Sunday, June 29, 2014


I have this boxed set of questions written by Chuck Klosterman called Hypertheticals: 50 Questions for Insane Conversations. I've used them at parties before to try to spark interesting conversations, but it so rarely sparks the intense debate I hope to have. Klosterman said of these questions in Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs that these were the things he would have to know about someone before he could love them... And, I can see why. If a person can really open themselves up to mulling them over and all their possibilities, you can really get to know the way a person thinks, how they process a problem, and ultimately more about them overall. If they won't even bother to open up to the discussion at all, then what's the point, right? Right. Or something like that.

So here's our question.

You are forced to give up one of your five senses (smell, sight, taste, touch, or hearing). However, you may choose to compensate for that loss by means of synesthesia. For example, if you decide to give up your sense of sight, you can choose to smell colors instead. Or if you give up hearing, you might opt to taste music. If you give up taste, you could replace this sensation by hearing flavors. Basically, whatever sense you reject would be reflected through an alternate medium. Which of your senses would you surrender, and how would you replace it?

You have to really be careful with this. It seems obvious that you wouldn't want to give up the sense of touch. Sex, love, romance....none of that would be the same. Being a parent would be different. Those comforting hugs that you need on the shittiest of days would suddenly mean less. Kitten hugs and playing with the dogs... Even being out in the sunlight laying in the grass reading a book.... I hate to make assumptions for people, though, so I'll say that I could never give up my sense of touch.

So that leaves us with taste, sight, hearing, and smell. It gets trickier.

Personally, I could never give up hearing. The power of music is such a driving force in my life, that the very idea of deafness is akin to suicidal ideation. I have this tattoo on my leg, a quote by Woody Guthrie, that says, "There's a feeling in music and it carries you back down the road you already traveled and makes you travel it again. Sometimes when I hear music, I think back over my days and a feeling that is 50/50 joy and pain swells like clouds taking all kinds of shapes in my mind." So much of my memory is tied to songs, artists, albums, genres. And what are we without our memories, without pasts and colorful histories and stories to tell? To give up music by giving up hearing would be to give up much of what makes me, me.

So, now we're down to 3. Sight, taste, and smell.

If given the choice between sight and hearing, I always say sight because I couldn't possibly give up music. Given other choices, though, there's no way even with the synesthesia addendum. For one, as shallow as it is, the way I dress and apply my makeup is an important mode of self expression for me. Without sight, I'd be giving that up. I'd have to completely depend on someone else to express my personality for me or find another way to do so and given how introverted I am, it's doubtful I could do so with words alone. But even more than that, I love the sight of the world around me. Perhaps it's not as powerful as music in my happiness, but it's still high on the list. The beauty of a pink-orange sunset on the South Georgia horizon is humbling. It puts things into perspective at times and fills me with this radiating calm like almost nothing else can.

Smell and taste. Now it's next to impossible.

When I was pregnant with my son, my sense of smell was magnified. It happens in pregnancy at times. I was working in a pharmacy and the odors some people emitted were so strong, acrid, vulgar that I would have to run for the bathroom as quickly as I greeted them. It was terrible. But, could I give up all smells in favor of seeing them or hearing them or some other synesthetic replacement? I don't think so. That sweet, clean smell of soap on skin when you get close to someone is such a rush. The smell of Jasmine any time of day is so soothing and puppy breath makes me smile. Fresh cut grass on a hot day. The bacteria-created heavy scent of a recent rain. Honeysuckle blooming in the spring. Besides, who would want to get visual, audio, felt, or tasted sense of what a person is smelling? I mean...I have a great dane who is really a farting torture machine disguised as a dog. Smelling it is bad enough, but what sort of audio or visual would accompany such a stench? I don't even want to think about feeling or tasting it instead. *shudders* Ultimately, when it comes down to it, I just dont think I could give up the wonderful smells....baking foods, vanilla, old books...just because some horrid ones exist.

So that leaves taste and perhaps I'm the only person that would look at it this way.

I think I would give up taste as I know it now and replace it with visuals. I have a love-hate relationship with food as it is from years of self-esteem issues and an eating disorder. I don't turn to food for comfort or stress-eat, so I don't think I would lose out on much if I no longer tasted anything. It might actually make it easier to eat even healthier. But on the occasions that I had some rich caramels or a decadent cupcake, imagine the visuals--soft, creamy colors blanketing everything. Sour candies with vivid colors or fluorescent ones peppering the air. It could be pretty fucking being on LSD all the time without the side effects every time you eat, and I'm down with that.

Leave me all the feels, smells, sounds, and sights. I'll give up taste. What's your answer?

