Pages

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

On the Nature of Compromise...

November 21, 2007

Obviously the site has been down for a number of weeks. I needed this time to put a number of issues into perspective. Sometimes words can be scalpels, and other times clubs. Apparently I have been wielding them as a club. There were some errors in judgment I made, most of those have been edited out of the entries. For that I am sorry. I suppose this may take some of the "bite" out of them, but that was never the point behind this project. Neither was the point for this site to take "political/advocacy" undertones, as my dad called them, though I am not going to apologize for this. The 400 of us living in building 12 are political creatures. We bear the brunt of every politician's ill-conceived "tough-on-crime" reelection rhetoric. We are at the bottom of 180,000 inmates in the Texas Penal system, and we all know that excrement flows downhill. Simple decisions which are normally made on the Unit for General Population inmates become matters for the legislature when you live on Death Row. Nonetheless, despite the fact that I live in cesspool of bureaucratic ineptitude, I rarely talk of it. I decline to mention many, many things. Some of it does sneak out, mainly for the reason that to omit it entirely would be doing a disservice to one of my major goals, which was to give you an accurate picture of what it is like to live here. So, I guess you will have to take such information as you will. There isn't anything I say that can't be verified a thousand times over by review of other prisoner's websites/books.

As my father mentioned in his entry, he no longer has any input in this site. I would implore those of you who, for some reason, have chosen to try to take shots at me by aiming them at my Dad, to please stop. He is in my corner but not in the ring. If you could have seen the anguish on his face when he realized that you had somehow put him in the crossfire, you would be ashamed. If you feel so strongly that you need to vent, my address is listed on the contact page. As most of you know, my placement on Death Row was largely due to a certain law, which transfers the heaviest portion of the responsibility for a crime away from the person who actually committed it. As a result, I have spent a great deal of time ruminating upon the issue of personal accountability. One comment which I seem to see a great deal of is certain people are "drawn" or "sucked in" to this site, despite the fact that they claim to want to avoid it. First off, my writing isn't that good, and we all know it. Secondly, I did not force you to turn on your computer, initialize your web browser, type in my address, and hold your head in front of the screen while you read my words. You did this. You chose this. I will not accept responsibility for your total lack of a modicum of self-control. When I was in the world, I was aware the KKK had a website. I never went there, I never read it. That was a choice I made. In America, we have the choice of not surrounding ourselves with most of the things we do not care for. Many, many men and women died to give you that option. Use it.

I have also had to change my stated policy of answering every letter sent to me, for two reasons. The first is simple economics, which I am sure you can figure out without an explanation. The second is this: I recognize that from a Christian perspective perhaps the most important and worthwhile letters I can write are those responding to the angry confused people who seem to hate me. I know this, but simply can't do it anymore. The cost is too high. I have plenty of other "stuff" to deal with on a daily basis without fretting over and analyzing some very nasty pieces of literature. So, I guess the new policy should more correctly be labeled: "I-will-write-all-of-you-back, provided-I-don't-flush-it-down-the-toilet". (Little known prison fact: our toilets could probably suck down a cow...you really have to apply your noggin to the problem of stopping them up. I would say they were idiot-proof, but I have come to a newer and more enlightened view of the limits of human idiocy during my time here, so I won't.)

On to positive news: after many months of searching, failing, probing, stumbling, hunting, and basically charging at windmills, I have finally found a University willing to admit me for completion of my college degree. This was not an easy sell, even with my exceptionally good SAT score, but it's now a done deal, as they say. I have had to change my major from computer science, as I haven't been able to figure out how to build a computer from a typewriter and a rubber band yet. I have a love of history, so I will be working on my BA in history, even though I will lose a few credits, demoting me from a Junior to a Sophomore. Not finishing my degree (and all of the subsequent lies) has been a great deal of shame for me. There is no way for me to repair all of the damage I have wrought. I recognize this. As a man, though, I think it is important to try and fix what I can. And yeah, I'm sure that some of you probably see this as a waste of time and energy, and from a certain perspective, you are probably correct. If that is all you can see, then I am not going to waste my time and energy explaining it to you. ce n'est que le premier pas qui coute.

I want to thank all of you who encouraged me during this time.

I will try to honor your good will. God bless.

© Copyright 2007 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker.
All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Word from Kent Whitaker

November 20, 2007
"Changes to Minutes Before Six"

This is Thomas' dad writing this entry.

When Thomas asked me to help him put up a web site for his journaling, I thought it would be good for him and for everyone. When we first talked about it, I had envisioned it as a platform for him to do two things: One, to glorify Jesus Christ by speaking of the tremendous changes that He brought about in my son's life as a result of his encounter with the living God many months after running to Mexico. And Secondly, it would be a way for him to openly discuss the horrible things which had happened - and which he had kept hidden, until now - within his mind as he grew up. I thought the site would be therapeutic for him, and enlightening for those who knew him. I thought it would help others find closure by helping them understand what had happened within him, and to rejoice in the hope that the person who committed these horrible crimes is no longer as he was. Thinking that it would be a "win-win" situation for everyone, I never envisioned that it would hurt some of those who knew him and who read it.

But that is what has happened. On November 15, I was made aware for the first time that some people I care about very much were being hurt by its contents, and for that, I am truly sorry. My first move that night was to ask Thomas' cousin, who hosts the website, to close it to traffic, and she did that within an hour. Over the next two weeks I spoke with many of you, and I think I understand you better, and I think you know that it was never my intent to hurt anyone. I was trying to help my son, by allowing him to publicly open up for the first time in his life, and in doing so, to praise our God of second chances.

In my over zealous attempt to let him have a free-reign over what he wrote (since from personal experience I knew that if it was to be effective, journaling had to be - by its very nature - without structure), I foolishly allowed some things to be printed that I shouldn't have, and I am so very sorry. And there were other areas that I thought he would have discussed by now, but which he has not, because he has found it so difficult to write of them. Also, the site has taken on some political/advocacy overtones that (while perhaps it shouldn't have come as a surprise) were not its original intent. I have asked him to make some changes in some earlier entries, and suggested that he avoid writing about certain topics. I asked him not to name anyone from our families or friends, or to tell stories from the past that might hurt his friends and family. He can write about them privately all he wants as he digs for personal healing, just don't post them.

I considered asking him to close down the site completely, but have not asked him to do that for two reasons: First, I still believe that it is helpful to him to write these journals publicly; I just want him to be more careful about what he chooses to post. He has already disclosed a great many things - horrible things - that the old Bart would have never admitted. In my opinion, this is very positive and helpful for him. But it can be very painful for those who just want this horrible episode to fade away. To those of you who feel this way, I understand; I also want to find my new life. But in the final analysis, he is still my son, and I will stand by him because I love him; since he is not allowed to receive psychological help, these journals may be the closest he gets. I can only hope that those who want to forget will simply ignore this site.

Secondly, he and his cousin convinced me to let them keep it up. They have shown me many letters from strangers who have mailed him encouragement, and testimonials of how the site has helped them in understanding themselves and loved ones. For example, an English teacher of troubled youth in North Dakota is even using it in her curriculum because she sees some parallels with her students, and is using it to open dialogs with them about things that they have hidden within their hearts, much as Bart did. This out pouring of support surprised me, but there were too many to ignore. It is a positive thing to many, and who knows how God will use it to reach people that would otherwise not be reached.

This entry will be the last thing that I will do with the website. I am no longer associated with it in any way: financial, providing typing, or anything. What little connection I once had with the website is now over. Please contact him or the webmaster directly if you have any input or comments. I believe they will both be courteous and attentive to your concerns.