Pages

Sunday, November 28, 2010

On the Proper Method of Calling Me a Dumbass

(Ed Note: This is the second version of this entry to be sent out. The reasons for this will become obvious as you read.)

Dearly Beloved,

We are gathered here today, to celebrate the life and bid farewell to our dear friend, "Letters to a Future Death Row Inmate." Yes, yes, my friends, her death was terribly premature, and unimaginably violent. In the midst of dark times such as these, troubling doubts assail us, and we often fall upon our knees and beg for God to answer us, much as poor Job did. Yet we must always remember that it is He, the great and unchanging TDCJ Overmind, which knows best.

It might have seemed ... instructive to near the varied thoughts and wisdoms set to paper by the participants to this series. I, too, was taken in by him who is the Great Deceiver. We must thank the Overmind for granting us succor from the fires of perdition, as he has so clearly done, by the confiscation of the last four "Letters". Who knows what damage might have been done to us all, had these offending heresies been allowed to see the light of day? Particularly, we must praise Him for being willing to commit intellectual property theft on a grand SCALE, because no one really wants to read a 50-page piece (written over two bloody weeks) about how the courts in this country really work. Even though the Overmind is both omnipotent and omniscient, it is a blessing that He has such faithful mail-room slaves, so that potentially damaging information never has the opportunity to infect the minds of the ignorant. Right?

Right.

Very well, enough of that. I sort of thought that I was going to be able to carry that thread a little farther down the page, but, apparently, the living ocean of sarcasm that is Thomas Whitaker does have a bottom, after all. Yes, I seem to have finally attracted enough attention with my samizdat activities that the Authorities stepped in and put an end to the project. That is the sad truth about my website: for all of the care with which I chose an ISP, firewall, and blogging platform, MB6 has always been vulnerable by attacking the material in transit. I am always just a few tosses into the trashcan from extinction. As of today, four entries have either been "lost" or officially confiscated. (Ed note: five, including the first version of this entry. And counting. Knock on wood. Seriously. I don't have any available.) I am a little surprised that the Empire allowed my little attempts at lese-majeste to go on as long as they did, as they are normally very alert to groups of us banding together behind a common banner. Not being capable of avoiding the superfluous application of superfluous rules, they are claiming that my 50-page entry violated the rule of not allowing "one offender to handle another offender's mail." You see, I signed my entry with a clever little anagram for my name that looked remarkably like that of a rather well known jurist. I thought it humorous, as that piece was devoted entirely to what a condemned man was going to experience in the courts. But -gasp- we just couldn't have that, could we? Never mind that there is no inmate on this farm with a name anything remotely like the one I used. Someone might get confused. Right?

Right.

They did not stop there, of course. This is the Texas Department of Corrections, after all. First, they froze my commissary account, preventing me from being able to purchase my hygiene items. Then, they started confiscating my MAGAZINES and my BOOKS, usually for obviously disingenuous reasons, and always without giving me a chance to sign the portion of the form asking for an appeal. They confiscated these items, ostensibly, to aid in my "rehabilitation". Aren't I here – aren’t we all here - because I cannot possibly be rehabilitated? Is this not the reason that you have seized upon to end my life? Right?

Right.

Anyways, it's all good, to use the vernacular. I have long had systems and protocols in place for most everything that they can do to me. I have been on the official "Hit List" since I began this website 3.5 years ago, and I am still kicking. In any case, I am proud of the "Letters" series. It injected some fresh air into a site gone a touch stale, and reminded me why I started this thing in the first place. And, besides, any project where I get to be labeled as a "young cracka" is aces by me. Haha, classic, that.