This has been part of Sunday Confessions with More than Cheese and Beer. Check out hers and all the other posts this week. I bet no one else's is about synesthesia, but I'm sure they'll be interesting nonetheless.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Visit

Livingston, TX is situated about an hour north of Houston, the 4th largest city in America. Livingston itself only boasts a population of just over 5,000 though. It can be quite a juxtaposition traveling from the slow, sleepy streets of downtown Livingston to the busy rat race of Houston...2 lane highways bordered by modest houses and fields give way to 10 lanes of traffic flanked by skyscrapers, industry, retailers, and stadiums.

Traveling through Livingston, you'd never know that just past the business district on the outskirts of town
you'll find Polunsky, a maximum security prison farm of 470 acres and 23 buildings that houses almost as many people as the town itself. This is where you'll find Texas' death row and where I visiting last week on June 16 and 17.

It wasn't my first trip nor my last, but no matter how many times I've made that 12 hour trek through Florida forests, busy metropolises, and Lousiana swamps to get just over the Eastern border of Texas, it never gets any easier to driving into those prison gates.

Driving into the prison complex takes you around a curved drive that leads straight to a small shack used for inspections with the parking lot to your left. There are rows of yellow bumpers marking spots for visitors and even more that are filled with officers' vehicles. Once you reach the shack, the officer will ask you what your business is at the prison. If you're there for a visit like I was, you'll give the inmate's number and your driver's license. The officer writes down your info including the tag number on your car. Then you'll be asked to open your glove box, pop the hood, and also pop the trunk. Each place will be inspected. At times, my bags have been looked through as well. That's a good day. On a bad day...I've had the undergarments in my bags fondled and my food choices while on the road questioned. I've been mocked and made to feel like I was scum for showing my face at those prison gates. Fortunately, this trip was nothing like those memories that have made it so I start shaking before I even get within a mile of the prison for a visit, and the officer at the front was professional and even a bit friendly...that makes all the difference in the world sometimes.

Once you pass inspection, you pull into the parking lot to the left and make sure your windows are rolled up and your doors are locked. If you forget, it's likely you'll have to leave your visit to do so and that only takes away from the time you have with whoever it is you're seeing.

There's a small building in front surrounded by fence and razor wire. You enter this building with a bright yellow tray located in front of the doors in your hand. Once inside, you place the tray on a table and put the few belongings you have into it. This includes all jewelry you're wearing and the contents of your clear bag--keys, driver's license, and the money you brought in to get the inmate a few items out of the vending machines. You have to bring in the money already rolled, but once inside you have to unroll it. You can't unroll it beforehand or you're not allowed to bring it in. You have to unroll it and throw it all into the tray (not in your bag). You remove your shoes and place them into the tray as well. The tray then goes through a scanner much like you find in airports. While your things are being scanned, you go through a metal detector. You're then given a very thorough pat-down by an officer and a metal detecting wand is also run over your body. If you're cleared, the officer looks at the bottoms of your feet then you're allowed to load all your things including all your now-loose change into your clear bag before you proceed to the next station--a window where you state who you are visiting and hand over your driver's license. In trade, you're given a slip of paper notating who you are seeing and a death row visitors badge that you hang around your neck. On the first day, mine read DR 6 because I was the 6th visitor.

When you get your badge, the officer at this station opens an electronic door to allow you into a small side room. You move through a door on the opposite side of this small room to get outside. This walkway is surrounded by fence and the gate at the end of it has to be electronically opened by the officer who just checked you in. Once through this gate, you walk down a walkway that's between the entrance building and the visitation building. You go through the doors on the next building, turn immediately to your left and walk down a hallway to another set of electronic sliding doors. You flash your badge and an officer in a secure room opens those doors. You're now in a small hallway with 3 doors--the one you just entered, one immediately to your left that goes to visitation, and one across from you that goes to the rest of the building. On your right is the officer's secure room. He or she will then open the doors to visitation. You cross that room and give your slip of paper to the officer handling visits and she'll seat you at a numbered cubicle.

Here is where the magic happens.

Kidding, there's nothing magical about this fucking place.

It can take 10 minutes to over an hour for the person you're visiting to come out. When he does, he is placed into a cage across the glass from where you're sitting. His space is less than 6 feet high, 4 feet across, and 4 feet wide. It's smaller than a closet. The offender is handcuffed and must put his hands to a slot in the door to have the handcuffs removed.

This is where I sat last Monday and Tuesday, June 16 and 17 to see Robert Pruett (read about our friendship here and here and find his documentary here). It didn't take long either day for Robert to be placed in that cage thankfully. The stress of it all can start to wear on you if you're waiting in that visitation room too long... The first time I ever visited, there was some unforeseen problem on his pod and I waiting an hour and a half. By the time he finally made it out there, I had probably burned 1000 calories from bouncing my knees.

