People are actually very nice in Texas. I met friendly and helpful cops, intelligent and sensitive homeless people, very warm and friendly prison guards and a lot of other nice people. Let alone the precious friends I met in and outside the prison.
A lot of people are pretty bad informed about what is going on in the juridical system, brainwashed as they are by the crime-addicted media and right-wing politicians. But I also met a lot of people in the streets, uber-drivers, waiters and others who hear why I came to Texas and spontaneously shake my hand and say: “Great. Something has to change over here”.
I have the feeling that the “man in the street” is forced into a situation with other people in which it is almost impossible to live in solidarity and equality with other “groups”. Social divided groups, racial groups, economically divided groups. And I cannot help seeing an image of the happy few laughing at all these poor people being divided, fearing and fighting each other and forgetting who suppresses and manipulates them all in the first place Blacks stab blacks, inmates fight inmates, the poor steel from the poor and the lower middle class extradites and excludes everybody they consider “different”. And when you’re black and do not wear a suit you are guilty and when you actually did something wrong you’re an enemy of the state and you find yourself in the company of Al Qaida.
During this short visit I met a lot of nice people believing in rules, control and punishment.
When I go through the security-check I have to empty my pockets. A lady warns me that I’ll get in trouble when my pockets are not empty. But I wear these hiking-trousers with all these pockets and I forget a few coins in a back pocket. They take me apart, order me around and I am heavily visited by a guy who goes over my whole body including at least three times my crotch. He makes me wait for a while. Then he stands in front of me, looks me straight in the eyes and says: ”the next time……etc. etc.” I stayed very calm and said: “I understand sir, that I have to be punished for having these coins in my pocket?” “I see you got the point sir, have a nice flight!”
But when I go back to pick up the luggage-band I cannot find one of my two laptops. Look everywhere and try to get in contact the officers. “I need you to stand over there”. “I need you to wait until I have time for you” “How do I know that you tell the truth having two laptops?” “step aside and wait sir!” “I need you to go past the tables and stand in that corner over there and stay there.”
I finally got my laptop back and was just in time for boarding. I had already drawn the conclusion that some other traveller put it in his bag. But twhile I was punished, another officer piled all the plastic boxes on top of each other and did not see there was a laptop on the bottom of oone of them.
Over here I experience at least three tendencies, which occur in the streets, working places, prisons and everywhere else:
- The tendency to try to “control” people and to influence their behavior by a breathtaking amount of rules and regulations.
- Being very serious about these rules: when you do not follow them you are in big trouble and the consequences are tough and often felt on the long run.
- In general: fear amongst people and not trusting each other. More specific: intrinsic impotence to give people a second chance and trust them again when they have done wrong in the past.
But how do people learn and grow? How do they recover from a bad childhood? How do they forgive themselves and others? How do you become a loving adult when you only had bad examples? How do you deal with pathology? I think that “telling people what to do and what not to do” and bringing recovery back to “just follow the rules and everything will be all right” is not enough and will even work against recovery and a change of life.
“Ignorance of the law is not an excuse or a defense” Vonetta writes in her book.. And that is very true. Because everybody, how crazy and how criminal and violent he is, knows that he is supposed not to use any violence, be respectful towards people, not to steel etc.. Everybody I met in 40 years of prison-work knows that. So that’s not the problem. The challenge is: how to live by it and how to overcome all those destructive events and mechanisms in your life. And support others to overcome them.
It was a great trip with a lot of follow-up-activities and I will be back in Texas, for sure! Thanks my dear friends: hang in there, you hear!!!