentieth century.
As thee lanky leveraged locomotive lustily ranked as an indomitable force to be reckoned with at the forefront sans de facto human rights spokesman (incorporating a one man force).
Spine tingling sensations unexpectedly recur even today every now and again, per this good n plenti individual phalanx who exemplified, indemnified, linkedin Netzero intolerance where injustice throve.
As happenstance and fate found him to be a promoter of positivity, this role he maximized with an uncanny skill that found him wielding quiet riot might like wrecking ball.
This totemic singular reverential quality won him countless honors as a nonpareil humble torch bearer for liberty, particularly taking the rubric of democratic treatment for those less adroit to speak and stand up for themselves, which positive external influences infiltrated thru the womb.
Via osmosis or vis a vis vox populi per the crowdsource of musicians a frequent mainstay at the family residence in New York City transformed into an improvisational soundstage.
As the renowned bandstand barrister re: Pete Seeger inexplicably deftly let his reputation precede (barriers that would disallow any other Tom, Dick or Harry) against whistle stops.
Every venue lent credence (like crystal clear water) to vocalize opposition against the bulwark of authority) challenged, with a bravura of willingness to suffer brickbats thrown by dingbats.
As a lean non mean mien machine, he epitomized opposition by courageously standing front and center toward arbitrary biased codas, dilatory encased fiats.
Akin to a pied piper for amity, comity, equality, generosity, integrity…he unwittingly gathered followers.
Analogous to the general (while serving in the United States Army), as a civilian he generated herculean indomitable jabs, keepers leveling mandates named our prized quintessential rebel rouser satanic totem unpardonable viz wreaking x communicated and tarnished as a traitor to the rank and file of military industrial complex and government paradigm.
The Never Ending Picket Line
What would I protest...Well, as a social worker I'd have to say I would protest and actively do protest just about every bit of fuckery the human race engages in. The whole purpose of my career is to help those who may be marginalized and lack resources. Specifically, I work with 0-3 year old's who may be born premature, have genetic conditions, neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy, kiddos at risk for or diagnosed with autism, and the one that REALLY FUCKING PISSES ME OFF, children who are born exposed to drugs and alcohol.
The agency I work for was created in California by parents in the 1960's who were told by doctors and other medical professionals that their child should be institutionalized because they had conditions like Down's Syndrome. So, basically, the idea was, "Let's warehouse your developmentally disabled kid and you can go on with your lives and pretend he/she doesn't exist." Well, this didn't jive with a small group of the parents. So when they were told by, "Medical Professionals" to put their child on mothballs in an institution somewhere, they politely declined and said, "Fuck that and fuck you." They then lobbied the state legislature and frankly, annoyed the fuck out of a lot of politicians. Finally, a guy by the name of Lanterman got tired of being pestered by those darn loving, caring parents who want to keep their children at home. So, he wrote a bill which would come to be called the Lanterment Act. Basically, the law stated that it is more humane and even more cost effective to support these families than to institutionalize their kiddos. Regional Centers were then set up whose mission was and is to help families of kiddos and adults with developmental delays. Our ultimate goal is to help the developmentally disabled individual gain as much independence as possible and we have adult consumers who work, live independently, and do everything us boring, Developmentally appropriate" schmucks can do. The services offered are free and range from the simple monitoring of a preemie's developmental milestones all the way to making sure extremely medically fragile individuals get the correct support. Of course, we also support the caregivers by funding respite care agencies (or even pay family members) for the consumer. This allows the full time caregivers to get a break and take care of their own needs.
So, how does my current career lead me to protest just about every example of human fuckery? Simple. In helping the kiddos on my caseload to get what they need, I often have to help the family deal with some form of discrimination. It's not uncommon for me to ask a question like, "So tell me why exactly you are refusing to rent to this family because there are laws against housing discrimination?" I'd like to think in situations like these I make the bad guys piss themselves. Because the one thing I know for sure is as a state agency our lawyers can beat up their lawyers.
