Pages

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Antibodies to Spiritual Paresis

July 30th, 2009 4:00am

And on and on it goes. I’ve been awake now for 51 hours, and counting. I cannot fathom my brain's deranged executive logic behind this behavior, for the life of me. I am obscenely tired, but every time I lay down, I end up staring at the ceiling for an hour before my OCD has me up and pacing about for something to do. I’ve always had a touch of the gremlin-like presence of insomnia, but since I arrived here the bastard has grown teeth. I feel as if there is some unspecified menace looming around the corner, a very Harold Pinter-esque sentiment. It’s hard to fight something you can’t identify.

I think it quite silly that any one of us should ever really be surprised by anything which happens in life. That said, I have been pleasantly comforted by the letters regarding the posting of my psych evaluation last month. I was expecting a more vitriolic response. As stated, I have a policy of not discussing in great detail matters of active litigation, but I can say that the report was about 90% accurate. Which is really quite impressive, considering I am a man of some subtlety, and the docs only had me for one day. I can really only identify one major area of error, and I have come to understand how two round comments were somehow wedged into square holes, but that is ok. Actually, I very much want to discuss this topic, as it affects my perceived sexuality and therefore my manly ego, but it will have to wait. I feel this uncomfortable need to clean up that particular misunderstanding, but...hell, I’ve taken a progressive stance on this issue for years, saying that I believed the question of homosexuality to be a very complex subject involving genetics and environment, and wishing certain types of people would ignore their dusty, retrograde, worm-eaten opinions on the matter and just let people live in peace. I would be hurting my gay friends if I tried to distance myself from them by acting repulsed by the thought that the report said I had certain latent tendencies, as if I thought there was something wrong with them. I know what I am, and so does everyone who has ever known me, That is enough for now, and I will just have to clean all of this up later, after my habeus is ruled on.

While the opinions on the report have been mostly positive, another group of close friends have cautioned me that I have gotten a little more caustic in my writings of late. One even informed me that she vastly preferred my earlier works, which is a little depressing because you would like to think that if you work at something for so long, you are going to get better at it. Maybe I am more abrasive now than I was two years ago, but lets trace the trajectory here, ok? Start with a lonely and messed up kid who was probably a little too smart and worldly for his own good, and watch him as he descends into a pattern of behavior that is ultimately self-destructive and homicidal. As should have happened, this boy-man is arrested and spends the next four years either battling insanity in solitary or defending himself from hyenas who walk like men in GP. In the midst of the soul-crippling depths of the hole, he discovers that God has left him, and he has no choice but to try to find his own way in the twilight gloom. The lighthouses he eventually stumbles across to guide him to safety have names which are familiar to some of you: Hume, Dostoyevsky, Spinoza, Russell, Schopenhauer, Camus, Hitchens. His ideals – once nebulous and cloudlike idols unattached to reason – solidify into concrete form. After a while, he is even able to look himself in the mirror, and soon after that the old feigned self-defensive confidence is replaced by the real thing. The pride which begins to creep into his writings – and which so many deign to condescend upon – is really the inevitable audacity of the self-made intellectual. What I’m saying is: there are not a lot of pathways though this hell which end up in a better place than where you began. I like what I am becoming. I’ve never been happy with the man in the mirror, so pardon me if I pay little attention to people who offer me no advice or an alternative way, only criticism or the false comforts of naïve, populist religion. Mea culpa! Mea culpa! It could go no other way.

It probably wouldn’t go any other way for you, either. During WWII, an interesting social experiment took place in the stadium of the University of Minnesota, under the auspices of the U of Minn’s Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene, and supervised by Dr. Ancel Keys. The purpose of this experiment was to study the result of starvation on a social group. Volunteers were selected, and most of these were individuals who were deeply religious/spiritual. They “almost universally believed” that enforced starvation would “bring them closer to God” (once again proving that the “universal” has always been constructed through and out of the particular). What occurred was the exact opposite of what they expected. A “modern feral community” resulted and after the experiment ended, all of the participants admitted to being shocked at how thin were the veneers of their morality. Experience, it turns out, is the great equalizer, and it has been my experience that those people who are least apt to throw stones are those who have lived through the most turmoil. No wonder the suburbs of our nation have become a moral wasteland, despite there being a church on every other corner.