Because I travel so far (from Georgia to Texas), I'm allowed to see him for 4 hours 2 days in a row. Only one person per month can do this, the visit must be scheduled and approved ahead of time, and he is not allowed any other visits that week from anyone. Anyone who lives locally can visit for a 2 hour period once a week.

By the time 1 pm draws near on a typical workday for a 9-5er, 4 hours left of work seems like a lifetime and does, in my experience, drag by...inching along tortuously slow each minute feeling like an hour. The exact opposite was true and has always been true at Polunsky. Sitting across from Robert in that visitation cubicle the minutes pass like seconds, hours like minutes.

The conversation never stops, and there is always plenty of laughter and tears. This time was no exception to that.

I've been asked by other friends of his to detail what the visits were like, and I thought I'd give a rundown of what visiting Polunksy can be like. I've spent almost 7 years writing Robert and helping him on his case...fighting for his life. But, we've become close friends in that time. Some of what we talked about is personal--what's going on in our lives right now, our thoughts, feelings about people in our lives. He doesn't like personal things in his letters to be quoted for an audience, and I'm certainly not going to violate his sense of privacy by quoting his spoken words either. Above everything else, I value him as a friend and not just some project or social experiment.

What I will say is that we talked about his case. He has a strong Brady claim that has already been filed by the Texas Innocence Network attorneys. A Brady claim dates back to Brady v. Maryland (1963) in which the defendant in a court case was denied information by the prosecution. It was decided that this violated his right to due process in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Basically, this case precedent mandates that the defense be given access to all information the prosecution uses. This includes any deals that a jailhouse informant is given in trade for his or her testimony. The logic here is that if the jury knows about the deal, they can make an informed decision about how trustworthy that informant's testimony is.

In Robert's case, one of the main informants was given a deal that his defense was never informed of--the guy asked to be moved to a prison in his home state to be closer to his family. The prosecution offered to comply with this request but also admitted that if they did so, they would not be able to provide him any help in terms of parole. The informant refused to move and asked that the prosecution help with getting him paroled which they did. He was free not long after everything happened. On top of that, the state threatened to charge him with capital murder if he didn't testify. So, by testifying, he kept himself off death row and also walked out of prison a free man. He later committed suicide. This is one of the strongest Brady claims I've ever seen especially since many of the jurors felt this witness's testimony was the deciding factor in Robert's case. Remember that no DNA evidence links Robert to the crime and both blood and prints found at the scene are not a match for his or the victim's.... Hopefully the courts will allow this issues to be litigated. If so, he has a good chance of fighting things. There are other issues that were filed on as well, but this was the strongest and the one we discussed most.

I will also say that we probably talked about everything under the sun from philosophy to spirituality to psychology to my next tattoo and what he wants done with his body if he is executed. In 8 hours time, even though we touched on a myriad of frustrating topics, he never complained. He never said a negative word even while being a bit put-out with some people in his life. It's truly humbling to sit across from someone who has marks on his wrists from handcuffs, who is kept in a closet-sized cell 23 hours a day or more for something he didn't do, who is treated like scum but who still manages to be so fucking positive and never complain. He makes me a better person every day that I know him.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Treat My Cold Not My Love Handles

The thing about going to the doctor when you don’t fit this strange, standard mold that saturates our society—the tall, thin, wispy model-type—you don’t receive good care. I’m 5’4 and a size 12. I’ve never fit that standard ideal, and despite the average woman being closer to my size than what fits into that narrow idyllic box, I still get told that everything would be fine with me if I lost weight, if I exercised more, if I ate right. The assumptions are always the same—I couldn’t possibly look the way I do if I did get exercise and eat right. I wouldn’t have a sinus infection if I were smaller. I’d have more energy if I lost weight. I’d feel better. I’d not have headaches. Losing some lbs would just automatically transform every fucking thing I have every experienced medically.

Because thin people are never at the doctor, right?

I do exercise and eat right. I love yoga and even though I also love candy, I do believe in moderation. I limit my caloric intake to 1400 calories a day even when candy is part of the equation, and I try to keep my food choices pretty healthy. It’s never enough though.

Because look at me…

I’m not a wisp of a woman with a flat stomach. I don’t have rock hard abs and defined thigh muscles. Instead I have soft hips, a round belly, and tits for days. And because of that, I must not have willpower. I must eat all the time. I must sit on the couch all day long guzzling soda and shoving whole cakes in my mouth. I’m a time bomb waiting to have a heart attack on my couch because hips and stuff. Those assumptions lead to less care, worse care, no addressing of the real problems not to mention how wrong those assumptions almost always are.