Of course, this is just one example. Another example, is discrimination against members of the LBGTQ+ community. Many would argue that members of this community shouldn't be allowed to foster children. To that I say, "Okay, you bigoted fuck, so how many foster kids are you going to take in?" It's amazing how quickly these morality warriors shut their fucking mouths. Oh, they may find kiddos being fostered by a gay couple morally objectionable, but it isn't objectionable enough for them to become foster parents themselves. I have had quite a few foster kiddos on my caseload who are fostered by members of the LBGTQ+ community and frankly, as foster parents, THEY ROCK! In fact, LBGTQ+ foster parents often take the kiddos with the most needs and do so knowing that the newborn in their care is still kicking heroin and will likely be shrieking in withdrawal for days to come. I can honestly say that when I get a new kiddo on my caseload who has LBGTQ+ foster parents I smile because that kiddo is going to experience boundless love and understanding. I've been doing this job for a while now and not a single LBGTQ+ foster parent has ever been anything less than amazing, loving, kind and dedicated advocates for the kiddos in their care. So, I will fight for them to have the same rights as everyone else because they possess a combination of compassion, commitment and bravery that many of us vanilla straight folk will ever be able to replicate.
I could go on and on about ways we have to become social justice warriors for our families, but after a while it becomes exhausting to even think about it. If I could protest every injustice I encounter, I'd never leave the picket line. Social Work rarely stays within the scope of an individual because the individual's needs cause a ripple effect that includes those around them. So, if I have to call out a racist landlord so that the family has a place to live I will. If I have to protest the use of certain pesticides because there is evidence that adults who work around those chemicals have been found to have children with autism at a higher rate than families who aren't exposed to the pesticides, I will. In short, I love humanity, but the infinite number of ways we hurt each other and our planet cannot be delt with by a single, underfunded state agency. Help would be greatly appreciated.
The Protestant Proletariat; Or, the Strange Disappearance of Little Daniel Wilson
I protest against fools and idiots (which protestors invariably are)! So there, this prompt has forced me to joined their ranks… sigh.
But I won’t be lying in any roads blocking your path to work, or pouring out the milk onto your grocery store’s floor, or dying the water in your ancient fountain, or gluing my hands to the Mona Lisa or my feet to the U.S. Open, or living in a tent village with my college-professor-parents’ credit cards hidden in my wallet, or any other dumb shit.… the double-dyed fools and idiots. And here I am protesting along with them even as I protest them… sigh. How desperate I must be for a subject to expound upon.
I have never even seen an actual protest. I don’t think they happen down where I’m from, but then we still have police here. I did see Daniel Wilson protest white milk once in the second grade, but Ms. Layman was a tougher egg than Daniel. She drug his screaming butt out of the room by the ear, and we never saw poor Danny again. But then, the right to chocolate milk (or milk choice, as they would call it today) is a hill worth dying on when you are nine, although I have since developed a taste for white milk (proving Ms. Layman right, as always).
And that is exactly how these “protestors” should be treated today, if only the laws were as tough as Ms. Layman.
On a side note, unlike Daniel I survived the 2nd grade, all thanks to such a great teacher. I also ended up eventually marrying Ms. Layman’s daughter. The two of us live together quite happily in their family basement, where we can stay so long as I am willing to do odd jobs, and what-not. So as you can see, not protesting also has the potential to lead to a more comfortable station in life… sigh.
But I still can’t help wondering… whatever happened to Daniel Wilson, anyhow?
Self ❤️ Care
There are a lot of causes undoubtedly worthy of bringing to light: things that need taking care of by Others. I think of human trafficking, of the perils of war-torn peoples, of migrants, of so-called illegals, and those living in peripheral shadows in fear of identity and consequential inequity in treatment whether national, ethnic, racial, religious, gender or other isolating factor(s). Causes needing advocates.
Self-care might not seem to be one of these, and yet there is something in it that troubles me, as an underlying problem that reaches across various boundaries. It's a "buzz word," mostly farcical, lacking in substance, that I'm hearing floating, and it is I believe in need of someone to actually stand behind it. I notice that "leadership" have administratively adopted proactive rhetoric-- as if speaking of something addresses the problem in itself.
"We care for you, remember to self-care! your patients, guests, customers, sufferers, etc. are needing your care and services! so take care of yourself as well!" is the exclamation at the end of professional development "training," geared towards public servants, which fails to address with any intent how that should be done? The words dissipate into the wind.
In my observation it is all too common that caretakers do not know, neither instinctively nor by training, how to take care of themselves while taking care of groups or individuals who are ill, traumatized, or suffering from other impairment, grievance or loss. I call to mind burnt out group home managers, hospice workers, human and animal shelter employees, among others, even in less extreme cases, such as struggling parents or grandparents.
It is notable, but ignored, that the self-sacrificing are exactly that: self-sacrificing.
I've determined, that to help correct this imbalance, I can support the service of others in difficult decisions that feel counter to ethics. I mean personal ethics. For instance, I know from observation over years that the hard-working individual feels great shame in taking a sick day, never mind a mental health day. I'd like to advocate that individuals take every day off allotted to them with self-permission. Not with arrogance ("I earned it"); but with grace ("forbearance and maintenance"). Also, that they set boundaries; rather than expect 24/7 mental or physical operation, in whatever public service.