All things end. Perhaps it was time for this thing to have come to a conclusion, anyways. Most of the responses that I received about the "Letters" were very positive. I definitely appreciate those of you who sent letters and emails to the men who participated. I wish that you could have seen some of their faces when they actually got something at mail-call. It is not often that one has the opportunity to see a bunch of (supposedly) hardened thugs instantly converted into ear-to-ear grinning, walking-on-clouds-spazzing-out 6-year olds, finally given permission to go downstairs to see what Santa has left for them. It was really very uplifting. (On that note, if anyone is looking for a cheap present to give to someone this holiday season, consider sending one of the guys a JPAY email; you wouldn't have to give them your name, and at 44¢, it will probably the cheapest gift you have bought in years. It really would brighten someone's day beyond your ability to understand.)

That said, I did receive a few comments which were critical of the project, and I want to address two of these here. I am choosing one of these because this person's comment has merit, and the second, only by way of proving a simple point. If you were to also consider the following to be my critique of anonymous message board posting decorum, you wouldn't be too far off the mark.

Curiously (or, not, I guess), all of the negative comments dealt with a single participant in the series, and, for once, this person was not me. I have thought about this for awhile, and I have decided that I am not going to name him. Who he is matters, but I am going to take the middle ground here and leave him anonymous for the present discussion. "Redacessfull" left the first comment, and I want· to thank you personally for how you worded it. You were forceful, as you obviously felt strongly about this person, but not overly insulting. I really do appreciate that, as you would not believe some of the language I am forced to read at times. You clearly asked why I would "post anything from this scumbag?" Fair enough. Then, you pointed out that I should have known better. By way of answering your legitimate question, I will respond to that latter comment first.

I must state this clearly: I did not know what he was here for. You made a claim that he had "raped and killed children", and I was not aware of this. I think maybe you give me a little too much credit, if you award me with any degree of omniscience. Please keep in mind that I live in a 60sq ft box, day in, day out. What information I have is voluntarily presented to me. This is perhaps one area in which you have been misinformed by Hollywood. In real prisons, men do not usually offer up information about the nature of the crimes that sent them up. Perhaps you have been a bit spoiled by my candor, but I am absolutely not the norm, for reasons I discussed in my last LETTER. Beyond that, it is basically another death sentence to go around actually asking about another man's crime. This is simply not done. Word gets around; this place is like your office rumor mill, seven days into a crystal meth-fueled tweak-fest, where everyone is armed with knives. I really did not know that he was a "Chester" (a prison term for someone who molests children, as in "Chester the Molester"; stupid, I know), and if you have read much of this site, you will have picked up on the fact that I have very little sympathy for such inmates. To take advantage of an opportunity to use my word/phrase of the day, they are bêtes noires to me.

Perhaps I should have suspected. I have never had much contact with this person, and neither has anyone else in my little circle of associates. He does seem the type, I must admit. When I put out the call for submissions to the "Letters" series, the response was as cold as my blood is supposed to be. That it came off at all is a testament only to what a niggling, micro-managing, obsessive little pest I can be. Only three people actually jumped at the opportunity, and he was one of them. I had not even invited him to participate, but apparently word got around. This guy is something of an Adabei, what Viennese wits call someone who always turns up at the best parties, although no one is sure exactly who asked them. I have noticed this about him before. Anyways, I read his sample, and felt very appreciative that I was not having to hound or prod someone, for once. So, maybe my relief caused me to drop my guard.

I mentioned recently that I had found a really great set of philosophy correspondence courses from a site in ENGLAND. I took the one on Ethics ("Reason, Values, and Conduct"), because I began to feel that a better understanding of the subject would maybe help me to understand how I allowed myself to fall apart the way I did, and become such a mess and a failure. The course is guided by an incredibly brilliant Oxford-educated gentleman named Dr Geoffrey Klempner (author of “Naive Metaphysics"), and I cannot recommend this program enough. In it, Dr Klempner espouses the value of an ethics of dialogue, a sort of midway point between the positions of the solipsist and the disinterested. I really liked that his system did not fit into ·the preconceptions I had about ethics being a field straddling a spectrum with the deontologists on one end, and the utilitarians on the other. One of the central points to an ethics of dialogue is that moral discourse exists between an "I and a thou" (taken from ·a phrase associated with Martin Buber). In other words, when you and I come together to discuss whether or not I committed a moral wrong (which, I believe was your point, Redacessfull), we both have to start from a point of actually respecting the other, of allowing the possibility that our dialectic will change our views.