I think that most would expect to find such an ethical null-state here on the Row. They would be right in some cases, but would find themselves astonished at the moral grounding in some of my neighbors. It sort of feels like finding an oasis in the desert, to be honest with you. That water is so much more refreshing for the effort required to find it. Most incredible to me are the survivors of truly atrocious lives – lives best represented by either a doormat or by the image of a ghost wandering across a city, unable to touch or be touched by the thousands of people he meets. – who nonetheless still manage to find the ability to weep for a dying friend or take the risk of trying to climb back on the cantankerous horse of love who has kicked them off countless times. Such men amaze and motivate me. I’d like to introduce you to one of them, my good friend Kevin Varga. When I first met Kevin, I couldn’t speak to him. His name – my brother's – made me nauseous just thinking about it. When I was in Monterrey, I was once in a bar and struck up a conversation with another American, who eventually introduced himself as a Kevin. I had to leave the bar, I got the shakes so bad. After a year or so, Kevin made it though my defenses, and he has become one of the few men here who can make me laugh my real laugh, the one that touches all the way to my eyes. He has a voice all his own, and I will let him tell you about himself.

Is man inherently good? Many would try to answer this with an unequivocal and resounding Yes, but that is only because we each wish to believe ourselves and being “good”. But are we good or just the products of our environment? Please allow me a few moments to tell you of my story and then you may decide for yourself whether or not I am in fact a good person, a bad person, or a victim of my environment.

This story starts with me, when at the age of ten I got into a minor scrape with the authorities. I had vandalized a local store (I spray painted my name on the side of the building; this was 1978). When the police brought me to my mother’s house she told the officer that she no longer wanted the responsibility of my well-being. Not to paint too grim a picture of my mother, she was dealing with my youngest brother's cancer and she spent most of her time in and out of the hospital. When she heard anything from me it was that I was running wild. I guess looking back, I wanted attention and since I was not receiving any I did what I had to, to gain my mother's attention. Imagine how I felt at ten years old to hear my mother telling the police officer to take me, that she didn’t want me! I was placed in a home as a temporary measure until my mother decided to take me. But I was hurt and angered that I felt this abandonment. Of course, at the time I could not have so clinically seen my actions, I just knew that no one wanted me and that no one cared what I did, so I ran away from the home. Every time I was brought back I told them I would just run away again and again. That was when it was decided that I would be placed into the juvenile detention center. I had not committed any crime like the rest of these boys but I was treated the same as everyone else.

This JDC was a new and frightening world for a ten year old. These boys ruled by fear and brutality. I had two choices: I could either become a victim of any of a number of the bullies there or I could learn to fight so that when it came to it I wouldn’t be such an easy conquest. At first I was beaten several times, but each time I learned to fight a little better then before long no one thought it was worth the trouble to single me out. The JDC is intended as a holding facility only. But since I had not committed any crime my “time” was never determined. I was in there for over a year until my mother decided that she would attempt to deal with me.

For the first time in over a year I was to deal with normal people, which on the surface may sound easy but consider this; soldiers who return to the world from war often have problems reintegrating back into society. I was walking home from school when I came upon two high school girls physically taunting my little brother who had gone through radiation treatments so that all of his hair had fallen out. Well I protected him from these two girls who were both older and bigger than myself. They ran home and told the story of how I beat them with trashcans even though they had not a single mark upon them. I was sent back to the JDC, this time for assault. I was declared a ward of the state of Michigan and I was sent off to a juvenile institution where I was for two and a half years. Upon turning fourteen I was released back into the care of a mother I no longer knew to a world that had turned its back upon me.

I was placed into high school where I was expected to put the institution behind me. I went from a place that once more was the strong preying on the weak to a normal Norman Rockwell painting. How was I to deal with what a normal teen would if I was taught only to lash out at anyone I perceived as a threat? It wasn’t long before this attitude led me to striking the vice principal in a fit of rage. They deemed me to be a violent and uncontrollable youth and sent me to yet another institution. This one was worse than the first two that I had found myself in. I was in a group of young boys aged from 14-19 that had like myself been brought up in the various placed around Michigan. The Adrien Training School is what is called PPC or Positive Peer Culture. They intend for the boys to police one another, but what it was in reality was just another form of the strong preying on the weak as the different factions would prey on those who couldn’t stand up for one's self. So in a sense the structure of this place forced you into a faction since it was suicide to be alone there. I was never one to conform to any structural dynamic so I of course rebelled. I was in the ATS for almost two years when the administration said that I was not fit to complete their program. Namely I refused to participate in that gang mentality that was forced upon me. I was then sent to the worst place in Michigan that you could possibly be sent to. The Green Oak Center was infamous at the time for the brutality that goes on behind its chain linked fences and razor wire. This was actually a juvenile prison, known as the last stop. If you are sent here you are there until you turn 18.

