Other essays on this theme

Essay: "Courage"

by David Snyder
Courage, what is it, how do you define it? I think Norman Mailer said it the best one way: "There are two kinds of brave men: those who are brave by the grace of nature, and those who are brave by an act of will." Courage is more than just taking an action, whether for yourself or another. Laurence Stern said: "Only the brave know how to forgive."

Courage is also knowing how to forgive. It is admitting you are or may be wrong. We are human and all have or will make mistakes big and small. Admitting to them takes great courage. You acknowledge your faults in doing so and show you want to at least try to correct them. Not admitting it? You are only hiding, blaming others for your faults. At times you are right to blame others.

 "Among the map makers of each generation are the risk takers, those who see the 	opportunity, seize the moment and expand man's vision of the future."--Emerson 
	"...the insanity and dehumanization of prison were subtler but more insidious."--	John Marc Taylor (Western Correctional Center, Cameron, MO) 
	"We take on a burden when we put a man behind a wall. That burden is to give 	him a chance to change...to deny him...is to plant seeds of future anguish."--	Justice Warren Burger 
	Perhaps one of the greatest saying is a Japanese proverb: "One cannot hide from the hidden." 

What is the justice system really hiding from? Prison over-population. Degradation. Cuts to education and programs which benefit prisoners only to cry about recidivism. They don't tell society what things really are or how they stand. Take this example: New York wants sex offenders civilly confined because of their danger and threat.

 But does the public know:   
1. The 2,700 sex offenders will cost the state $270 million a year ($100,000 each)? Do they know taxes will go up to foot the bill? 
2. Since 1990 attempts have been tried and tried. But again and again, proven to fail and be inadequate? 
3. These supposed on-line predators are far more often teens soliciting teens than adults soliciting teens? 
4. Sex offenders have the lowest recidivism rate? That the so-called violent and dangerous are in fact not? 
5 . Offenders against family members are the least likely to re-commit and least dangerous and threat? 

The politicians and justice system use paranoia. What kind of courage is that? "Courage" for them is apparently to keep prisons full, build more, end beneficial and proven programs, bribe communities to allow a prison to be built in exchange for jobs, etc, etc. Thankfully, Governor Spitzer saw all this waste and is cleaning house.

Being a prisoner, for any crime or in any facility, whether innocent or guilty, takes (excuse my language here) unbelievable fucking courage. Why? Oh, what does one face?

Rape. Extortion. Beatings. Harassment. Murder. Bribery. Threats. The greater the crime, the worse it is for you and sex offenders are the bottom rung. A blind eye often occurs.

Guards (I'm a prisoner not an "inmate." I'm not here by choice, justly or for a friggin' vacation!) An "officer" is nothing more than a keeper I see every day. Sure, there are the good, the bad and the ugly. That's life no matter where you are. A "superintendent" is still a warden. Politically correct altered titles to make the system and public feel less guilty and ashamed. Oh, that's courage? Hiding reality and refusing to face and admit to it is courage? Please! Stop insulting me.

In prison courage is more than just surviving. It is taking a stand against wrongs, aiding others in education, awareness and betterment. My courage? I went from a psychologically disassociative state to tutoring, fighting my sentence and conviction, involvement in groups that better me and I enjoy. I'm trying to pursue a paralegal degree, so many correspondence courses as I can get, and an associates degree in criminology and looking forward to the future as a wrier and graduate school for the two B.A.'s I hold.

Courage is

 "Do not bend to a system that wants to keep you down. You have to stand up to it, no matter if it is prison or non-prison, fight to correct wrongs where you see them. Do not let others who are beaten down give up. Thomas Jefferson said something that is profound to the American ideal: 
	"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." 
	Thomas Paine: "We hold it in our power to begin the world anew." 

So, stand up. No, don't start a civil war against the government. Not physically and war-like anyway. Bring out the paper and pen. Use logic and, ironically, their own words, rules and policies against them. Put the shoe on the other foot. Make them look in the mirror. My counselor told me yesterday. Look in the mirror. Do you like what you see? Can you live what you see?

My challenge to you is go look in the mirror and see if you can live with what you see.