This seems a simple point, and it is. But it caused me to reflect that under normal conditions, when I step into the arena of dialogue, I am not there to conversate and to be changed: I am there to give you a double-barreled blast of Thomas-logic, and may the gods help you if you survive long enough to open your mouth a second time. It's not that I am never wrong, because I am. A lot. I don't know why I do this. I don't want to go all psychoanalysis on you, but I am pretty sure this flaw in me deals with an overcompensation from years of never feeling like anyone noticed me, of not knowing who I was. When one has no vision of what the world is supposed to look like, revision of principles is easy, and when you are best described as taking the form of a cloud, you get ignored. I overshot, on my way back to center, I think. It doesn't matter; the point that I am making is that, because you came to me respectfully, I was able to look at what you were saying with honest, calm eyes. There might something worth considering there, if anyone is still paying attention by this point.

I am not saying that you are right or wrong for thinking that I should not have posted this man's submission. Without hearing your full argument, it is impossible to say exactly what your logic is, and I am left only to assume. What I am saying is that you had what appeared to be a valid point, one that I may not have looked at even 6 months ago. That, too, means something in the light of laws and punishments that reserve zero space for a human being's capacity to alter their course, and our prison system's refusal to use higher education as a means to reduce rates of recidivism. An easy point to be made here is that things are not the same for you and I. I do not have the luxury of viewing this situation - and the men behind it - from a comfortable distance. This is just like most issues that I can think of: the scale tends to alter with the perspective, and vice versa.

When you consider the acts that I am responsible for, any criticisms that I could offer up about the men around me tend to summon up images of stones being tossed in glass houses. I really do try to not be a hypocrite. I fully admit that I do not understand why someone would do as this man did. Nor does it change the fact that I will now have great difficulty dealing with him. I really, really, really dislike people like him. I am now faced with choices, and with challenges. Maybe I will just end up ignoring him completely, which is what I would probably like to do. Though it is somewhat out of style these days, I am something of a socialist (and not merely one of those barstool Marxists who have no concept of the differences between the February and October revolutions). I try to see the men around me as my brothers, men who are locked into the same set of negative circumstances. I try, because I have hopes that everyone here can change. I will admit that when it comes to this guy, and others like him, he was a worm when he crawled into this cocoon, and will likely just be a bigger worm should he ever crawl his way out. I understand that you would never need to adapt such an attitude, as you will never come close to being locked into one of these cages. Maybe you are right that I should not offer one iota of sympathy or compassion to this man. Maybe he deserves none. Were I in your shoes, I would probably act exactly as you did. So, let's say that you are right in your opinion. But, maybe, I too am right in mine, and that helping this man, in being kind to him, might cause some truly incredible changes in him, me, and the world around us. Our positions determine the course of conduct that we choose to take, as our positions formed the values we used to guide that conduct. Maybe we are both right.

Because it is not really about him. Me stepping outside of my initial desire to punch this guy in the face into a position of caring for him is really more about me than anyone else. It is about growth, kindness, compassion, and all of those other Dale Carnegie principles that people seem to care about so much. It is not about avoiding hell or pleasing some sky-god. It is about me, a newer, intrinsically different "I" than I have ever experienced. Basically, if I can figure out a way to care for this guy, I really will be a different person than the one that came here. It is worth a try.

So, now I have answered your question. I've explained myself, and maybe you don't agree with me, but at least you understand the "why" behind my actions. That said, it occurs to me that I can be kind to this guy without offending the sensibilities of anyone out there in the real world. So, as of this moment, that entry is officially taken down. It may very well be one of the purposes of this site to challenge people, but there are different ways of accomplishing this, and they don’t always have to involve insulting anyone. I hope that this is sufficient to make up for any offense that I gave you.