When I walked into the cell hall I was greeted by the cacophony of noise. The staff member was a large black man that looked as if he could snap my neck in his bare hands. I was taken into the office and they began to “Orientate” me. I was asked what crimes that I had committed and so forth, what gangs I was affiliated with. My answers displeased them (remember until that time I had been accused and convicted for a minor assault only where everyone else in that place were there for crimes ranging from a multitude of thefts to murder). I was in a cell hall with the worst of these “inmates” due to a report from ATS. I was given my housing assignment; thankfully we were to live in single cells! I was able to interact with the others. I was confronted in the bathroom by several black youths from Detroit. They demanded that I pay protection or they would make my stay a very long and painful one. Given the situation I did what I had been taught though my lengthy stay in other places, I swung my first at the nearest youth. I smashed his nose against the side of his face, and his two or three homies beat me unconscious. I missed the mandatory count and was placed into the isolation cell for 5 days. That was the standard disciplinary action for almost every rule infraction. 5 days in the iso cell is not a pleasant way to spend your time. The cell has only a toilet/sink combo that stinks due to its infrequent washings. The cell itself smells of stale sweat and urine. You are provided with two meals a day, both consisting of two bologna sandwiches and a carton of milk (to this day I do not eat bologna).

When my first 5 day stint was over I was never so happy to be able to take a shower, one of those luxuries that are denied those who would be crass enough to flout the rules and regulations of GOC. I will not go into a long and lengthy depiction of my stay in that hellish place; I was there until I was almost 18. I had an opportunity to run from there and I of course took that opportunity.

I am now on Death Row in Texas. I will never claim that I am an innocent man nor can I honestly say that I do not deserve to be in prison for my part of the incident that brought me to Death Row. I will forever claim that I took no active role in the death of the two men that I was convicted to die for. That being said, I will again ask the question: Is man inherently good? Am I? Or am I just a victim that was placed into a position to do what I had to, to survive in an environment? Could anyone claim that given that choice they would react any differently from me? Now before anyone will label me a heartless person I would share a more recent story with you.

I had been on Death Row for going on seven years when I received a letter from a most engaging woman from England. We traded letters for several months before I realized that I was falling in love with this woman. I never thought I had the capacity to love with such abandonment and unconditionally but she showed me that love was pure and giving. We married on November 2 2008. Then shortly thereafter her mother died and her letters fell off from twice weekly to nothing. I tried to understand that she was going through the loss of her mother, but I wanted to comfort her and help her through her tragic loss. I wrote a letter in anger and she thought I wanted to be free of her. Did she not realize that she changed how I felt about everyone? A mere few years ago I would have just shrugged my shoulders and moved on to the next conquest; I am unable to get past the hurt in my heart. I am heartbroken over this woman. I tell this to show that even a person such as myself that has seen the ugliest that man has to offer has the capacity to love someone so much that her happiness is beyond my own. So, am I a good man or a bad man? Neither. I am just a man. Each man is capable of the greatest good or the vilest of evils. Don’t believe me? Put on my skin and walk around for a week and that will show you that we are.

I thank you for indulging me and allowing me to share this time and space with you. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Thomas for giving me this venue to vent. I dedicated this to Samantha Jane Varga who showed me that love is real and not just an abstract idea.


Knowing Kevin has led me to one of my core beliefs: good and evil are not who we are, but what we do. Good and evil are verbs, not adjectives. Kevin recently got shot down by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, typically considered the last real court of hope, as the Supreme Court actually only looks at a microscopically small percentage of death row appeals. His last resort is to petition Gov Rick Perry for Clemency. For those of you in the Abolition movement, I am going to ask you to fire up your printers and send some letters to the addresses listed below. To those of you who were touched by what he wrote, please also consider letting the Governor know your thoughts on this man. He is worthy of a commutation to a life sentence. He is worth it. If you ever believe anything I ever write, believe that.

To see what is right, and not do it, is for want of courage, or of principle

Confucius


Robin Norris
Attorney at Law
2408 Fir Street
El Paso, TX, 79925

Fax: (915) 590-9992


Governor Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428

Fax: (512) 463-1849


Chair: Rissie Owens
Jose Aliseda, Jr.
Charles Aycock
Conrith Davis
Jackie DeNoyelles
Linda Garcia
Juanita M. Gonzalez

Board of Pardons and Paroles
Executive Clemency Section
General Counsel’s Office
8610 Shoal Creek Blvd
Austin, TX 78757

Fax: (512) 467-0945



© Copyright 2009 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker.
All rights reserved.

11 comments:

Erin said...

Have any of you ever wondered who your "real" friends are?