It’s amazing to me that a person who spent 8 years, hours of interning, and grueling nights of studying thinks that he or she can look at me and tell how healthy I am by my size alone. What I would like to happen at the doctor’s office is someone who sees me for what I am…a person who isn’t skinny who makes relatively good choices and who is a product of genetics. What I would like is for a doctor to use his or her knowledge about how the body works, how genetics and epigenetics work, and how weight is much more than willpower. What I would like is for the person, the patient, me to be treated as an individual. Thin people can be unhealthy, can die young, have diabetes, heart problems, strokes, and all the things that are usually reserved for blaming on us fat folks.

Weight is not an automatic determination of health.

That’s where we need to be--we need to stop fat shaming by doctors who think that a person’s health is always and completely directly related to their weight. For one, fat shaming most often has the opposite effect of its intent. Studies have shown time and time again that people who experience fat shaming and fat discrimination (which also happens at the doctor’s office) are far more likely to gain weight or continue to be obese. It doesn’t have the intended effect. What we also need to focus on is health overall.

Genetics are often completely denied.

BMI is utter bullshit.

Weight loss isn’t associated with decreased morbidity.

Weight is one aspect of a person’s health. Some people don’t want to be rail thin. Some people embrace their curves. No that isn’t promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. The focus at all times should be on that person’s overall health which may or may not be bettered by losing a few pounds. At some point, doctors seem to have lost sight of this and to have completely lost sight of their own understanding of the human body preferring instead to go along with social standards and norms that have no basis in actual health.

This is kind of why I haven’t been to the doctor in more years than I can remember which ultimately has the opposite effect, right? I’ve been fat shamed by enough physicians that I would have to almost literally be on my death bed before I go to one because I’m never seen as anything more than the size of my dress. What’s the point of going when you’re not going to be treated and everything always boils down to how fat your doctor thinks you are.

Just to be clear, not going to the doctor's office and telling each and every one of them just exactly where to stick their stethoscopes when they talk about my weight just goes to show I HAVE ALL THE MOTHERFUCKING WILL POWER. 

This, as with every Sunday, has been part of Sunday Confessions with More than Cheese and Beer. check out her blog to read her post and posts from the other bloggers who linked up today. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

It's Not Where You Are But Who You Are

The gray-white drapery of Spanish moss across solid, thick branches of antiquated Live Oaks has been a
part of my scenery my entire life. I was born in the South, here in South Georgia, and the landscape here has always made my heart full. There’s almost nothing that a pink orange sunset drifting through the pine forest across from my house can’t humble.

The culture…well, let’s just say it ain’t exactly a melting pot ‘round these parts. Most people are very similar in religious beliefs—this is the Bible belt, hobbies—hunting and football, and subcultural norms—Rednecks, sexism, and racism are all too common. My dad, though, was a music-loving, drug-dealing hippie and wasn’t really the typical Southern man in most regards. With his influence and perhaps a tinge of inherited rebellion, I stuck out like a sore thumb bandaged in vintage 70s hand-me-downs and red, glazy eyes. I didn’t fit in, and even though I made some very strong friendships with other misfits during my formative years that helped me make it through the horrors of high school as a football hating, Jesus dissing, rainbow-flag carrying weirdo, I wanted out. The temptation to run as far as I could make it—to Canada in most of my daydreams--was so strong. Sometimes, it’s all I thought about…getting out of this place.

I never made it out though. In fact, I’m still here in this area with my kiddo and my animals and my garden and two acres of land—things I never would have thought would make me happy when I was younger.

I have a maple leaf tattooed behind my left ear to symbolize that time and that temptation. Part of me still
wonders what my life would be like if I had made it out. It’s one of those dreams unrealized and before I ever noticed the pain of that raisin-in-the-sun, I had a child and an ex-husband, a house with a mortgage and a mom who might get more than a little depressed if she couldn’t see her grandchild on a regular basis. It was no longer feasible to run away like a 16 year old mope who was angry at the world. And, truthfully, it would have been fucking selfish to take my kid away from his family based on my angsty notion that my problems as a kid stemmed from where I lived and not from my struggle to find who I am.