One interesting thing to note: in your comment, you seemed to imply that I was in some way "better" than this person. You should know that you appear to have a very different valuational perspective than the courts: despite the fact that this person arrived here years before me, I am already far beyond him in the appellate process. I will be dead before the predictions about the Mayan calendar have a chance to be shown to have been yet another odometer for idiots, while this person will likely see 2020. I will leave it to you to determine what that means.

The second comment that I want to address was from someone calling themselves "Babaa Booey". This was markedly less civil than the first. Booey, your point may very well be inherently no less valid than the previous one, but you pretty much undermined any credibility you once might have had by foaming at the mouth like that. A few brief points: Tracey is not responsible for content on this site. I am. Calling her an "evil bitch", etc, etc, without even bothering to hear her side is silly. Aim your criticism at me, tough guy. In your little microcephalic rant, you claim that I "post this garbage for money." What, exactly, did you mean by that? If you are insinuating that I charged these men to participate in this series, you are way off base. I have always been vexed by the docility and lack of cooperation I see in the men around me, and an attempt at cohesion and common purpose were my only motivations for this project. If you were attempting to claim that posting these letters helped my bottom line, well, I sold exactly nine copies of my DR RELIGION SURVEY last month, for a total of 45 dollars. I received 28 dollars in additional donations. Yes, Mr Booey, clearly, I am rolling in stacks of cash.

Do you speak to your family in this fashion? Your co-workers? Your friends? Presumably you do not, or you would have none of them left to insult. So, you either hate me specifically so much that you lost your normal cool, or you are a gutless coward who posts offensive, atavistic drivel aimed at a woman, and then scampers off tittering, to hide behind an internet nickname. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you apparently could or would not extend to me, and assume that it is the former. That is the truth. If you want me to take you seriously in the future, perhaps you could, gee, I don't know, actually ask a question or two before you assume that you know enough to open your trap. And, for future notice, you trolls really ought to educate yourselves a little on how TCP/IP works. You are nowhere near as anonymous as you think you are. I wonder what your wife would think, if I sent her a copy of what you wrote? Food for thought. Take a lesson from Redacessfull: being polite costs you nothing, and it might actually bring about the end that you were looking for. What a world, where lectures on civil discourse come from idiots on death row.

"I'm trying to die correctly, but it's very difficult, you know."


Lawrence Durrell

Late Note, from Version 2.0--

It would seem that I am still on someone’s shit-list, as the original version of this entry was also confiscated. I removed a few paragraphs, and toned down the insults, so we will see if this makes any difference. I have my own censor! I rule. All praise to the TDCJ Overmind! It is my shepherd, I shall not want. It leadeth me to lie down in green pastures ... etc, bloody etc.

For "Redacessfull", HERE is an interesting piece that I think would be worth reading. This lady is my new hero.

For Babaa Booey, I give you POETRY where you gave me only insults.

For everyone else, what do you know, people really do CHANGE. Imagine that.



© Copyright 2010 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Poetry By Johnny Calhoun

Dream Streaked Days and Tomorrow's Melodies
by Johnny Calhoun

There are the simple words of an easy man
I am a man lost in a distant land
These words were created with gentle hands
These powerful hands are made of shifting sand

Languidly I wait for days yet to come
These are days holding things I've not yet done
There are so many things I have still to see
And there is so much love I've not yet won

All of these jumbled words that I now speak
They are composed of my wishes and wants too
In disbelief I stare as my eyes fill
With all the many things I have yet to do

With my unsteady hands I clumsily search
For beautiful hands I have not yet held
Brokenhearted I have searched high and low
For unimaginable lands I have not dwelled

I am holding tightly to these few things
These are all of my wishes, wants and worries too
I am inundated with such desire
As I feel these ambitions tearing through

These are all the things I would like to see
My son strong, tall and standing as a man
And to have my ears ringing with the squeak
Beneath my tired aching feet of cool fine sand

