Archive for July, 2014


Jodi Arias Innocent?

Newly released on the website for supporters of Jodi Arias is a movie worth seeing.  It makes a few good points concerning the prosecutor’s abusive and bullying form in the courtroom and the highlight of domestic violence in the movie also seems well put together.  However, if one was objective, the nature of our judicial system both makes people very happy or very unhappy.  The trial of Casey Anthony angered many, but failed to highlight the backbone of any trial case: Burden of Proof.  The real problem is the Court of Public Opinion that is not judiciary or altogether faulty, it’s based on the snippets aired on HLN, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News that dispenses information about a trial that is not presented to the jury hearing the case.  Most of what is aired is never reviewed by the jury sequestered.  The opinion of the public directly matters little to any case.  What matters are the jurors who must decide the case without what the general public knows.  Things get thrown out of court that we hear on a news outlets which is never considered by the jury.  There are times when it seems that the jury and courts got it all wrong, like with Casey Anthony, but those jurors were working with the evidence provided in court.  It seems unfair, terrible, and like a injustice; but, the burden of proof is on the prosecutor and it didn’t hold out that well when the jury decided the case.  The prosecutor failed.

So, let’s step back for a moment and reflect.  I had a problem with my anger and vitriol to the point I was abusive to people both verbally and emotionally.  All those people who I unleashed my wrath upon still are in contact with me but have no desire to work with me after such terrible aggression.  Through Sufism, I learned that anger is the destroyer of good.  I learned that what I was doing was wrong and I took a path to correct that part of my person.  I know I can’t go back and smooth things over.  My new being must be presented to them for reevaluation.  I can’t say “I was angry and wrong”  I can say through my deeds and actions that “I am no longer the abuser that I used to be”.  I have to represent myself for their proof that I have changed.  The little and sneaky microagressions slip away from me now.  (A microagression is aggression that is like a liar and reactionary.  Sufism teaches action above reactions.)  I can’t wave the “I’m Sorry” flag and magically all that I used to do would be forgiven or accepted as my past.  Why?  Because that is not the way we see each other and things that happen.  It promotes judgement even when judgement is unnecessary.  In their eyes, I will appear as an abusive person until, by my actions, I prove to be different.  I have made a point to apologize to people I have hurt with this nasty side of me that doesn’t exist anymore.  I have followed that one day, maybe far into the future, that those I hurt see I am a new person by giving them my own burden of proof.  Until it is accepted, I will always be judged as being an abusive person.  That is how our society and culture chooses to identify me.  The burden of proof is on me.

I have passed my judgement too.  I think the prosecutor in the Arias trial was wicked with his attitude and anger.  He was like that with all he questioned.  His abusive behavior might lead most into judgement that it is unnecessary to put a picture of the victim in autopsy to remind a witness why everyone was in court that day.  I also find that his amusement with the gallery outside the courthouse by getting pictures taken with them made a mockery of our judicial system.  When the witnesses didn’t act or do as he wanted them to, he was sure to pull out aggression to make them react instead of react.  Jodi Arias knew well what she did, but he took his reactionary whip out and brought her to tears with an aggressive tongue.  I have learned that an aggressive tongue only whips reaction and not action.  Mr. Martinez, the prosecutor, belittled the witnesses that were not lined up for his burden of proof and used hyper aggressive language to assault all witnesses in one manner or another.  I know also that judgement is passed on his aggressive nature and that nature is not seen as being something terrible for the prosecution.  This kind of aggression hurts people, a lot of people, in ways that are deeply scarring and results in a confused reaction.  The interesting thing is that through it all, not many of the news agencies covering the trial mentioned much about the prosecutor’s conduct as being negative.  They chalk it up to aggression equaling a strong prosecutor that gets the convictions he wants.

The jury didn’t see every piece of information that the viewing audience had either.  The viewing public heard Travis Alexander’s surviving family and friends painting Arias as insane and scary.  I agree that her crawling through the doggy door to sleep on his sofa is creepy.  I also agree that she may have been the one behind slashing his tires and his current girlfriend’s tires, but there is no evidence that that is true.  There were many times that those news agencies who wanted a good scoop aired every enemy Arias ever met, not really contacting any of her friends that think she’s cool.  They didn’t present a case of information but a case of sensation that fueled belief that this woman is guilty in the eyes of a viewing public.  Not much was said about the witnesses for Jodi getting death threats for taking the stand.  It also failed to mention that domestic violence is a problem in this country.  It’s so because the public deemed it so after passing judgement that she was guilty.  I am not saying that Jodi is not responsible for her actions or blacked out in anger against Travis.  That is the burden of proof.  However, I don’t think that Arias has gotten the help she needs either.  What she did was wrong and reactionary to a criminal degree, but the court of public opinion meant nothing to the jurors who were hearing her case deliberated.  It wasn’t the public that found her guilty and effectively put her in prison.  It was the jury and only the jury that could affect the verdict.