The biggest journey I’ve taken in life didn’t require packing a few belongings into a backpack and traveling thousands of miles on a Greyhound bus wrapped in a flannel shirt with grunge bands blaring through the speakers of my generic earbuds and matching cd player (yes I’m that fucking old) the way my 16 year old self pictured it. It was done right here…within myself. It was after that distance traveled from the me who realized she gave up her dreams to the me that realized being somewhere different wasn’t necessary to be the person I was meant to be that I got the tattoo…a reminder of the temptation but also a reminder not to enter autopilot. At some point in my life I’d given up on all my dreams starting but not ending with my dash to Canada and it took that self-journey to remind me that I’ve got one shot at getting this right. One shot at life. Getting mired down in the muck of surviving day to day life with the stress of a 9-5 job and domestication isn’t me. That tattoo is a reminder to keep my passion, to fight for what I want or what I believe in, and make the most of the time I’ve got.

Seems silly to think a simple maple leaf tucked behind a girl’s ear can encompass so much, but that’s the beauty of life sometimes, isn’t it?

This has been part of Sunday Confessions with More than Cheese and Beer. Check out her own post on her blog as well as the other bloggers who linked up today. You can also find anonymous confessions on her Facebook page. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Personification of Resilience

After a long night of drinking and partying, the wee hours of March 10, 2003 were like any other really for people who’d had too much to drink.

Everyone was talking shit.

That’s exactly what happened to then 20 year old Ryan Holle.

Earlier in the evening, an 18 year old girl had attended and after a bit to drink, her loose lips began to tell everyone in attendance about her parents’ weed stash in a safe at their home bragging that her mom was a drug dealer and likely making sure everyone knew that she could pinch from the stash at any time. I remember those days myself. I lived with my dad from ages 13-15 and I stupidly didn’t mind sharing whatever I’d managed to take from him and telling people exactly who my source was. Looking back, it was incredibly stupid. I could have easily told this to the wrong crowd. Unfortunately for this girl, that’s exactly what she did.

After her departure, Ryan’s roommate and a couple of the people in attendance started talking about stealing the drugs to make a quick profit. The family lived close by and it would be easier enough to break in. The only hitch in their plan was that this girl had seen their faces and knew who they were. They figured it would be necessary to knock her out if she woke up during the robbery just to keep her from being able to identify any of them. It didn’t come across as serious planning to Ryan nor was Ryan part of the planning. I’ve been at those parties too even as an adult—even in my own house—where people have too much drink or whatever else and end up talking about committing a crime of some sort. We’re not exactly well off, my friends and I. The topic of robbing a bank for quick cash has been on the table, but it’s always that half-joking, never-really-serious conversation of people who have had their inhibitions toned down.

The topic of food had also been discussed. Drunk people like to eat.

So, when Ryan’s roommate asked to borrow his car like he had done countless times before, Ryan assumed that’s what it was for—food. He couldn’t have been more wrong, however. Maybe his own inebriation reduced his ability to judge what was truly going on. Maybe he was 20 and young and didn’t think his roommate capable of committing the crime. Either way, the car was then used to take all 4 men—the roommate driving and 3 others—to the girl’s residence. She was hit in the head with a shotgun found on scene and died from her injuries. No one was shot. No one took a weapon with them.

It is tragic that the girl died in such a violent way ripped from this Earth before her time, but it’s equally tragic to me that Ryan Holle was sentence to life in prison under the felony murder laws in Florida where this took place. His crime was loaning his car to his roommate like he had so many other times. The prosecutors said that without the car, there was no way the crime could have been committed (forget about the fact that without the mother of that girl having marijuana in her house there never would have been a crime to commit). Ryan admitted that he had overhead the group talking about the burglary that evening to police but insisted that he hadn’t taken it seriously. It was known that the group had discussed having to knock the girl out and despite this not really being intent to murder, the prosecution stated it was enough for a first degree murder charge.

Ryan was asleep in his bed over a mile away when the events of that tragic evening took place, but in the eyes of the law, he is just as culpable as the man who hit the girl in the head and was sentenced as such. At this time, he has served 10 years of his sentence. He grew into adulthood in prison with people that HAD murdered, raped, sodomized, assaulted, and molested. All his dreams were drowned in a sea of naivety and bad decisions.

The prosecutors decided that group of 4 men had to pay for the innocent life that one of them tragically took, but the state also took an innocent life of their own when he was sentenced to life in prison.

Ryan has not let it wear him down, however. After reading about his case a couple of months ago, I sent him
a letter telling him I thought the charges and sentence were utter bullshit. I talked briefly about how flawed our system is and rambled a bit, honestly, about how we desperately need reforms. The felony murder law dates back to English common law, but it has been barred by Parliament there since 1957. Canada did so in 1990. Other countries in Europe never had such a law. The belief in these places and even in a few of the states here is that each person involved in a crime should serve a punishment fitting of his actions and representative of his culpability and not be held responsible for the decisions of the others.

