Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Kindness of Strangers Part Two

Dear Readers, 

I speak for all of us at Minutes Before Six when I say that we are insanely grateful to each and every one of you who have donated to our fundraising campaign.  Thank you so much!  If you haven’t yet, please consider making a contribution, as we are still working towards our goal and your support is essential to our growth.  One reader suggested adding a Pay Pal option, in addition to GoFundMe, and so we have. (Those wishing to donate to Thomas Whitaker’s education fund, which is separate from MB6 funds, can find the link on his MB6 Biography page).

The comments inspired by The Kindness of Strangers post mean the world to all of us also, and we are extremely grateful to those of you who took the time to share your insights and questions in thoughtful and articulate ways.  The writers were deeply touched by what you had to say, and by the fact that you have continued to leave comments for essays that have followed.  Thank you for this. We hope you will continue, as this, too, is essential to our growth. The responses from the writers Steve Bartholomew, Thomas Whitaker and Santonio Murff are below, and they look forward to continuing their dialogue with you in the year ahead, as do the rest of the MB6 contributors.

2016 is upon us and we wish you peace and hope in the New Year.  Thank you for your continued support of Minutes Before Six.


Dina Milito

The Kindness of Friends
By Steve Bartholomew

Dear Isabel Duvenage,

Thank you for taking the time to write such a thoughtful and thought-provoking comment. It is immensely encouraging to find out that our readership includes such articulate and compassionate people. As Thomas, Antonio and I indicated, we really had no idea.

I am not on death row. I have never killed anyone. But, I was a criminal for much of my former life, and I have harmed people, some badly, both physically and financially. Just because I am not a killer does not mean I am a stranger to the state of mind required to kill another person. I believe you are correct in saying that free will, as we know it, is largely an illusion. There is no outside force governing our consciousness. Our mind is a function of our neural makeup, some more susceptible to chaotic impulses than others. We have no control over the way our brain works any more than we do over our intestines. Sure, the decision to harm another is made consciously and deliberately, and full accountability for that choice is the bedrock of the retributive justice system. But the decision to harm does not appear ex nihilo. Like every other thought, it arises from a mental state, one owing to the complex interplay between our environment and the makeup of our brainstuff.

There are as many fine-grained answers to your questions as there are killers. I will take a stab at them, drawing from my own experience. For me, crossing the mental threshold between inaction and harmful action did not involve considerations of consequences. It isn't that I had no sense (well, most of the time), or that I wasn't at least dimly aware of the probability of getting caught. It is that whatever event or conditions from which the urge to do harm arose was so overpowering, so consuming, that it displaced risk-weighing skills, overwriting beliefs in the process. Intellectually, I may know getting caught is a statistical likelihood, but I am operating on base drives, limbic programs overriding critical thinking abilities. I may also believe that in this moment I am capable of great acts of evasion. Or I may believe that nothing my future self could feel will outweigh what I feel right now. The mental map shrinks to this, now. This goes toward explaining why the death penalty has never been a deterrent for murder.

We humans have many ways of deluding ourselves. Some of us take to incorrigible propositions, unassailable beliefs based on zero evidence: my god is better than yours, my tribe and not yours, Donald Trump is somehow smarter than he looks or sounds. I have convinced myself before that harming another human being was not morally wrong, that I was the universe's arbiter of vengeance. Or that my need far outweighed their suffering. That their happiness, even their life, mattered less than my own.

As to your other question, about the moment before: happy people who envision a promising future do not typically harm other people. Hurt people hurt people. Oftentimes the before is so filled with swirling anguish and fear-based rage that the idea of committing great harm seems much like a release valve. Or, if the act itself is a means to another end, whatever effects it may cause me later can be no worse than how life feels right now. Empathy is really the awareness of another's mind, which depends on an awareness of our own. It is a brain-science fact that people who are more aware of their own bodies are more empathic. Heightened emotions and urges seal off the mind from pesky nerve signals. When the mind is flooded with hatred or misery, it cannot be entirely self-aware, its focus reduced to reaction, to ending the pain. When you factor in the benumbing confusion of intoxicants, judgment can become even more erratic. The person I am now has difficulty reliving some of my own memories. All the stories I write are true and my own, which is to say I own them. The protagonist, however, is someone I no longer consider me.

Clarity on such subjects is difficult to provide with brevity. I hope my perspective gave you a glimmer of insight.

Dear Anonymous #1,

Thank you for stopping long enough in your wanderings to comment. Apology accepted. To know that our writing has changed even one heart and mind makes all this effort feel worthwhile.

Dear Anonymous #2,

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I too am not a huge fan of sentimental expressions of sentiment, especially from in here. I can't speak for every Minutes writer, but I believe most of the time it isn't so much that we are particularly pitying ourselves. Rather, what bleeds through is the combination of extreme frustration with our environment and the inability to express it in a properly dispassionate way. I think we're all guilty of blurting something out that we feel strongly about, only to hear ourselves and think, I could have said that less dramatically

We may use every last brain cell when writing a piece for Minutes, but we can only write from the heart. Your feedback telling us when we wax lugubrious will help us not to.
I take the fact that you see us as writers, not "prison-writers,” as a high compliment.

Dear Jenneke,

Thank you for having the time, and nerve, to comment. Do not be ashamed of having to look up occasional words in Thomas's essays. He sends me to my dictionary too sometimes. And I have no excuse: I've been learning English since I was two.
Please do not feel that we care how eloquently worded a comment is. 

What we care about is whether we struck a nerve. You make me believe we have.

Dear Anonymous #3,

Thank you for breaking the comment ice. I completely understand why your brother is reticent to share the details of this life with you. The only glimpse into prison life my own little sister may glean from me would be through reading my posts on Minutes Before Six. We big brothers don't like to burden our baby sisters with the facts of this life, which are: tedium punctuated by annoyance, loneliness coupled with crowding, and hope coated with fear. No way to feel big brotherly in unloading that. And, we don't want you to worry.

I'm grateful we are able to give you a glimpse into your brother's world.

Dear Luisa,

Thank you for acknowledging us. Apology accepted. My entire goal as a writer and artist is to move people, to make them feel something outside their own experience. You make it sound like we've succeeded.