We are taught to love everyone, even the most terrible of sinners, and we are taught to guide their spirit to knowing forgiveness.  This teaching falls away when a juicy headline hits the news agencies and gets the public viewer fired up.  The next case will come along and viewers will pass judgement again and there will be surprise when a not guilty verdict is reached by those twelve people who have the power to judge the next time, without reflection that the court of public opinion is not what matters in deliberation.

There are over 2.1 million people in the US that are currently in prison.  There are hundreds of people forced to join gangs of some sort and some level.  Gangs now appear in many prisons as officials have done nothing to curb their deeds or make leaving a gang look attractive.  Instead, the culture of prison is to ally with like races, follow a strict gang agenda, and remain passively assertive against the safety a gang may provide.  The chances of an incarcerated person actually redeeming himself or herself by rehabilitation designed punishment only graces 2% of the population in prison with a life changing lesson.  There are so many gangs that some prisons struggle to keep order of members, their ranking, and which gang one is controlling what portion of the outside recreational yard.  Gangs often look attractive to inmates because it’s a helpful and deceitful at the same time.  The idea of a gang having an inmate’s back is attractive because prison life is rough and hard.  What is happening in most jails and prisons are gang related members learn how to be better criminals, are expected to continue with membership in the gang when released, and fall prey to the unrealistic brotherhood of a gang.  The gang that helps is the gang that can hurt by issuing a hit on you or asking you to hit a friend because they did something to make someone else angry enough to “handle” the member.  Gangster life is a vicious lie perpetuated in places that are desperate for some kind of belonging.  Not only that, but gangs often tell the membership what they need to do to stay in and supplies an attractive pseudo-family to those people who the American Dream is a failure.  Gangs prey on the weak, those that need structure in their lives, and those who have abandoned hope of being able to be and do something other than continue the cycle of poverty.

Gangs hurt people in prison more than the drudgery of being a captive there.  Inmates are told when to sleep, when to eat, when to go to the bathroom, when to shower, and when to wake up.  The prisoner is no longer in control of what happens to him or her.  The gang adds that structure that they can control one thing while imprisoned.  That one thing is the order in which gangs are formed and the order in which each member plays a part.  The gang life is attractive but deceitful.  It promotes control that is primordial needs for a tribe in a bad environment and a failure to control anything at all in their reality of prison.  It’s hard for those people in prison to have faith that someday life will get better because the nature of our society keeps them unemployed and unemployable if they committed felony.  Even those serving for misdemeanors are often turned away from jobs that might head their life in a different direction.  The society we live in makes them pay for their crime for the rest of their natural lives unless given just one chance to get up and do for one’s self.  The failure to get a job due to this cultural problem throws good people back into the system where they go back to the gang and commit more crimes, the lucrative nature of some criminal activities like selling drugs on the street proves to be temptation that they cannot resist, and the will to change is exchanged for the will to remain part of a tribe no matter how bad or terrible that tribe is.

Incarceration hurts people.  It doesn’t allow them a better life or a reflection of misdeeds.  It doesn’t help them to become something more than what they see and know is a somewhat easier yet dangerous way of life.  It dispenses lies.  The inmate with choices to go to school in prison, learn a trade, or even become chefs is an inmate that no longer falls prey to the predatory nature of gangs.  My heart breaks for those people who continue their lives doing crime because that’s all they know, that’s all that’s profitable, and that they feel there is no chance for them to change and become something new, better and motivated.  It’s hard to compete for any job in this current economy, but it’s twice as hard when you’re a felon, breaking off gangster life, and blooming into a hopeful person instead of a hopeless person.  It’s not fair that someone is a felon and can’t restart a straight life out of prison because they are trapped by our culture in a web of judgement, prejudice and punishment that lasts longer than the time already served.  The inmate is then entrenched in the cycles of the system, getting out and going back in.  If someone has served their time and is released from prison, their debt to society has ended.  They are not supposed to be punished anymore the crime they committed.  It’s unfair to hold that crime above his or her head when they have served their time and want to become a valuable member of society.  This culture’s idea that one’s bad choices follow them forever is contributing to the revolving door of prison for people, that they get all caught up by society on what they did and not what they became.