Who it is that will be with you when you find yourself at the end of your story?

Who was with you in the beginning?

I guess that the better question would be does anyone even know what the proper definition of the term "friend" really is anymore?

Sometimes I'm not so sure...

Now, before you all go running for your dictionaries to look it up, know that the answer to such a concept cannot just be researched out. Sure, you will find one or two brief, vaguely technical lines of bullshit, but none of these will answer anything.

It doesn't matter what version you have, or how hard you squint to read that conveniently fine text, the definition to the term "friend," whether it be being one or having many, is something you find within yourself, over time. Friendship is an acquired skill of the heart.

It is one of life’s many riddles, one which I found the answer to a long time ago. What I found is that:

TRUE FRIENDS ARE HARD TO FIND.

Unlike what the dictionary would lead you to believe, friendship is not just about “companionship,” nor is it just an “attachment to one by affection or esteem.” Friendship is so much more than all that. It is about loyalty, respect, unity, and above all, it is about the unconditional love and acceptance of someone other than yourself. In a way, it is a mutual cycle of selflessness; another long forgotten concept.

The more sincere you are in your friendship, the more sincere your friend will be with you.

Anyways, If you haven’t learned what love is yet, just keep in mind that love’s meaning is a reflection which bears many faces. Love doesn’t always have to be romantic or parental to be absolute.

A real friend has the ability to look past the other person’s gaffes and personal flaws and accept them as a whole. You accept the good and the bad in that person; even if your own morals and ideas don’t always agree with theirs. Overcoming the urge to overpower their opinions to submit to yours; finding the openness to intertwine them; or at the very least to “agree to disagree”, is one of the most selfless things you can do.

Now, the reason that I am mentioning any of this is because of the response to the misinterpretation of Thomas’ psyche analysis. I would just like to clarify some things, for his sake (and on his behalf because he asked me to).

Thomas is not gay (or bi).

I KNOW that he is not either of those things, and if anyone was going to tell you the truth on this it would be me because I, personally, would be 100% okay with it if he was. I love him for what he is; an incredible person and a good friend.

If you have ever been to a therapist or psychologist of any kind you probably know that they base all psychological deficiencies off of the nutcase studies of their sexually fixated forefathers, people like Sigmund Freud.

Erin said...

According to these people every problem we have can be related back to our childhood, and no matter how good your childhood was, or wasn’t, somehow or another our issues are a result of a misconstrued sexual identity and a subconscious urge to be incestuous. (Look it up, Freud had “mommy” issues)

These concepts are not really as valid as people seem to buy into, but they are dramatic and scandalous so we believe them. Psychologists really only see what they want to see because that is what they are looking for; that is what their education tells them to look for. People in general do this all the time without even knowing it. We never want to be wrong so we look for the signs that confirm our initial belief.

To publish such an intimate document for the whole world to pass their judgments on was an extremely big step for Thomas. He we went from being someone who was all about “face” to a man who no longer cares what the world thinks of him. I have been seeing these changes in him for a long time, and I am incredibly proud of how far he has come. INCREDIBLY PROUD =)

He knew what a commotion the report would cause, and that is why he chose not to edit it. For just once in his life he wanted to see who was going to be a genuine friend to him, and who wasn’t. He wanted to see who would accept him, as is.

Apparently, from what I understand, there are people in this world who could befriend him as a murderer, but not as a homosexual. It is sad the way people can be so small, and then again, amazing that they still have enough room to let their morals get so mixed up.

In my last letter Thomas wrote, “I’ve been enjoying the responses, because there are actually some people, whom I considered to be close friends, which are so married to their tired old ideologies, that they would rather not know me thinking I was bi. In the south, if you are accepting of gays, it often means that everyone thinks you are one. Even doctors, sometimes.”

He then continued to correct the various mistakes made in the document. Such as, when he kissed a boy, he was 5 not 8; and the whole “he is so charismatic that he has power over Men and Women…” line can be read a few different ways. Not all of them being sexual.

For those of you who have chosen to be a friend to Thomas and accept him for who he is (even if that “who he is” in the report, isn’t necessarily who he really is); congratulations you passed the test.


For those of you who chose to turn your back on him and walk away due to such a minute detail, I pray that someday you find a bigger pasture to graze in. It is probably good that you chose to show your true colors now as opposed to later because time and energy are really very precious commodities and not something that should be wasted.

Articulate, sweet, and funny, Thomas is a good person. He is one of the smartest men I know, and he is a constant blossom of hope. I say that knowing that I am not the only one who feels this way.