Dear Urban Ranger,

Thanks for your input. You are absolutely right; the quality of writing on Minutes does vary greatly. One reason is that the average level of education in the American prison system is around ninth grade. Many of us came from educationally impoverished backgrounds. Some of us were state-raised. I was street-raised, but made if through tenth grade before enrolling in finishing school on the streets of Seattle. Some of us have been able to educate ourselves more than others. There is a vast disparity of opportunity in here—some prisons have decent libraries that will do interlibrary loans, some have none. I am enrolled in the University Beyond Bars (I encourage you to visit the website), and enjoy the privileges of college courses taught by UW professors. You could count on one hand similar programs in the U.S. prison system. In fact, most if not all states have outlawed funding for post-secondary education in prison. And what limited education programs that exist are typically not available to prisoners with sentences of life, or death. The state sees that as a waste of resources. Most guys in isolation are limited to whatever discarded books show up on the cart: if they're lucky there’ll be a Clive Cussler. Some of us have family and supporters who help us tremendously by sending us books. Others have only the pocket dictionary they sell on store. Sorry the artwork falls flat for you.

Dear SuzieQ,

Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I think accountability is an ongoing struggle for many of us in here, how to balance it with the self-forgiveness required of betterment. I agree, complaining can be tedious. Some of what comes across as sheer complaining, I’m afraid, is one expression of dissatisfaction with the deteriorating standards of conditions in the prison complex. American jurisprudence has decided that punishment ought to be meted out in terms of time, not conditions. In other words, isolation from everything and everyone we know and love is what we are sentenced to, not unfair treatment that stops just short of arising to cruel and unusual.  A common sentiment among long term prisoners leans toward "when is enough enough?" We cannot help but notice the continuum of subtraction, the reduction by attrition of what little we have in the way of creature comforts and privileges. Some of us compare what is with what was, and we ask why it seems to only ever get worse. It's easy to become so closely identified with our own suffering that we at least sound as if we've placed our own misery ahead of that of our victims, if only because we live inside ours. I imagine that if you queried any of the men and women capable of writing at the level of Minutes Before Six, you'd find that in fact they are extremely aware of the hurt they caused, and the debt society says they are to pay. But if the debt is simply Time, then should we not be able to address the malfeasance of the prison regime? Truly difficult to do without sounding plaintive. But we write, because we’re writers. And going on ad nauseum about our penitence can feel like a disservice to the victims themselves. We wonder: Am I contrite enough? Did I misrepresent? Do I even sound genuine, or will be attacked for pandering?

Many of us discover our first opportunity to grow in to better human beings only after coming to prison. My previous life of addiction and ruin felt much less free than does my inner life now, in prison. After all, I am free now to respond to someone like yourself. Please do not keep your thoughts to yourself. They are greatly appreciated.

Dear Anonymous #4,

Thank you for your honesty. I feel honored to be among the three writers you mentioned. Please do not think that your thoughts are ever taken as trite. Meaningful support is not made of platitudes. We don't need uplifting. What we want is meaningful criticism such as what you took the time to give us. That's where we derive meaning. That's how we adjust our course as writers to be better, which is how we become better people.

Most of us do not have pen pals. Many of us don't necessarily want one. But for those of us who do have loyal supporters, we tend to weigh more heavily input from readers like yourself, who are not obligated to massage our egos. (Sorry, Mom.)

Dear Anonymous #5,

Thank you for taking the time to write such a thorough body of feedback. I am grateful to learn about internet trolls and their effect on what should be an ongoing conversation. I had no idea there were people with such an excess of time and nastiness on their hands. If only we could harness that somehow and put it to use. Detailing Honey Buckets at homeless camps, maybe.

Now to the important stuff. Thanks for downloading and mentioning Versus Inertia. That means a great deal to the guys and me. We put a ton of effort into getting those songs out into the free world, and until now we weren’t sure if anyone was even listening. We are pleased we can increase your pace. Expect another album from us in the next few months. We’ve recorded six more songs so far, and plan to include four or five more. The sound quality will be better this time, as we’ve learned a few tricks. I am touched that you would share my brief description of the recording process in prison with free world musicians. If any of them have any questions or tips, I invite them to contact me.

Interestingly, music is one of the few enclaves of autonomy in this environment, even though for us it is a cohesive group activity. For me, the only actual autonomy I have left is my inner life. Music is the only dynamic expression of that allowed by policy.

Good on you for channelling books into these literary badlands. 

Dear Anonymous #6,

Thank you for your encouragement and donation. I too felt the loss of Bill Van Poyck. Even though I never had the privilege, I felt as if I had: the mark of a truly great writer. I will pass on your kind words to Tim Pauley, a personal friend of mine who happens to live within walking distance.

I was moved by your words on the connectivity we at Minutes struggle to maintain with the outer world. I began writing for Minutes Before Six about four years ago because I felt entirely disconnected from humanity at large. I knew that if I were to be able to rejoin my community as anything better than the scoundrel I’d once been, I would need to relearn how to relate. We are truly complex creatures, some of us capable of both regrettable acts and great kindness. In my mind it comes down to the Native American proverb about the two wolves fighting for dominance inside each of us, one good and one bad. Which one will win? The one you feed.

Thanks for letting us feed the right one.

Dear Erika,

Thank you for noticing our efforts. As a writer, I feel a sense of growth with every finished piece, some new or forgotten corner of myself I've swept out. For so long I have assumed the effect went nowhere else, which felt a little self-indulgent. It means a great deal to find out that what I do, what we do here, resonates with you like it does. All of us here work intensely with one goal, to create a commonplace where we can share what makes us human. If we can inspire action in the process, well then, we've made it.

Dear Anonymous #7,

Thank you for commenting. I am not on death row. I cannot speak for the guys who are. My one bit of advice for you in considering what to say to them: Write to them as if they are any other writer who has moved you. They do not wear their sentence on their sleeve, nor, I imagine, do they wish to be identified by it first and foremost. I'm certain they would not think you a ghoul for asking questions or making comments. All of us at Minutes Before Six, whether we are on death row or in a halfway house, write with the singular goal of connecting with humanity. So please, do not think there is some threshold for adequacy when it comes to comments or support. We appreciate it greatly, and we know it is not easy. Although, like anything else worth doing, it gets easier the more you do it.

Dear Anonymous #8,

Thank you for your comment, Anonymous, I have said this before, to your other brother Anonymous in fact:  just your simple acknowledgement of our effort is something worth saying.

Dear Anonymous #9,

Thanks for your comment. I find interesting the amount of people who, like yourself, are interested in the daily life in here. I have not written much about it because it seems much like narrating a Groundhog's Day, an endless drab parade of stultifying sameness. If I detailed one day of my life in here I would be compelled to include an apology for making you endure the equivalent of printed Ambien. My next piece on Minutes describes what it's like to be celled up with the mentally ill. A slightly less boring slice of daily life. Groundhog's Day meets What About Bob….