Now I will leave you to lay in these dreams
Of daybreaks yet to come and deeds undone
These dreams they are like heartstrings that sing for

Looks unseen and hearts that're no longer one


Jail Bird
By Johnny Calhoun

I remember wringing my hands
While saying that I was through
I felt these impotent actions
Were the only things left to do

I remember my nervous hands
And how they did shake and tremble
And how falsely my buoyant heart
Felt utterly spry and nimble

My weary legs were still working
As the moment carried me away
If only I could've used my arms
And somehow found the strength to stay

Billowing down has no control
As it tumbles in the soft breeze
I also have been blown off course
With such an astonishing ease

Life, it is the savage trade wind
Which I'm irrevocably caught
A wind in which I have struggled
To and from seemingly for nought

I do not stand on solid ground
But I am caught in a current
My existence has been washed away
As I am caught in this torrent

I feel that I have been set aside
As I am lost in empty space
And now I'm securely locked away
Here in this sad forgotten place

My memory's so worm-eaten
By all the gazes I've forgotten
If only my cells bars and walls
Were as decrepit and rotten

These walls construction is solid
And impenetrable as night
I am here alone caught in my coop
And I have no wings to use for flight


The Journey
By Johnny Calhoun

I have had birds of beauty
Embraces which I help in vain
No matter the birds beauty
Their flight was feathered in pain

I have walked up a long road
And stumbled back down the hill
I ate all I was given
But my hunger would not fill

Whether we laugh in the dark
Or choose to cry in the sun
All the laughing and crying
It's only for tears and fun

When we finally reach the end
There's no privilege or pay
Awaiting us will be no rest
Or bed for our heads to lay

The whole time we were running
We had failed to realize
The trophy for which we searched
Was passing before our eyes


Johnny Calhoun Q26629
Florida State Prison
P.O. Box 800
Raiford, FL 32083
My name is Johnny Calhoun and I am presently serving time on Florida's death row.  
I am thirty-nine years old and enjoy writing poetry and short stories.  
Having been born and raised in rural Alabama, the country landscape etched in my memory sits in stark contrast to the concrete walls that now surround me on all sides.

Poetry by Stevie Lamar Fields

Just A Fool
By Stevie Lamar Fields

I came from nature
to are

through places
very dark

Some times light
shine from me

in moments
I don't see

NO more
no less

just a soul
in this body


The Cage
By Stevie Lamar Fields

People travel
pass the cage

hearing and saying
I am rage

The cage was built
for people like you

that are made
unable to see

I'm being held
while the cage illusion you

just pass and look at
what will the cage do

Illusions of authority
with the cage

are you free
pass the cage



Red Roots
 By Stevie Lamar Fields

Strange feeling
existence being

spirits can see
what’s done to thee

Ancestor spirits
Run through trees

out red roots
returning thee

Ancestor spirits
are opening eyes

humans in being
aren’t disguised



Heart in Hand
By Stevie Lamar Fields

Feather blown
its not known

heart in hand
is being shown

Feeling beats
Misunderstood

into darkness
no one should

Heart in hand
is being shown

love is free

as its known


Holding Onto Hope
By Stevie Lamar Fields

I hold onto hope because
I don't know how not to

I tried to figure things out
except each step appears new

Separation is built instead
of building up each other

It's not hard to see
we as humans are one

Until the madness stops
we won't move any further

I hold onto hope because
I don't know how not to

I hold onto hope because
I can't do this without you


Spirit
By Stevie Lamar Fields

Here
no halo is over my head

I never been free
I never been dead

After each decay
I escape this way

invisible
to human beings

Until time again
I will be

until time again
I will be

In the moments
through transference

God
I see


Stevie Lamar Fields B-79516
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin CA 94974

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Letters to a Future Death Row Inmate, Part 18

by "Beto"