If I robbed a bank and asked my friend to drive me, why should my friend be responsible for the decision I make to kill someone inside? He shouldn’t, is my point. I have my own free will and have the ability to choose to go to prison rather than take a life. If I choose the latter, the person outside waiting to drive me away has no influence on my decision at that time. He isn’t there pushing me to pull the trigger. And, as such, he should serve his time as part of the robbery not for the murder.

That’s what Ryan and I talked about in the first couple of letters. We’ve since moved on to a wide variety of topics in those letters, but the justice system is always something we both touch on especially while he is working hard with his family to get his sentence commuted—meaning he will get time served and go home on a lengthy probation/parole which could send him right back to prison for life if violated in any way. In a recent conversation, I asked him if he were able to go home, would he walk away and shut the door on this chapter of his life and choose to never look back or would he want to help others in his position and try to push for changes to these very outdated laws.

He chose the latter (of course) and had already been planning to do so. It would be a lot easier to completely shut the door on this chapter of his life if he gets his sentence commuted. He could walk away and forget about it all and move on with his life. No one would fault him for that. But he won’t. He’ll use his experiences to make change instead so no one else has to face what he has. When it comes down to it, that’s quite inspirational in a world where most people don’t give a shit about anything that doesn’t affect them directly. No one else’s life spent behind bars for something he or she didn’t do would matter to the average person who is free. In fact, it happens regularly, and no one seems to care. In that vein, Ryan could make the choice to pretend as most people do that it doesn’t really matter. Instead, he’s going to keep fighting which ultimately keeps the experiences he has had a bit fresh and a bit raw. It takes incredible strength to make that choice…to rise above what happened to him and use it to make a difference in the world.

Ryan has to potentially face a lifetime behind bars yet he is a positive force, always laughing and making jokes in his letters. He is not angry though he could easily be given the circumstances. He has used this ultimately shitty experience to become stronger and has never lost sight of who he is, and no matter what happens he will continue to rise above it all. To me, that is the true definition of resilience, and I am lucky to be able to call him a friend.

This has been part of Sunday Confessions with More than Cheese and Beer. If you don't know her by now, you should...she's the greatest and I'm lucky to call her a friend as well. Check her page out and follow her on Facebook!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Secret Subject Swap: June Edition

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week, 15 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts. 

My subject is You've been accused of a crime, but you are innocent. All the evidence points to you. What crime are you accused of and how do you prove you are innocent?
It was submitted by:

Hope you enjoy my interpretation of this prompt. It's not going to be as light-hearted as many people would take it given the same prompt but it is something that is very close to heart... After my post, I hope you'll check the links for the rest of the bloggers who participated and find the prompt I submitted myself!

Perhaps one of the most disturbing facts about the American justice system is that you can, despite all the measures that are supposed to prevent it, be convicted of a crime you did not commit by a jury of your peers. We have this idea that the justice system here is exactly what it claims to be—a fair, balanced, unbiased, and methodical examination of the facts and only the facts—but it is far from any of that. What we have is a system that has been shown to act with extreme bias towards the poor and minorities, that rarely applies laws and rules consistently, and is more concerned with profits. Prison is a very profitable industry.

Even more disturbing is that once that happens, and it does happen, it becomes nearly impossible to prove you are innocent because a jury of your peers—people that often cannot even quote you their own rights, the laws of the land, or any information about the government beyond a 3rd grade education—has already found you to be guilty and higher courts no longer care to entertain the idea that this highly fallible method of judgment could have been wrong.

If I committed a crime, especially in the state of Texas, and all the evidence pointed to me, quite frankly, I’d be fucked. There would be a very slim chance that someone somewhere might finally listen to my pleas for help such as the Innocence Project who aids in my friend Robert’s case (read about our friendship here and here). But, even then…even when an attorney gives a damn and tries hard to fight for his or her client, the court can refuse to discuss true innocence claims. Take the case of one Robert Will from Texas. Rob is convicted of shooting a police officer. No one saw him commit this crime. He has never confessed to this crime and has always maintained his innocence. The person that Rob has always said committed this crime has since confessed himself. Multiple times. But, the court says that doesn’t matter… A judge specifically told Rob that he had strong doubts about Rob’s guilt, but that the court doesn’t care about innocence once a person has been found guilty by a jury of their peers. What kind of justice is this? And Rob’s not the only one. Not the first. Not the last. He may be executed for a crime he likely did not commit and he won’t be the first or the last innocent man to die in this system either.