Steve Bartholomew 978300
P.O. Box 777
Monroe, WA 98272-0777

All My Ancient Twisted Karma and Other Midnight Musings
By Thomas Bartlett Whitaker

If there really is such a thing as a "human condition," it is the state of being always unconsummated, oscillating ceaselessly between the desire for fulfilment and the consciousness of failure. Which is a fancy-shmancy, English-majory way of saying that we just had mail call, and I received a large packet containing all of the recent comments and responses to A Flame Imprisoned in My Bones and The Kindness of Strangers. I had planned to spend my night trying to understand about three percent of this Jean-Francois Lyotard book (thanks for saving me from that), but for the first time in years I feel an urge to write that is not powered simply out of a sense of duty. For the first time in a very long time, I feel the weight and responsibility of having readers. For many blue moons, the act of writing has felt very lonely, as if I were standing in a crowded square mumbling crazily to myself. Thank you all for reconnecting me to the knowledge that at least some of you passers-by are pausing to listen. I am sure that all of the writers feel the same way, so please continue to leave your thoughts from time to time. We will all be better for the give and take.

I am going to try to respond tonight to most of the general points that were sent to me specifically, but I am going to admit up front that I may have to return to some of them farther on down the road. I do not have a quick intellect. I want to honor the fact that you took the time to reach out by getting some response to you as quickly as possible, but what few generally coherent thoughts I manage to churn out from time to time only come after days and sometimes many weeks of introspection and review. These are my immediate thoughts; some marginally better ones may follow eventually.

Let's start with some of the more difficult issues addressed. Anonymous remarked that he thought my optimal function as a writer was as "an embedded journalist...within the walls of Polunsky Unit," and that I have been moving towards a more "narrative" and "internal monologue" style, where I am "less able." I leave those sorts of judgements on my abilities to you, though you are probably correct. I can definitely see your point. I have noticed far less desire over the years to write about this place, especially the day-to-day nonsenses that make up my physical existence. This has taken place in my correspondence as well. I could say that I am just sick of writing about this dump, exhausted with the task of putting my stoicism into abeyance so I can highlight what I believe to be bad prison policy, tired of trying to pour salt on all of the same old slop of boring inmates, boring guards, boring protocols, and this would no doubt be true. I think you can probably understand all of this very easily, even with your lack of direct penal experience. I could also note that there are other weblogs out there whose authors focus almost exclusively on exactly this sort of daily reportage, and this would also be true. After saying all of that, you would probably imagine that I would prefer to let my narrative mind wander out to greener pastures that I would prefer to write about anything other than prison. It's not that I don't want to write about other things, it's that I find I have some sort of weird block where I am having a harder time focusing on anything beyond the moderately defective three-pound piece of protein that sits directly behind my eyes. I've noticed that as my world has shrunk in size from freedom to population lock-up to solitary confinement, so has my ability to imagine farther horizons. What I am left with is what you called internal monologues. I do not think I am alone in this, actually. I've been reading quite a bit of prisoner-penned memoirs and fiction of late, and I have noticed that since the late 80s, a progressively higher percentage of writers have been going inward in their narratives, rather than the reverse, which is what you found during the 60s. This is difficult to quantify, but I do not believe this is a function of confirmation bias on my part, and I am the first wannabe-scholar of prison lit to have commented on this. (Not that there are many scholars who study prison lit, mind. I'm like the sixth most important. Of six. Sigh.) If I had to guess why this is, I would say that as national prison conditions deteriorated and sentences multiplied, prisoners have given up on hopes of changing the system with their words, of being perceived as anything other than prisoners, and of finding any home outside of these walls, and have drifted into themselves to find a freedom and peace that is denied them elsewhere. I know every square centimeter of this cell, every crack. My interior space is limitless, however, and it comprises the only thing that they cannot take from me at their whim. I think the Persian Neoplatonist al-Sijistani had this in mind when he wrote, "He who swims in our sea has no shore but himself." The inside of my head may be a wasteland, but even that is preferable to drowning. All of this is to say that I'm not quite sure I could reverse this trend, even if I wanted to, which, I'm afraid, I do not, for reasons that I will get into shortly. I respect your opinion, Anonymous, but my sense of sanity and hope of personal salvation —if such a thing exists for a humanist like me—depend upon my inward trajectory. These winds would tear me to pieces if I fought them.

Now, there are other reasons why I might have strayed a little from my old manner of "reporting" from the Chateau Polunsky, if that is in fact what I have done. Another Anonymous and SuzieQ touched upon one of them when the former wrote that "there are times I think 'Stop whining, you put yourself there asshole'" and the latter "I admit, when I see writers complain, I do many times feel that their victims would have loved the opportunity to just still be breathing." I have always been conscious, since the very beginning of this site, that nobody wants to hear some inmate whining about his lot. I have tried to remain aware of the exact location of the very fine line between presenting you with as clear a view of this reality as I could manage and appearing to inspire pity. If I have ever stumbled over this point and roamed into the latter, please forgive me, because I genuinely do not want your pity, nor do I feel I deserve it. It isn't always easy to find ways to carefully describe the norms, mores, and feelings of this place without inspiring pathos, because most of you are kind folk who instinctively recoil at the presence of indiscriminate cruelty. I don't know, maybe I have been careless about this from time to time, like back in 2007/08/09 when I had a broken arm and was stymied in my attempts to get medical care. I wasn't expecting pity or even assistance, but I think I did want you outraged. Pity and disapproval are adjacent emotions, so maybe I should have known that sympathy is what some of you would think I was searching for. I do want you to feel something when you read about this place, I admit. I want to inspire you to think differently about a whole range of uncomfortable issues, from how we think about and define justice to the way politicians manipulate your fears of the Other to get themselves elected. I want you to feel like a utopian for a little while, like a partisan, like your voice matters. When I say "utopian," I'm not talking about some sort of sophomoric Shangri-La that is keyed quite hopelessly to the past, but rather to a better society formed out of the potential inherent in the present. I want you to care about prisons and prisoners, because they've designed these places both in architectural and cultural terms to be forgotten about. And tyranny, even the legal sort, needs to be monitored, always.