I realize that the guilt and self-beratement, internally, is difficult to overcome, but perhaps having support from an ordinary person on the street, even if only a single banner of solidarity, not so much Protest, might potentially provide that moment of recollection for a few, and eventually a few more, that all Selves are important and in need of respectable treatment. I mean Self-Respect.
Holding up a single sign seems a feeble effort, and perhaps I delude myself that those so burdened, with the problems of others, would see a heart as a one held up for themselves? A risk, one might counter, because those who are "pretenders" may arguably use this banner as excuse to put in less effort. But, then again, those are not the individuals I am concerned about, nor standing for-- the half-hearted it seems always know how to take care of themselves.
And Sometimes We Falter...
I had of course meant to write something myself into the challenge, but I couldn't Will it into words on screen, though naturally I thought about it. I suppose I carried my own title through to "leading" conclusion.
A momentary block.
I greatly enjoyed all twenty-five entries linked here to the challenge itself:
Thank you very much for your thoughtful work to @AnaviChopra @graceinpoetry @GentlmanBastard @Beccawaits @pretty_archaic @DianaHForst @lakelaur @Verbose @cassJW @WhiteWolfe32 @hunter_graham @thisisit @speedtype @Nor @Celeben @Plexiglassfruit @aflalo22 @TheOliveTree @kadelebg @deb1900 @ARC9 @DrSemicolon @7v7 @cjmoznette35 @Jenissa
The entry that intrigued, most, is the almost unfinished as-if write by ARC9. It opens more questions and while it seems linear in suggestion of Time, we know (in thinking) our being is neither chronological nor logical. The battle continues overtime, true, usually as if with less urgency, until the Spirit dies, but not necessarily in death itself-- was my interpretation. We reach back and forth, in past and wishful thinking, and hesitate in the moment.
The Mind over Matter battle, countered with one more element-- of Fighting Spirit.
I will continue to ponder this, and eventually write that write I was stopping.
Thank you again everyone for the wonderful reads!
Lambs and Lions
I exist in a haze. My head’s a Rolodex cranking through a thousand thoughts for how I’ll survive the next eighteen months, but I expend no effort walking the painted line because everything here is planned out for us—I just need to follow orders, lay low, and do my time. Eighteen fucking months’ worth of time. My sandals drag over polished tile. I stay glued to the faded D.O.C. taunting me between the shoulders of another man's whites while nine of us are escorted to D-Unit. If we’re fresh fish in a glass bowl, I’d hate to meet the sharks. Each of us is a little rough, probably cut from similar lives, but the tension of this place has everyone's pride tucked between our legs. It makes us walk funny. Fear and body odor become the stench that stings my nose like a cheap prison cologne. I don’t know what anyone’s in for and don’t give a fuck ’cause I’m too concerned about myself, but I’d be willing to bet most of us only got dirty to keep our loved ones clean. They're under God's watch now. Regardless, we’re unwashed men, and we’re here.
to be continued...
Fish Out of Water
Following the guard's directions out of intake, I make my way outside and towards the large, brick building across the yard. My cheeks still burn from the humiliation of my recent strip search and the impersonal and accusatory questioning I encountered. I feel judged all over again, though I'm not sure if it's because I don’t belong to a gang, or because I have no tattoos or substance abuse history to report. I guess I'm not the "typical" prisoner. I suppose that should make me feel good about myself, but instead I feel like an anomaly.
As I cross the yard, I see other men jogging, doing pull-ups and push-ups, and congregating in clearly divided racial groups. I've already been warned by prison staff to avoid certain areas of the yard, and I can't help but sneak glances in those directions. I also notice the line of men gathered by the antiquated telephones, waiting for their turn to call home. I've been told the phone rates are high, and I soon find out that everything costs more in prison.
It will later shock me that a total institution run by a supposedly democratic government should support monopolies in prison industries. After all, the same government regulates and penalizes monopolies on Wall Street. For now, I begin to worry about the financial cost of my incarceration on my family, beyond my inability to provide for their needs. Now, I'm in a system that will cause me to be a drain on their limited resources.
Finally, I enter my assigned housing unit. I carry my bag of linens (sheets, pillow cases, and blankets) to the desk to check in with the unit officer. I stand at the desk for several minutes before the clearly bored guard looks up and gives me his attention.