Part 17 can be seen here


Dear X,

I just want to give you some advice and share my thoughts with you. I hope that you think about what I tell you. I want to ask you a question before I go on. "Do you love life?" I ask you this because in the present circumstances that you find yourself in you are going to have to fight to stay alive. And by that I mean you are going to have to stay informed with what your attorneys are doing with your case. If you should think about anything that might help your attorneys shed some light on your case/right now is the time to express those thoughts to them! And right now is also the time to bring up any questions you might have for them. I have no idea who your attorneys are, but I do hope that you have some experienced help at your side. I say this because after being here a few years I have seen many people sold out by their attorneys. Some of them simply don't care if we live or die. They just do the bare minimum on a case and file it with the courts and move on to the next person. Being that it's not their own life they are fighting for, they simply don't care what the end result is. Sad, but very true! And that is the reality of it. So, you need to stay informed with everything involving your case.

Being here in this gray and concrete world can be a roller coaster ride full of ups and downs. The desolation can be overwhelming at times. So it does get rough. I have no idea if you have family and friends to help support you emotionally and financially. Most people here have been abandoned by the family and friends they once had. Either because of the crime they were accused of and sent here for, or because of the pain and not being able to endure it.

I bring this up because if you should not have contact with any family or friends, you can always reach out to the people on the outside to try and establish a line of communication and make friends. This is actually of vital importance also because you want to try and stay busy here in one form or other. And expressing your thoughts in a letter can help maintain your optimism. Regardless of how bad the circumstances here might seem, you want to always try to stay positive! You want to try and develop a daily routine to keep your mind occupied. Writing, reading, drawing or even exercising can help you maintain a positive attitude in here.

You will find that there is people here from all walks of life. There is some goodhearted people here that will go out of their way to help you, but there is also deceptive people here that will go out of their way to harm you. Just keep your eyes and ears open and carry yourself with respect and you'll be alright. Try not to let these walls get the best of you. If you should need help with anything, don't be afraid to ask. Keep your head up and your hope alive!

Beto.


© Copyright 2010 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. All rights reserved

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Poetry by Troy Clark

I Remain
By Troy Clark

My mind is a crime, it’s been beaten, robbed
And murdered of emotions, cast into the chaos
Of Texas Death Row for a crime I’ve not done
Waiting for the executioner to come.

Feeding the death house with scarred souls
I’ve seen over 300 men go, strapped to
The gurney, needle in their arm, saying
Sorry for all the hurt and harm.

I’m on my last appeal and will soon get
An execution date, for me it’s too late
But when it’s my turn to meet Death
I’ll claim Innocence with my dying breath.

I was blamed, framed, caught up in
A deadly game…slowly going insane..
Can you feel my pain?

Yet, I Remain….
Innocent!!!

Troy J. Clark #999351
Polunsky Unit
3872 FM 350 south
Livingston
Texas 77351

My name is Troy James Clark #999351. I am on Texas Death Row for a crime that I Did Not Do. Since 1998 I have been locked in a cage, solitary confinement, ALONE!!! Imagine that….No contact with anyone for almost 20 years….for something you’ve not done….Damn! What I’m writing you about is not about guilt or innocence or that I need a hug, I could use a hug, but what I am asking today is about traveling…. I have just lost my last appeal and will get an execution date soon. I have told my lawyers to let it ride, I’m tired of life in a cage…The end. But I want to see the world in the next life. I want to be cremated and my ashes spread across every State, county, continent. I want to take one last ride down Hwy.101 on a bike of a one percenter., I want to ride the East coast, to see Times Square and the Midwest, North…Canada, Overseas, France, England, Greece, Italy, Spain, Japan, Holland and all of the Nordic lands. The islands of the world and even Mars if anyone is planning a trip out of this world… I have a friend that will send a vial of my ashes. You can keep me or spread me to the wind, even flush me down the toilet if you feel mean. I’ve lived in the sewer Texas Death Row for a long time. Yours has to be better than this one…If you are interested in allowing me to travel to your place, contact me.