I guess that is it: I don't want you to pity me, but I do want you capable of feeling compassion for prisoners in general. Many of the writers on this site are worth ten of me, a hundred. Does Steve Bartholomew deserve your sympathy? He never asks for it, but I think he does. I happen to think he is one of the best prison writers currently operating in America. We have many writers on this site that were sentenced to LWOP as juveniles. I think anyone in that situation is worthy of pity, because that policy is barbaric. A few years back or so, in one of my many articles on solitary confinement, I wrote that several of the psychologists that have done reviews of me and my case have commented that I have severe PTSD. I wrote that this is what a management unit was designed to do, to shock and traumatically subdue troublesome inmates. I then wrote something along the lines of: they know they can get away with this because it's hard to have pity on someone who gave themselves a disease, meaning that I know I did this to myself, that I very much sympathize with what Anonymous and SuzieQ wrote, and I do not see much point in hoping for anyone to feel anything kind for me specifically. I suppose what I want you to care about is not that I have PTSD, but rather that you live in a nation that does this sort of thing intentionally to hundreds of thousands of human beings—with your tax dollars. I want you to care about a principle. I'm just a tree: see the forest, please. Because this is so wrong.

First of all, it's a stupid policy to mess up someone this bad when nearly everyone (aside from those of us on death row) currently in seg in this nation will one day be released. You aren't doing yourselves any favors welcoming such people back into the fold, either in fiscal terms (the costs of the entire criminal justice behemoth when they recidivate) or in human ones (the pain and sense of violation the victims of crime are going to feel). But it's deeper than that, too. These are people. They shouldn't be thrown away. Once upon a time, we didn't systematically degrade prisoners as a rule. We had harsh punishment, yes, but intentional status degradation on top of traditional forms of punishment started in the 1980s. The damage this has done and is doing goes beyond psyche all the way to polis, and I think most of the people that have been reading this site for a while understand this. We used to send convicts to prison as punishment. Separation from loved ones, deprivation of the rights to vote or own property, a lack of intimacy: these were the punishments. Now, we send convicts to prison for punishment: to suffer all of the above, but also to be thrown into a violent social Cuisinart of beatings, gassings, rape, and a systemic lack of basic human kindness that masquerades as enlightened policy. Even for someone like myself that feels the full weight of his guilt and attempts to be mindful at all times, it is sometimes difficult to draw a causal connection between something I did twelve years ago and the fact that this particular guard enjoys writing me up for nothing. You can understand that, right? We did what we did, but now they are doing what they are doing, and the first doesn't actually explain or justify the latter. If I am responsible for my actions, so are they, and when someone says, "Oh, it's prison, they deserve what they get," this is like giving the state carte blanche to do whatever twisted thing their heart desires. Maybe we do deserve what we are getting, but you don't really know that, it's an assumption. I feel like we're still caught up somehow in the twisted dreams of Aquinas and Tertullian, who promised Christians that they would experience immense satisfaction in heaven by witnessing the torments of the damned in hell—thus confirming their own blessed superiority. I write because I want all of us to be better than this. I know we can be. I don't have much faith in anything, but I believe in this with every fibre of my being.

I guess the best evidence that I can give you for why I am not looking for your pity—no matter how I screw up from time to time to give you this impression—is that I use the terrible things done to me as nourishment for my spirit. I have written about this before. In fact, I have written about this from the very beginning. I don't have good or accurate words for the following. Please forgive me this. These are internal certainties, intuitions, feelings that make sense in my head but seldom translate to other mediums. They may not make words for the feeling I am trying to encapsulate, actually. When I say that I very keenly feel the weight of my guilt, you are not understanding me because you have not done the things I have done. You are sorry for having lied on your résumé or your taxes, or maybe for having cheated on your spouse. Two people are dead because of me. When I say I am crushed by my remorse, I do not mean that I occasionally think about it. I mean that there is not a day that goes by where an advertisement in the paper or a song on the radio does not trigger a painful memory or a thought about what I have done as compared to what I should have done. I do not mean that I am sorry for the consequences of my actions; I mean that I am remorseful over motive, that I am sorry for the essence of what I have done, and that I castigate myself with a fury that I doubt you would feel sane, were I ever to show you the full extent of it. As I wrote in Suicide by Papercut, I survive on the things this prison does to me, on the shakedowns and the loss, because these things give me the feeling of paying off a tiny portion of my guilt. Most days, the interest alone crushes me, and I can't even think about the principle. Some days—the really bad ones—I feel like I can actually breathe for a bit. Your pity? I could not bear it.

This is another reason that I write: all of this, every last word, is a confession of sorts. I realized this a few years ago. I do not think of forgiveness in Christian terms, where I can just fall to my knees and ask God to free me from the weight of my sins. This is too easy to me, too easy for me. I feel the rightness of the concept of karma, even if I do not believe that it has any ontological reality beyond the social realm. I like the idea of earning merit, of going deep into myself to identify the present processes that contribute to my actions, as well as their roots. This is why I could not deviate from the inward trajectory I mentioned earlier: I owe it to myself, my family, my former friends, my ex, everyone I once knew and hurt, to feel every last ounce of this present pain, to have to hold all of that in my hand, to stare at it until I no longer feel the need to cringe, before I could ever let it go. This is the only way I know to find redemption. Yes, I care about that, even though I pretend I don't. To continue the Buddhist theme, Shantideva once wrote that "One law serves to summarize the whole of the Mahayana. The protection of all beings is accomplished through examination of one's own mistakes." I have been mentally operating on myself for years without anaesthetic, because I need to see how things work in there, why I have done the things I have done and thought the things I have thought. Some of this has been done in full view, not because I hope you will understand; such things are out of my control. I do them because I feel that one must be public about one's regrets, one's confession. Shame is a component, properly used, of a lasting rehabilitation regimen. Every time I write is an invitation for all of you to hate me, so that I might feel this. Trust me when I tell you that I am, and always have been, deeply sensitive to and receptive of shame. Erika wrote in her comment that she was "frustrated with [me] occasionally." Amen, sister. I am constantly frustrated with myself. This is my scourge, you understand? It's also a sort of survival strategy for living on death row. Why? The idea that there exists a finite point in spacetime where afterwards I no longer have to be myself? Sounds like heaven to me.