"Who are you?" he asks accusingly, as if I haven't been sent to his unit.
I tell him my name, and after consulting a paper on the desk he points to the right.
"Third gallery, cell 52, top bunk. Up those stairs. Don't hang out in front of other cells. No passing anything to other cells. Yard times and chow times are posted on the bulletin board over there. Be ready when your door breaks. If you miss your door you miss your chance. If you have questions, consult the bulletin board. Don't ask me any question that can be answered there. I hate answering questions I don't have to."
He glares at me as if I ought to be gone already. I have a list of questions in my mind, but his glare makes me hesitate.
"Thank you," I mumble, wanting to say more but thinking better of it.
I trudge upstairs with my linens, wondering when I'll get the rest of my clothing assignments, when I'll be able to take a shower, how soon I can order hygiene necessities, what the commissary prices are, how to even order commissary, how I make phone calls, and a host of other questions. I decide to scope out my situation before asking questions, and I figure I'll find other prisoners to answer most of my unknowns.
Careful to avoid looking in other cells as I pass, I use my peripheral vision to locate the numbers on the cell doors. I'm overwhelmed by the cacophony of prison noise permeating the housing unit and distracted by the activity of prisoners bustling about the unit. I hear a few cat calls and whistles, complete with "Fresh meat!" hollered out by a few, but I avoid looking around to see if I'm the object of their lecherous shouts.
When I finally locate my cell, I look through the window and see someone lying on the bottom bunk watching TV. I stand by the door until the guard at the end of the gallery breaks the door so I can enter it. I step tentatively into the cell as my new bunkie looks up with an indifferent glance. He looks back at his TV without a word. Oh, this will be fun, I think. Shutting the door behind me, I'm surprised by the instant muffling of prison noise.
"What's up?" I venture carefully. "I guess I'm your new bunkie. Is this my locker?" I gesture towards the clearly empty locker, knowing I just asked a stupid question but not wanting to step on toes.
My bunkie swings his feet over the edge of the bed, resigning himself to introducing the new guy to his cell.
"Yes, that's your locker. When you have stuff you want to lock up, you can buy a lock from commissary. I'm not a thief though, and I don't tolerate thieves, so don't touch my shit. I don't lock up my own shit in the cell." He glares at me like I've already been scoping out his coffee and ramen noodles.
"If you have to shit, do it when I'm not in the cell. You can do it at yard times, or chow times, or when I'm at work. When you use the sink, clean up after yourself. I'm not your mother and won't clean up after you. We clean the room every other day, including sweeping and mopping. Keep your shit organized so it doesn't draw the attention of the police."
He continues, "Is this your first time down?"
I nod in the affirmative. "Yep, first and last, I hope."
My new bunkie snuffs his nose like he knows better. "Look, I'm not going to babysit you, but don't bring any heat to the room. If you have beefs, handle them out there. This feels like a dumb question, but are you affiliated?"
I groan inwardly, feeling like I'm being interrogated all over again. "No," I reply. "I'm solo."
He looks down and shakes his head. "Me too, but I've been doing this for a while. Just stay away from gang shit, and don't get conned into anything stupid. If it feels questionable to you, don't do it. Ask me if you have questions about something. I can advise you, but you'll do whatever you decide to do. I'm not going to bail you out. If you've got money on the outside, don't tell people. Don't buy too much too soon or people will notice."
I can tell there's going to be a lot to learn about prison life, and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. I have so many questions about basic things like phone usage and commissary orders, but I don't want to bug my new bunkie.
He stands up from his bunk and moves towards the door. "Go ahead and make your bed. I'll wait for you. I don't wanna have your shit in my face. And by the way, don't hang your feet over the bunk. I don't want your feet in my face either."
There seems to be a lot to remember, dos and don'ts, but I just focus on the task at hand and start making my bed.
I quickly finish, thank him, and climb into my rack after kicking off my shoes. I had noticed my bunkie's shoes neatly arranged under his bunk, so I slide mine in neatly under the opposite side under his bunk. My new roommate climbs back into his bunk, presumably to resume watching the television show that had his attention before I diverted it.
I lay back on my pillow staring up at the ceiling, my stomach growling quietly because I'd only eaten a sack lunch on the ride to the prison. I notice the graffiti on the walls and ceiling, some barely muted by a thin layer of cheap paint. I see a lot of what I assume are gang symbols, penises, and the word "bitch" scratched in various handwriting. What a legacy to leave behind, I think. Signs of ignorance and destruction.