Felons do want jobs.  They want an alternative to dangerous membership in gangs, self destructive behavior, and gang life.  They are forever stamped with an unwanted label and expected to bear the bad mistakes for the rest of their lives.  This is when incarceration hurts and doesn’t help.  Sometimes, you have to forgive someone of their crime and help them make a new way for themselves so that 2.1 million people have a better chance for a happier tomorrow.  Just one chance can break the cycle.  Just one.

What is it like to be schizophrenic?

I am schizophrenic and the link above is very true to what I hear and how I hear the voices in my head.  It started when I was 27, the voices then were appeased by drinking.  I was violent.  I was intolerant.  I was narcissistic to the point that I shoved away a lot of the people that loved me through a break up.  Those friends are gone.  It was like my brain kept me down, made me bitter, nasty, and rude.  I fought with the echoes of the voices in my head until I had a psychotic break June 26, 2006.  When that happened the voices took over and I spent some quality time in hospitals to this very day I still hear them.  There are places people can go to get away from it all, enjoying silence and a chance to clear one’s mind.  I don’t have silence anymore.  When I sit alone to pray, when I try to go to sleep, when I am trying to concentrate on doing things like posts here, when I wake up, when I have a nightmare, when I am doing nothing but trying to still my mind, and when I am looking up at the stars for all the answers in the sky, the voices are there clamoring for my attention, tearing me apart, telling me I am worthless and that nothing I do is ever worth anything.  Every single day since June of 2006, the voices disrupted my life.  I couldn’t keep a job.  It takes me hours to write a post for my blog.  It has become discord inside my mind and my medicine for it only controls the volume of the voices.

Everyday I hallucinate.  I hallucinate mice and roaches.  I have learned to observe those around me that would react to either a mouse or a bug to confirm the hallucination.  If they aren’t reacting to it, its not there.  Sometimes I can feel the bugs running across my skin or I have a really bad case of the heebee geebees all the time.  This method has worked to notify me that the bug crawling on my friend isn’t real or she would be seriously freaking out.   My hallucinations never go away no matter what medicine I take.  They are always there.  I have been trying to get used to them, but my ick factor for bugs gets me every time.  Almost all the time I am standing in chaos.  The voices.  The hallucinations.  Poor reactions.  Rude treatment.  Anger just below the surface from having little to no sleep because of the babble going on in my head.  Every day it goes on and on and on.  Sometimes I touch the bug and my finger goes through it.  If it’s an actual bug, my ick factor gives me the heebee geebees.

Then there’s the paranoia.  The nagging anxious feelings of dread.  The inspection of food I get at a restaurant for spit because I just know  someone hates me enough to spit in my food.  My friends, who unconditionally love me and I know that for a fact, I believe are laughing at my illness behind my back.  I know that’s not true, but the paranoia controls things.  After I hit an ATM I just know someone is going to leap up from behind me and take the money even after it’s in my pocket.  I just know the whole world knows I have money for the taking.  The paranoia that wakes me up at night because I just know someone is breaking into the house.  I have a stomach full of knots and vibrating like something is wrong or going to be wrong so much so I have had panic attacks over it.  I have delusions too, that are absurd, that tie in with my paranoia.  I just know that I have nothing to contribute to the world.  I have delusions that I am a great person and everyone should love me.  Sometimes the hallucinations and the delusions work together to remind me that someone is going to rape me or kill me if I enter the shower and no one else is home.  I don’t experience this briefly.  I experience this every single day from my dreams to my awake hours without a break, without fleeting moments of silence, without one second of peace.  It’s hell.  It really is hell.

Then there are the people who believe there is no such thing as mental illness or that someone who has a mental illness is someone who one can laugh at.  Then there are the people who say that I can just “shut it off”.  I have heard people call me weak.  I have heard people misunderstand this illness and use it to describe things like “schizophrenic budget plans” when they have no clue how debilitating this illness really is.  Schizophrenia is not multiple personality disorder.  Schizophrenia is not a budget plan.  Schizophrenia is an evil disease that has eaten away my life and my mind.  I live in a constant static state where everything in reality is tilted to the left.  My reality is different than real reality, I have to employ coping mechanisms and attempt to distract myself from the voices with music or talking.  It doesn’t get any better for me.  I can’t just turn it off.  It doesn’t have a cure and there is no way that one day, my chronic case of schizophrenia will return me to a world of silence.  There is no silence anymore, nor will there be, for the rest of my life.  It has destroyed any comfortable state of normalcy.  I suffer with this every day, all day, all night and even during my dreams.  It has effected my whole life.