In addition to the various Christian ministers that I chat with and occasionally debate, for more than a year now I have been attending minister visits with a monk from the Houston Zen Center. Buddhists have two forms of confession, formal and formless. Formal confession can be done in your own heart, but to get the full impact, it needs to be done publicly. Formless confession is, according to Dogen, where we "quietly explore the furthest reaches of the causes and conditions" of our actions. I have been doing both without knowing it for years (at least without knowing that this was "Buddhist") to a degree that I hope you will at least grant me is rare for the condemned. I formally confessed in open court, I formally confess every time I write, and I formlessly confess each and every time I step back from my actions or thoughts in order to take them apart. I'm not getting this quite right; my words fail me. Maybe what I mean is that any pity you felt for me would lift my burden, and I need it if I am ever going to be free. I have to carry it alone until it is gone, or I wouldn't get anything out of this incarcerated life. I think I will end this portion of my response by publicly stating a small portion of the Bodhisattva Initiation Ceremony. I mean every word: I say them with an open heart and as clear a mind as I can manage:

All my ancient twisted karma
From beginningless greed, hate, and delusion
Born through body, speech, and mind
I now fully avow. 

And for the record, SuzieQ, I actually think you would be surprised at the percentage of men down here that would, given the chance, trade their lives for those of their victims—or for anyone, for that matter. When your life has no meaning, you dream for your death to have some. If they came to my door right this minute and said, we have a man/woman on the operating table who needs your heart/liver/big toe, I'd say, let's roll. (I tried to get some movement behind organ donations from death row many years ago, to no avail.) I would feel bad that I didn't have a chance to say goodbye to the few people I love, but I know they would understand.

Moving on, I want to address the occasional charge that I am in some way using this site to profit from my crime. I openly acknowledge that from time to time I have asked for help paying my tuition bills. I occasionally put receipts up (like this) to prove I am not lying about how I am spending the money, though I probably ought to do this more often. To be clear, these pleas almost never work, though recently some of you did help purchase some books I needed for my thesis work. Thank you all so much, even if some of them twisted my brain into knots. I have a handful of people who have given me money over the years, and this group covers probably 95% of every donation I have gotten in my 10+ years incarcerated. I correspond frequently with these people; they are my friends. Aside from this, I have two friends who donate monthly outside of my tuition fund. My friend from Michigan sends me $35 a month to help me cover hygiene and correspondence supplies (plus the occasional rehabilitation program that I come across, proof of which you can see here)—and a nice lady from Austin sends me $10 each month to help me cover debt incurred due to the lawsuits I have filed against the state over the years. This is what I live on. In other words, there is no wellspring of cash produced by this website, not for me, not for anyone. None of us are living like Mexican drug lords. This is why we are asking you to toss a couple of bucks our way to help us expand. What does this mean to you? More perspectives from more states, maybe the discovery of another Steve Bartholomew, Tom Odle, or Chris Dankovich. What's a cup of Starbucks cost these days? Four bucks? Five, if you go for the holiday pumpkin spices? Give us five bucks, we'll give you a portal to death and rebirth. That Mocha-frappa-venti-whatever will just give you fatter thighs. Sigh. I'm an awful salesman. Please don't make me beg.

Regarding the textbooks mentioned above, yet another Anonymous asked me how many books I was allowed to own. Texas inmates are allowed two cubic feet of property. From what I have read here, it would appear there is some serious variance in this amount between states. I use nearly all of my space on books, which means I have between 30 and 40 in my cell at any given time, though I am forced to cycle through these regularly as I read about a book a day. Usually I give my castoffs to other inmates, though if I can't find interest in a title I give them to the people that visit me. In addition to this, I keep a small collection of notebooks that I use to organize the various quotes that I think I might one day use. These tend to have a limited half-life, as they get thrown away during lockdowns. I'm not exactly sure why. I always feel a little frustrated by this, because these collections of scribbled wisdom are often the only proof I have of the effort I have put into myself. I mean, who even remembers al-Sijistani, right? These entries would be better if I had not lost so many of these notebooks.

I am starting to get tired, so I think I will respond to just one more comment here. Duvenage Isabel left a very long comment filled with many questions of value. First off, thank you for writing that you try never to have an opinion about anything about which you know nothing. How different the internet would be if everyone felt the same! Whatever would Republicans talk about? (Sorry. Couldn't resist. I'm listening to the BBC take apart the 4th Repub debate and it just slipped out.) In regards to your thought that our destinies are wired into our personalities, I must admit that I have been gravitating more towards this view the last few years, though it's not as simple as all that. Give Wegner's The Illusion of Conscious Will a read—it will blow you away. (Actually, if any of you have a thinker in the family, this book would be a great stocking stuffer this holiday season. That, and Metzinger's Being No One: the Self-Model of Subjectivity. Both are available from MIT Press.) I want to focus on your main point, which was that you wondered whether I had ever thought about the consequences (I.e., death row) of my actions. It is difficult for me to put myself back into the mind of the Thomas of 2003. My legal identity remains the same but my psychological identity is drastically distinct. The idea that consequences might have informed my motivational calculus is flawed mostly because, for me at least, there really was no calculus, not in the way you think. You are seeing that me as a rational agent, because you think of yourself as being mostly rational and because this is the cleanest way of explaining human agency. I have been loathe to talk about much of the following over the years, because attempted explanations are so often misperceived as excuses, something I have not done and never will. One of the many Anonymouses wrote that while she understood that things like prosecutorial misconduct and media bias do exist, she didn't care for stories on this site where a writer's status as a prisoner seemed to depend upon the results of a massive conspiracy of dozens or even hundreds of people. I feel the same way, so it is a little difficult to talk about how my case was handled, because it was so sloppy that I am not sure anyone will believe me.

Here are some simple facts, that may help you better understand my actions of December 10th, 2003. I was presented in the media as a sociopath who killed my family for money. This was done for simple, conspiracy-theory-less reasons. First off, the Fort Bend DA's office never had me evaluated by a psychologist, nor did anyone from the prosecution ever actually ask me about my motivations until I was on the stand at trial (and only then because I wouldn't shut up). The idea that evil sonsabitches kill for money is a firmly rooted one in our entertainment history, so they knew that they could sell this to a jury, despite the fact that I had well over 100k in a bank account in my name. The media got this version of the "truth" from my prosecutor, and this was the narrative that you entered into. If this were the case, it would be understandable that you would be curious about my mental mechanics, about whether I had ever thought about risks vs rewards. The truth, I'm afraid, is a bit messier. One would expect even a tired journalist rushing to make a deadline to at least call my defense attorney for their take on everything, and herein lies a larger part of the problem. When I was first arrested, I was represented by a very good attorney who was a family friend. His firm was not going to take me to trial—I couldn't afford him, for starters. He correctly realized that I had some serious mental health issues, and had an evaluation completed. Despite this, the attorney that represented me at trial never read this report, and then either entirely misunderstood the statements made to him by my childhood psychologist or intentionally misrepresented them (take your pick) in order to keep all mention of psychological matters out of my defense. Why did he do this? No one has any idea. Every single attorney I've spoken with since thinks he ought to have lost his license over this, because it was obvious to everyone that I had issues and that the state was sure as hell going to try to use psychology to kill me. What this means is that the only story you ever heard about my mental state was the one crafted by the attorneys for the state, because we never had our own expert available to counter the state's non-scientific opinion that I am a sociopath. In the law, if a witness says that you love peanuts and you don't counter this because you think this is a silly opinion, it becomes legal "truth" that you like peanuts, even if you are so allergic to them that eating a single one would kill you. Truth in court is what is stated and not debated. If the guy defending you drops the ball, you are screwed.