Our solid window, barely eight inches wide, looks out behind the housing unit. I notice there are two parallel rows of concertina wire topped fences surrounding the prison. The space between is packed with huge bundles of the razor wire, doubly ensuring there is no escape. I wonder if anyone has tried what looks like an impossible feat. For a moment, I imagine the gruesome results.
After a while, I hear a loudspeaker announce "Five minutes to count. Catch your doors." I wonder if he means us, but my bunkie doesn't move. A minute or two later, the clanging of shutting doors is punctuated by an eerie silence that follows. The overhead light turns on, even though it's still bright outside, and the loudspeaker crackles to life again. "Count time. On your bunks. Be visible to staff."
I sigh quietly, turn on my side, close my eyes and try to shut out my new reality for a few minutes. What the fuck have I gotten myself into? I think with despair. Is this really my life for the next few years? I start feeling sorry for myself, and as I think about all that I've lost and all the people I've disappointed, I feel tears begin to push their way to the corner of my eyes.
Toughen up! I tell myself. Don't show weakness! Crying is weak. You've got to survive this hell hole. I pep-talk myself silently, sucking back the tears and pushing down all the emotion that longs for escape. It's crazy, I think. I have to imprison my emotions because I'm in prison. I'll have to process my grief, my shame, my losses some other time. Right now, my job is to make it to tomorrow alive.
The emotional exhaustion catches up to me, overcoming my worry that my bunkie could murder me in my sleep. He doesn't seem like a killer, but you never know. I drift off to sleep, the raw pain of loneliness enveloping me like a blanket. I don't know how long I sleep, but I am soon awakened to the sound of the doors popping open and my bunkie calling out to me.
"It's chow time. If you're going, you better get moving. Pull the door shut behind you."
I watch him walk out the door as I scramble down from the bunk and quickly put on my shoes. I still want to shower and call home, but for now I know I better go eat or I'll be hungry all night. I slip through the door and shut it behind me, merging into the herd of men making their way towards the stairs.
Keeping my eyes down, I can feel all the other guys staring at me as I walk with the crowd. For now, I know, I'm an unknown quantity to them, but soon enough, I'll know some of them, and some of them will know me. Soon enough, I'll be one of them, watching the new guys walk through the door with their own looks of bewilderment and fear. Soon enough, I'll feel like a veteran instead of a fish.
After dinner, I finally get to shower. I don’t yet have slides so I have to bathe in my dirty socks. I’m going to have nightmares about the foot fungus growing in this place. I brush my teeth with a cheap indigent toothbrush and barely effective toothpaste before climbing back into my bunk for an early bedtime. I can't wait to purchase some necessities and settle into a routine. It’ll make me feel more human than I do right now.
Over the next couple of years, I'll need to figure out how to make a life in prison without making prison my life. When I walk out of these walls, I am never coming back. This is just the first day of my long journey home.
People who come from privilege need to find a way to understand that equality is not discrimination.
As a poor neurodivergent LGBTQIA+ AFAB Jew who has severe allergies, I know my fair share of discrimination.
If you still don't get it, I was bullied from elementary to the beginning of high school, mostly for being short and smart.
You must understand, right?
I was raised by a single mother starting around my eighth birthday when my dad moved for a job. That turned into them being separated and then divorced by the beginning of middle school for me.
The weight of knowing how much debt my ma is in is immeasurable. Her meager raises are nothing in comparison to the skyrocket of inflation
If you really don't get any of this, you're the problem I'm protesting.
Well, not you directly, but the system that has created you.
The same system that created the kids who bullied my mom when she was in school for not having name brand clothes.
The system which leaves her with so much debt even today because of the systematic barriers put in the little, likely neurodivergent, Jewish girl's way.
Shaming her for her family's financial situation, scaring her as she continues to have the same issues.
Now juggling me, a college student with all the descriptors from the beginning and the ongoing struggle to be debt free, when credit cards are no longer usable because of the amount owed.
I'm not asking the not understanding rich person to come down to my level of suffering.
I just wish it was reasonable to think my mom might not struggle economically one day.
That the barriers only passable by luck should be lowered to allow people to actually move up based on their hard work.
If hard work got you places, my mother would be rich.
We have the privilege of skin tone, so I don't mean to shape us up as having it worse than everyone else.
I know we have it better than many, many others.
I don't see those below us getting support as discrimination; I see the use of our identities as ways to put us down as such.
It must take ignorant privilege to think others being represented and helped as discrimination.
No one deserves to be discriminated against; no one knows that better than the oppressed. What makes people think those who hate oppression and discrimination the most would cause or wish for others to experience it?