I have recently, over the past two years, began to accept this as my normal.  I have gotten to the point where I have accepted that some people are never going to understand this disease and will inevitably shuffle me off to their box of “crazy people” without ever really knowing me.  That is their problem, not mine.  I have enough to deal with.  All I want is a happy life with someone who loves me and someone that understands me as I twang off the hallucinated bug on her shoulder.  Her name is Kristi and she understands me.  Then I realize a lot of other people that are my friends understands me.  The one’s who don’t don’t really matter anymore.  Through it all I have managed to apologize when I’ve been wrong, curb all anger issues, and attempt to make my little mark upon this world a good one instead of a bad one.  That schizophrenia didn’t win this time.  But the struggle goes on and on and on.  I will never be able to work again.  I will never be able to have quiet meditations.  I will never be off medication.  I have this disease without a cure.  I am not alone.  I have Kristi and some of the best friends I could have ever wanted.  I am blessed and cursed at the same time, but one day someone might have a new treatment that will help what I have.

 

 

I watched an episode on MSNBC called “Lockup: Raw”.  This man on the show had just finished a ten year sentence for armed robbery.  While he was in prison, he decided he wasn’t all about crime, he was all about living the good life honestly.  He gets released from prison and his family is delighted he is out of prison.  He is happy to be out of prison and he’s excited about getting on to be a law abiding citizen.  This man has intelligence, he is full of hope, and he knows if he could just get legal, he would have a good life and stay out of trouble.  The unfortunate thing, what made me both angry and sad at the same time, he goes to many places of business and when they ask him about his history, he honestly tells them.  A diner turned him down.  A grocery store turned him down, a repo company turned him away, and even a smaller mom-and-pop store turned him down.  He made the remark that he wasn’t ready to quit looking and go back to committing crime.   He was representative of what happens to a lot of criminals reformed by prison and desiring to work for a normal life.  The doors close to the better way to live and open endlessly to crime that most released felons give up the good fight.  Why?  Our society has made the punishment for the individual who commits the crime.  Even though they did their time, no matter what that crime might be save pedophilia, that person should be given a second chance at walking the right path and isn’t.

No one wants to hire a felon.  So what is an ex-felon going to do when he or she knows that there are no chances out there to thwart criminal activity?  They are going back to what they know they can do to put food on the table, to have a roof over his or her head, and be quick fix to bigger problem, criminal behavior.  It’s so easy for them to fall through the cracks because we created those cracks.  On every application at every business there is a question: Have you ever been convicted of a felony?  To most, the guy on Lockup clearly showed, that regardless of the significance of your crime that you will always be condemned to write on every application your most defeating decision to break the law. You will forever be labeled a “felon” even if you did your time and you paid for that crime.  I think that is unfair and cruel and unusual punishment.  The guy on Lockup had to go to every employer and say “I did my ten years, learned from it, and I’m looking for a fresh start”.  Not all felons are willing to walk the life without criminal behavior, but maybe there would be less repeat offenders if maybe, just maybe, they could get a job more lucrative than spitting crack.  When does someone serve their time and hear “no” from our society?  Almost never.  Our society is soaked in passing judgment on people, so much so that often that person who did ten years, got out, and wanted to get straight can never do so in the eyes of people who say “Once a felon, always a felon” and that’s not true.  There are people who serve their time and are supposed to reenter society as a person that has done their crime without being held captive by such negative expectations.  What should really be going on is: “Hey, your past is your past.  When can you start?”

The purpose of a punishment to fit the crime is that once the prison term ends and so does his debt to society.  This release is his or her second chance.  So many employers don’t give felons a second chance because of the labelled box they put the felon in.  They trap them there and when trapped, any creature in existence does, he or she will do whatever necessary so he or she can eat, have a warm bed, diapers for the kids, and get somewhere besides poor.  In essence, they are being punished after serving their punishment and is therefore forever a dark mark on his or her name.  To me, I find it ridiculous that someone who just served 10 years as a punishment has to be punished each and every day by someone who neglects the fact that this person is a living being, with rights, who has feelings, who wants better for their family and worked hard to get their life on the right track.  Being re-punished by not getting hired for something one has done the time for is absurd.  It can make or break a person, both in mind and in spirit.  Not all felons are felons for life.  Not all of them deserve to be shown the door in their life.  Not all of them repeat offending.  All it takes is one “yes” to change a person’s life forever.