Since my arrival here, I have had two more highly in-depth psychological evaluations completed, and these sync up perfectly with the one completed by my first attorney, pre-trial. I won't dwell on the specifics here, as I have already posted the full reports on this site in the past. The basic gist was that I had some serious Axis 1 issues, and that many of my early childhood difficulties would today have been classified as possibly Asperger's disorder. Interestingly, these reports are so well done that the state has never—not once during my entire appeal process—had their own hired-gun shrink evaluate me in order to dispute our findings. They concede that I had issues. (My global assessment score was 25 at the time of my crime, firmly in the "batshit crazy" category, to use a highly technical term.) But the state also knows that all they have to do in order to kill me is argue that my attorney had a rational trial strategy for not including psych data. That's the law here in Texas. It doesn't matter if defense counsel was stupid. All they have to do in order to be deemed "competent," is to have had a strategy, period.

To admit to having had such serious mental problems is embarrassing for me. Maybe this is why I don't talk about this aspect of my history, even when it probably would have done me some good. Nevertheless, you wanted to understand why I never thought about consequences, and this is why: I was so wrapped up in pain and delusive thinking that I couldn't see past the act. My prosecutor called this focus "ADD," though I think that is absurd. My crime was supposed to be a sort of catharsis, an event where my parents would finally have to come out of their fog and see me, really see me, for once. Nothing else mattered. You wrote something about how my life had been perfect before the event, and all this tells me is that you know nothing about who I was or what was in my mind. Not your fault. You were never given an alternate view to what the state was selling. People living perfect (or even moderately awful) lives do not do what I did. I’m sorry if this seems like a “conspiracy,” if I seem like I am making excuses. I know of no other way to lay it out. It was really just one long chain of ineptitude and laziness, rather than anything Machiavellian. I sort of feel like I ought to mention that Texas is just a really weird place. If you aren’t from here, you don’t get it. Hell, the Norwegians use “Texas” as an adjective: it’s a synonym for “crazy.” A simple example of what I mean: During the litigation of Sweatt v Painter back in the 1950s, the Lone Star State offered to build from scratch an entirely new law school for African Americans, to the tune of millions of dollars, instead of admitting one single African American to the University of Texas. Sending one defendant to death row without ever having him tested for mental illness—or caring about such—doesn’t even begin to move the arrow on the weirdometer for this state.

Anyways, one reason I shy away from this topic is that it connects directly to the circumstances of my family life. As much as I believe in disclosing aspects of my personal life in these forums for the reasons I detailed above, I do not intend to violate the privacy of anyone else. Me and my dad have had many discussions on the topic of what was missed, what probably ought to have been done. We are in a good place, and I have no intention of risking this by airing dirty laundry. I hope you will understand.

It’s 4.30am now, and they will be coming along shortly to pick up the outgoing mail. I need to finish this and scan it for any particularly egregious stupidities. I think that covers it. Thank you all for reaching out, and I look forward to our future conversations. Goodnight.

Thomas Whitaker 999522
Polunsky Unit
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351

The Power of Words
By Santonio D. Murff

The elders of my community have a saying: "When it rain, it pours." An analogy for how bad news usually comes in an onslaught not sprinkles. By the end of November, I was drenched. The courts, without written explanation, denied me relief that we'd thought was guaranteed after a slam-dunk hearing in 2013. They effectively passed my appeal on to federal court, and insured a further delay of 12–24 months.

It was too much for my lady love of the past three years, who'd already fallen off for the majority of 2015, offering up no support or encouragement. My Chocolate Star who had shone so bright had burned out. The criminal injustice system had withered away her faith. Only wanting the best for her, appreciating those magical years of engagement when I didn't have an inkling that "forever and always" only covered 36 months, realizing that she was caught up in her own struggles in which my input was no longer respected nor desired—I suggested a friendship...and haven't heard from her since.

A ten year labor of love, my debut novel The San-Man: Love Loyalty, and Vengeance, was due to be released for the holidays, until the publisher delivered the wrong novel.  An over five years old rough draft had been edited and there would be no free edits of the correct copy. So, I had to redo the entire 300 page novel, incorporating the suggested edits and bringing my baby up to date. I did that, and polished it to perfection. Delivered my masterpiece to be digitized, only to have it be delivered to the wrong party.  When it rains, it pours, indeed.

There is a point to sharing all this. You had to hear those laments to understand your own power. To understand the depth of my appreciation. To understand the power of words….

This holiday season, when so much went wrong with setbacks, disappointments, and desertions—a strange thing happened—it was you ladies and gentlemen who made me feel. Appreciated. Worthy. Good! You made me feel all of those things and much more. And, for that, I had to rise up out of my stupor of settling depression, silence my own lamentations, and make sure that you heard me loud and clear as I screamed a mighty "THANK YOU.” 

We sent out a plea and ya'll answered our call. Your comments, praise, and truths meant more than you can imagine—unless, of course, you've been placed in a small box and told that you and nothing you say doesn't matter anymore for a decade or longer. Your words were a confirmation that we are being heard. That we and our words do matter. That even from these tiny cells surrounded by brick, steel, and barbed wire—WE STILL HAVE THE POWER OF WORDS! We can and are making a difference.

You should take these essays of appreciation as confirmation that you too are making a difference. As Colleen assured us, I want to assure you, that yours do matter. That you, through you words alone, can continue to make a difference. Even if that difference consists simply of encouraging us, as you have done, to continue speaking our truths, stimulating constructive dialogues around prison reform, and converting others to line up next to SuzieQ, Kitty, and our numerous Anonymous friends who are adding their voices to the growing outcry for the abolishment of the sadistic, archaic practice of murder by state that is the death penalty.