Since 1976 when the death penalty was reinstated in this country, 1379 people have been executed and 144 (as of March 2014) have been exonerated. That’s almost 11%. That’s right….almost 11% of the number of people who have been executed were wrongly convicted. But, here’s the thing…that’s only the people who were able to get a decent attorney and a good following, a good support system, or an Innocence Project group to help on their case. Many more have been executed despite strong doubts about their guilt because there was no one to help them. Even more have been executed and later evidence showed they were innocent. I like to use the case of Cameron Todd Willingham in Texas to illustrate my point here because it’s just so damn tragic. Willingham was convicted of setting fire to his home and letting his children burn to death inside. The prosecution said he was angry at the children’s mother and set the fire that killed his own flesh and blood in order to get her back. Before his execution, renowned forensic experts investigated the evidence in the case and said definitively that there was no way the fire could have been arson. The burn patterns the fire marshal at the time stated were caused by an accelerate were nothing of the sort. All the evidence in the crime actually suggests it was an electrical fire and not deliberately set. Rick Perry, the governor now and at that time was presented with this evidence and is on record as saying he didn’t want a guy like that living in Texas anyway and would not stay the execution or take any measures that would have saved Willingham’s life. Not only did this man lose his own children in a tragic accident, he was convicted of their deaths, murdered by the state of Texas, and died knowing that almost everyone in the world who knew him also thought he was guilty of something so vile and heinous (watch his documentary here. It's not long, but it's very informational and important to this topic. vital, even). So, even though some people are exonerated after spending years on death row...others are executed for something they did not do while the real killer remains free to kill again (or in the case of Willingham, under tragically flawed investigations)

To put this in terms that more people can identify with, would you trust a hospital to deliver your baby if it had an 11% minimum rate of swapping babies at birth? If there were an 11% chance minimum that you would walk out of the hospital with the wrong child, would you still use it? Would you still have faith in it?

What we have right now is a very expensive and very error-prone system in which our tax dollars are supporting the murder of innocent people by the hands of a very inept government. In one of the latest Pew Research polls on public trust of the government, only 19% say they trust the government to do what is right all or most of the time. 19 fucking %. Yet, 56% of people trust government agencies to get the right person when it comes to the death penalty. 56% of us are fine with capital punishment doled out by the governmental agencies when only 19% of people trust the government—the same Congressional leaders who are in charge of state laws.

What would I do to prove I am innocent? I’d do the same thing that the innocent men sitting on death row right now are doing. I would write and reach out to people hoping someone somewhere would believe in me and give me help. I would do everything I could not to lose hope, but as every year passed and edged me closer to death, as every appeal ruled against me, that hope would diminish. That’s where so many are in the process right now…losing ground and losing hope. More will be unjustly executed. Even if you believe and support the fundamental basis of capital punishment, surely you cannot support the murder of innocent men and women and that, unfortunately, is something we have done and continue to do. On the behalf of those innocent men and women who have already died, on the behalf of those still fighting, and given the fact that it could be anyone in their shoes—you, me, or any of our loved ones—I beseech you to give it more thought, do the research, and became an active supporter of capital punishment reforms. If I were innocent yet convicted, I would need you. Each one of you. And so do the men and women on death row now.

*If any of you might wonder how you can help real people with real stories, I'll be happy to give you some direction in comments or emails. There are also plenty of websites to check especially those I linked to in the content of the blog, and I would be happy to provide more direct links to those as well if anyone wants them. If nothing else, even a $10 donation to your state's Innocence Project could help save someone's life. Those projects work on donations and grants and are non-profit agencies. Donations to Anti-Death Penalty groups in your state or national groups could also help fight the death penalty overall. Thank you for your time today, and if any of this makes you want to have a stronger dialogue about the subject I am always available to discuss it (passionately but without judgement...I've been on the opposite end of the belief spectrum myself which I discuss in a blog I linked to above).
Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there: Baking In A Tornado Spatulas on Parade Stacy Sews and Schools Dinosaur Superhero Mommy Juicebox Confession More Than Cheese and Beer Confessions of a part-time working mom Someone Else’s Genius Sparkly Poetic Weirdo Crumpets and Bullocks FBX Adventures (In Parenting) elleroy was here Climaxed The Bergham’s Life Chronicles Evil Joy Speaks

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Cultural Misogyny

Rejection has been a theme over the past week for good reason. Elliot Rodgers felt the need to gun down 6
people before turning the gun on himself because he was so often rejected by the opposite sex that he found it to be unfair and needed to punish those he thought were responsible for his unhappiness. He was rejected so often he became miserable, full of hate, and violent and decided the only way to right these wrongs was to take lives—to make people pay.

That’s tragic. It truly is. But, when it all comes down to it, rejection is not the real reason Rodgers committed the atrocious acts he did.