I am incredibly blessed to have him in my life and to call him my friend. I would also like to add that I am very thankful for all the good people who write to him because by taking the time to share your world with him, you give him that brief second in which he is able to forget the horrors of his own world and find the peace that comes with a smile . I know that he appreciates all of you.

So what is a friend?

If I had to sum it up any better than I have…

A friend is someone who willingly brings light and life into the catacombs of another person’s existence. True friends are fearless and strong, and they make sure it’s contagious.

Observer said...

I believe things could have been different for Kevin, given the correct set of circumstances in his younger yeaars. You, on the other hand had almost everything, and it did you no good - may be some people are just born "bad" for want of another word, and no nurturing or anything else will make them any different.

I do have a question. I see from your report and some of the "blame" was placed on your mother - do you agree with that assumption? I would be interested to know.

jerzee said...

Hi, ive been reading MB6 for a couple years (has it been that long?) faithfully. I dont even remember how i stumbled upon it actually. It may have been because i read at insessions (the old courttv.com) and have been following trials and missing persons cases on there for about 5 years.

Anyway, im really on the fence about the death penalty. I dont know how i can put myself in that category because i definitely believe that Thomas should not receive a death sentence and there are cases that i believe the convicted murderer should. So i really actually confuse myself.

After reading about Thomas from his own written words, my heart breaks for him. Ive also been reading how close, emotionally, some people here have attached themselves to him. I really fear one day that he will be put to death and this will effect so many people in so many ways.

Ive tried to do a little research about texas death row and how long from conviction to death sentence takes. I guess my question is, Is Thomas running out of time? How many more appeals will he have?

TIA for any help

Donna Michelle said...

Jerzee,

This is a PDF from CA, but the process is pretty much the same in TX.http://ag.ca.gov/publications/pdf/deathpen.pdf

From what i understand of the American legal system, which isnt a lot, the length of time on DR will depend on the nature of the appeals, the ammount of issues contained in them and how complex they are. I think it will also depend on how long am inmate has been on DR as some of them are under a different set of rules and appeals process. Someone feel free to correct me on any of that.

Erin, i really love that post. I dont think anyone could have put that better than you :)

Silent Observer said...

I came across this website if anyone is interested about control units where prisoners are locked up for 23 hours a day in small cramped cells

Abolish Control Units

Stacey said...

Erin,

Just an off the hand comment (probably where none is needed) that what you wrote regarding friendship, and your views on the situation is very beautiful and rings very true with me, how I see things. I think that all of your friends are as blessed to have YOU in their lives as you see yourself being blessed to have them.

I truly feel that people who decide to base beliefs on slivers of a whole story, rob not only themselves, but also the people involved in the story. I have yet read the psych report...but I doubt that it can even be considered a complete sliver in and of itself.

I think that when people stop insisting on trying to categorize people under labels...as see that their fellow "people" are meant to be enjoyed (or not) as other thinking/feeling/acting people, rather than trying to organize them in a "filing system" mentality, the world might just be a more loving place.

But these are just random thoughts...my own opinions. I do hope that Thomas has more people that care for him unconditionally, than those who can't think beyond the limits of definitions and labels.

Silent Observer said...

There was an interesting syndicated opinion piece on Friday called Kill The Death Penalty if anyone would like to read it. It is worthwhile taking the time to do so.

Jen said...

thanks for the article silent observer. and thank you for reminding us to care thomas.

drw08 said...

I came across this article after a recent google search and was shocked and enlightened to read Varga's account of his relationship. I feel it is all too common (from reading posts on forums etc) that these poor souls on death row reach out for contact only to find women searching for something or someone to fill a gap in their own lives.

I am sure that any outside attention must be incredibly precious to those incarcerated. I have read many reports which stipulate these men are only after the money these women provide. A cynic would agree and disparage any other offers of motivation. I was a cynic but having read Varga’s post I believe his motives honourable.

Paul said...

For someone who is supposedly willing to talk about all things openly it strikes a discordant note that Bart will not face his psych evaluation head on. To say that 90% is right but cherry-pick and ignore his homosexuality tells a story. Even more telling is him asking a supporter to write a denial for him. I am, of course, assuming that Erin has only been aquainted with Bart after his incarceration.

drw08, there are always two sides to these relationships. Often the inmate is indeed 'running a game' for their own ends but I think it says something about the state of mind of a women prepared to marry someone they have never met, will never be able to even touch and in some cases never even get to see till just before the execution. Any action of such an individual must, therefore, be unsurprising. Very often these women are not from the US and cannot fixate on DR inmates in their own country. They seem most often to be attracted to erudite younger men.