So, yes, thank you all for the richness of your comments and the smiles you blessed us with this holiday season. Feel no shame Jenneke, I read Thomas' deep musings with a dictionary close at hand too! (LOL) Whether you take a dive into our darkness as your daily reading, seek enlightenment like Erika, come for the diverse array of emotions sparked like Luisa, or to follow Thomas like GM Glasgow—just please follow in the footsteps of the Urban Ranger and keep coming back. Not only is our writing getting better, but we all are getting better as people due to our interactions.

As Ken said of our work, I think ya'll are "Amazing"! You all not only heard our tiny voices, but you responded to them. So, to all of ya'll, the MB6 volunteers and my fellow writers, who continue to provide small bursts of light that keep this dark world of incarceration aglow: HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!! Now that Ken and our Anonymous friends have been assured that we indeed do receive your comments, we look forward to starting 2016 with you letting them flow.

So (singing in Christmas Spirit) "Let 'em flow, let 'em flow, let 'em flow...

Survive and Succeed,

Santonio Murff 773394
French M. Robertson Unit
12071 FM 3522
Abilene, TX 79601


Anonymous said...

So nice to read these updates and to know that this exchange has meant so much to you all and your writings. I'm happy to have joined the conversation and I look forward to the back and forth! Your words really do effect me so profoundly.

CS McClellan/Catana said...

Much of what I feel about the posts on MB6 isn't for public consumption. The problem is that no matter how cheerful the faces you present here, my overactive imagination too easily sees behind that, to the reality of being locked away from the world and loved ones, to the reality of, for some of you, knowing that you will never be free, or that your death by official hands is waiting in the wings. I correspond with three of MB6's writers, but that doesn't make up for not acknowledging the others or expressing my gratitude to them for sharing their lives with us. So this is my apology, and I will try to do better in the future.

Anonymous said...

I continue to be enlightened and amazed at the talent these writers have. They are in some pretty bad situations yet they continue to persevere. I have recently started writing Thomas and he is a very funny guy. These guys are all people and it's really a shame how they are treated. While they clearly all have thier issues, don't we all on some level? Keep the writings coming guys, you are being heard!

Be well, Ken

Jenneke said...

Really nice to see this update and that you all took the time to respond to each comment individually. It's always to pleasure to read all of your stories: not only do you gives a window into a world that's both harrowing and dark(yet it makes for a fascinating read because it's done with such clarity and talent) and I know that for me it has really made me look different at life in general and my own life indeed. Keeping your head up in an enviornment like deathrow, or knowing that you will not leave prison untill you die, in conditions that are designed to break you call for an inner strength that appears to be almost superhuman, I honestly don't know how you men and women do it, most of us struggle just to get through daily life , let alone decades in prison.

Thomas: I hope you don't mind me asking this, but you said that money wasn't the motive behind your crime because you had a large sum of money in an account, yet you aalso say that you couldn't afford the attorney that first represented you well. Now, I don't know how much an attorney cost per hour, but one would think that a $100k would get you quite far, or am I way of the mark here? I couldn't help but wonder why that money was not used when I read that.

SuzieQ said...

I actually didn't expect to hear back from any of you, so firstly I want to thank you all for hearing me out and responding so eloquently and even kindly, despite knowing that I have had reservations with regards to the motive maybe some writers have. Though I admit that I do enjoy reading your work, hoping to gain some insight into the minds of people who've made poor choices (some led by the disease of addiction, others from less than stellar upbringings, and maybe some for as of yet unknown reasons). But I truly didn't anticipate a response.

I suppose I have a fascination with the life of the incarcerated for a few reasons. Like one of the anonymous commenters, I have a brother who spent over a decade in prison. He doesn't talk about it, and has managed to stay on a better path for over a decade now. We grew up together in an abusive home, and he turned to drugs to help him cope, I suppose. That led him down a path to being labeled a "career criminal" which got him a lengthy sentence when he reoffended.


SuzieQ said...

(2) Another reason I read the writing is because it's just good writing. And it's about a topic I've done a lot of thinking about. I've never been a proponent of the death penalty, and feel very strongly that when it is carried out it is not in my name. I am not the slightest bit religious, but consider myself spiritual instead (that is I believe in God, but don't participate in organized religion). The God I believe in would be adamantly opposed to killing in his name, and is all-loving and all-forgiving. That's my only solace when a state kills in the name of us, as citizens.

Having said that, I wanted to address a few things:
Steve B. - you being up an excellent point. When *is* enough enough?? I hadn't put much thought into this before (I actually read at night through bouts of insomnia, my own remnants of my early upbringing) ... but I suppose we need a way of saying a certain crime should carry a minimum sentence of x-amount-of-time (10 years? 15?), but also leave room for the person to have reformed him/her-self (since reform with help from the system is obviously not happening in our current practice) and have some hope of a life outside of bars. If we just lock people up and throw away the key, what motive is there for people to reform themselves, or to behave in a way that would make them productive members of society upon release? But there should perhaps also be a way to extend said sentences for those who choose not to change their behavior, and continue down a destructive path. I have a feeling that the recidivism rates would be reduced if there was a chance of redemption and hope, rather than just becoming almost a forgotten member of society. I have to think on this topic more, I suppose. You've given me food for thought. Thank you for the dialogue.

SuzieQ said...

(3) Santonio - I do hope that you indeed were able to find some solace and joy this holiday season, despite your circumstances. You mentioned that your "tiny voices" were heard, but I have to say that I have a feeling your voices aren't so small. I am sure there are many, many readers who keep coming back but just aren't sure what to say or how to begin the dialogue in corresponding with you guys. I was in the same boat when I left my last comment (my first ever). I'm sure they still are a bit leery, but do know that your voices are being heard. Loud and clear. Thank you for your reply.

Thomas - I saved my comments to you for last. To be honest, I've always read your work out of sheer fascination and just enjoying the writing and learning new words. But many times I've been put off by something... I'd been confused as to your insistence on a name change, and thought maybe it was your way of somehow distancing yourself from the crime, and that bothered me. It came across as someone unwilling to take ownership for their own behavior. But your response has completely changed my mind. First, thank you for opening up about things which are deeply personal to you. That helps me (and likely other readers, as well) understand you better. But secondly, something you said really resonated with me and helps me understand your desire to be called differently today than years ago. This statement: "My legal identity remains the same but my psychological identity is drastically distinct." That, I can understand (not that you owed me an explanation), but I've decided that I'm no longer bothered by the name change (not that I'm one to talk since j am using an alias, as well - after all, some of what I've said here is also very personal, and I'm not sure what any of the writers (or readers) would be capable of if they did know the true identity of some of us. I wanted to say one more thing to you - I think it's awesome that you are continuing your education behind bars, despite your sentence. I don't know that a person of color, or someone with less social skills, would be able to pull of what you've been able to do (getting people help finance it), but I'm proud of the conviction you display in using this opportunity to better yourself, regardless of your current circumstances. I only wish that everyone who was incarcerated would have the same opportunity. That's obviously not your fault, but I hope it helps you appreciate it even more that people are willing to help you in that endeavor. I have my own continuing education bills (required by my career), and a child with a medical handicap with insurance that isn't as helpful as it could be, otherwise I'd certainly help you along on that journey if I could. Thank you for your candid response. It seems to be heartfelt and was very thought-provoking.