We’ve all been rejected at one time or another and many of us handle it well or somewhat well. But to dismiss this case as one where a mentally ill man couldn’t handle rejection completely ignores the underlying cultural issues at work that have been creating an antagonistic environment for women throughout history that continues, obviously, to plague us today. So, at face value, it may seem like this is a story about a lone mad man who couldn’t stand rejection and ultimately and tragically reacted with violence, but once you take a closer look at things, you being to see the sense of entitlement at work—an attitude that women can tell you is all too common in so many men with whom we have contact.

Rodgers said he wanted to kill women for never finding him attractive enough to fuck him and for ruining his
time at college. He wanted them to sleep with him but the fact that these women slept with other people made them sluts. It’s the double-edged sword issue that women have been facing for ages. If we’re sexually active, we’re sluts, but if we won’t sleep with someone, we’re prudes. It’s this cultural idea that we’re not in full ownership of our own bodies. Being in control of ourselves, doing what we want with who we want is such a foreign fucking concept that instead of being “allowed” to do what we want without commentary and with the same respect given to men in the same situations, we have people constantly policing our bodies and telling us what we should be doing with them.

To add to that, we’re expected to dole out sex to men who want to sex us without giving any thought to whether or not we’re attracted to the men in question.

No seriously. Think about it. Think about every fucking time you’ve heard the “friendzone” or heard a guy complaining that “nice” guys finish last…

In every single instance, if you really think about it, you have a man complaining that a female friend of his whom he attempted to hook up with through falsified niceties and friendship strategies had no interest in fucking or dating him. In essence, he cannot handle the fact that this person only thought of him as a friend (oh the fucking horror of actually being a friend to a woman) and was not sexually attracted to him. It is not a simple case of lack of attraction, it is now the fault of all women everywhere because we only want to fuck assholes who act like jerks and lie to us to try to get in our panties because we’re bitches.

But, wait…if this guy was putting on a bullshit act to be our friend just to try to get in our panties isn’t he the
asshole who lied to us? And we didn’t sleep with *him* so.... Kinda blows that theory right out of the water. It’s not seen that way though. All across media platforms the guy gets the girl. The hero gets his babe. The hook up always happens. In books. In television. In movies. Women are objects to be pursued not persons to be respected and certainly not people with whom to be platonic friends. Ultimately, we will come around, right, guys? We’ll jump on that dick before the end of the movie if you just push and push and push until we see the error of our ways. No means negotiate. “Let’s be friends” is a death sentence, and when it happens, it’s a reason to be angered and prove your manhood through namecalling and threats or through actual violence.

Or if you’re like my stalker, just keep on texting and tracking a girl down for going on 12 years even though she consistently ignores you. She’s bound to come around at some point.

Rejection sucks. It never feels great. There’s always a sting to it. But, the difference in feeling rejected and what Elliot Rodgers’ and many, many other men feel and believe is the idea that they’re somehow owed a woman’s affections--that the world owes it to them to bestow upon them the woman they want no matter how that particular woman feels about them. Rejection then turns into injustice and that attitude becomes wholly dangerous as we saw this past week and have seen numerous times before unfortunately.

The strong urge I have to add a not all men disclaimer in this piece to avoid the same bullshit I’ve experienced while talking about this on Facebook just goes to show how bad it’s gotten, too. We’re living in this world where women are consistently objectified and seen as conquests, where men feel justified in lashing out when a woman is not interested in being their plaything, and where seemingly decent guys feel the need to put their defenses up and scream and shout “not me” every time a woman attempts to share her experiences.

It has to stop. Women need to be heard so we can finally start addressing the misogynistic culture that
shapes people like Elliot Rodgers into murderers. We shouldn’t have to sleep with a man out of fear of being slaughtered or raped for saying no. We shouldn’t have to be afraid to go on a date or be approached by a man in a fucking parking lot. We shouldn’t have men trying to shut us up when we want to share what we’ve gone through and what other women go through. I was told before I wrote this that men don’t have it easy and that blaming certain actions on culture doesn’t address that. But, no one has an easy life. If you’re doing it right, it’s going to be a series of challenges and obstacles that help you grow. The problem right now is that we live in a culture where on top of the experiences we all have in life that challenge us to be stronger, women of all races and ages and sexual orientations face these unique-to-us situations that make life harder and scarier than it has to be and, at every turn, bringing about awareness on this issue gets shut down.

And that’s fine. I’ll just get louder.

Who’s with me?

This has been part of Sunday Confessions with More Than Cheese and Beer. The prompt was rejection. Check out hers and the rest of the contributors' posts! It's always fun to see how each person takes and interprets their posts.