Jennekke - I'm obviously not Thomas, but my guess is that $100k would only barely begin to touch the fees in a death penalty trial case.

A Friend said...

The following comment is from Isabel Duvenage:

I was struck utterly dumb when I saw that some of your writers had responded to my comments. The reason why I was curious as to whether any of you had thought of consequences, is that when I was 16 years old, I decided to kill my father. I decided to stab him to death with a bread knife while he was sleeping. Presumably, he would have patiently stayed down, waiting for me to finish killing him with a long, thin, serrated, blunt tipped, wobbly blade. What I now know from all my avid watching of the crime channels, is that my attempt was doomed to failure. The reason why I wanted to kill him, was because he shouted too much. He was prone to violent outburst of rage, expressed in prolonged verbal rages. I don’t think that he used any swear word twice in a span of fifteen minutes. I now realize that he is bi polar, as I am myself. The point is that while thinking about this, I realized that if I killed him, I would have to go to reform school until I was 21, whereas, if I did not kill him, I could leave home at 17 and a half, after high school. I was probably just looking for a way out. I would like to thank you for your time and courtesy, in answering questions that I often wonder about. I must laugh about this, as my pen pal is exactly the same. We are just bursting to hear of every single detail of prison life, and this is the one thing that you absolutely do not want to talk about! I want to hear about a typical day, the food, how do you wash your clothes , the interesting and strange people in there, as well as the guards .I want a lot of that, a lot. I know several writers have written about that, but it is just never enough. I watch every programme about prison life, documentaries and of course crime. Mr Lambrix describing his entry onto Death Row was riveting, as who could know that the other prisoners had to face the wall, so as not to stare at the condemned. I have a total prison phobia, as when my brother in law was locked up once again, I just could not make myself go past that barbed wire, as I feel a rising hysteria just looking at it. I did take him the food he asked for, and my husband, his brother went to see him, just in case you think I am heartless. I do not know if what I feel for prisoners, is pity, but I am very aware of you being part of the human race, and somehow, have been picked by the roving finger of God to be in prison, or be executed. I feel personally bitter about the fact that some people have such a fate and the eternal question WHY?? Plagues me all the time. While there are some extremely dangerous people, who cannot be let out beyond prison walls, I honestly think, that in the worst cases, anyone would get it after 13 full years of prison. Very few of your writers have been imprisoned for that long, and already there is an almost total about turn in their attitudes. Mr Bartholomew, quite so, your choices and your consequent fate, is wrapped up in your own personality. You make the choices a certain way, because of how you are wired, and how you think, etc .I am a wimp, and that is why, for example, I did not accept a job away from my husband and family, and so, no promotion. Mr Whittaker does not agree, but don’t you think your actions stemmed from what was inside your head? The way you reacted to outside stimuli, like people and events? When any of you heard that impossible sentence, the one for life , or death, what was your only thought, or were there many? I once asked a policeman to handcuff me, so that I could get the feeling, but he refused to do it, citing some softy excuse. I wanted, just for a moment to simulate that situation. But, I think it is hard to simulate helplessness.

Anonymous said...

Dear thomas and all,
I read your comments last year regarding who's reading this blog and why on earth they aren't interacting and giving you some input ..
Of course it's obvious to me now how weird it must be for you to open up and write honestly and to know that people out there in the world are reading it and they are just .. silent ..
So, that means me! But everything I write sounds trite and banal. Obvious and a bit pathetic.
All I can say is that what you have all written, and I have read most of this blog, has touched me and made me think.
I have never been for the death penalty, I don't have to think about it much because I'm from the uk. where it's not an option.
I have watched a lot of documentaries on the US prison system and death row (particularly good was Werner hertzogs film on a death row case) I have also read a little on the philosophy of crime and punishment.
Anyway my only real duty is to let you know how much I appreciate what and how you write, how much I enjoy it - the different perspectives..
I can at least let you know that you do reach me and I think about you all and where you are - you aren't forgotten.
please keep writing.
I will keep reading and I hope that I will be able to write something back at some point that is more specific and directed at one or other of you writers but for now I want you to know that what I read here is not just well written but has a quality that is rare - a real true voice.
Warm regards
Michele, london, U.K.

SuzieQ said...

Michele - is your prison system also very racially biased? People of color in the US are locked up at higher rates, and executed at higher rates, as well. I know that people have helped fund Thomas's goal of obtaining further education, but I wonder if they'd do the same for a person of color? It's frustrating to think of the disparity.

I don't think that most people are beyond hope. It seems as though we should have some kind of system that would allow for people to make the changes these men (and women) seem to have, and give them a chance to make a life outside of there. Jeff C. certainly seems to have done so. My own brother did, as well. But, some of these people are basically told - with their sentences - that there is no chance anyone will believe they can become a productive member of society again, so what motive is there for them to reform themselves? I find it exceptional that these writers work hard to be better and do better in spite of that. After all, we all make mistakes. We just aren't all expected to pay for them with the rest of our lives.

One more thing - I forgot to tell Thomas (and really all of the MB6 writers) that it's not a bad thing that they toss his books of quotes. Too many quotes in writing can come across as pretentious and boring. So let them toss them. You're good enough writers that you don't need to depend on the quotes to support your work.

Has anyone heard how Mr. Lambrix is doing? It's hard to wait for his updates, knowing his warrant was signed and he was moved to death watch. I can't imagine what he's going through right now. It's very disturbing. I don't understand how people can claim to be pro-life, but only some lives.

Anonymous said...

yes, Suzy..........I heard from Mike he is doing amazingly well considering his horrific situation. I cannot fathom the amount of personal strength that it would take to face his situation with such enormous amount of grace and class. My heart is broken but my voice is not silent and my hope is not I continue to send letters to Florida's government.