Saturday, October 29, 2005

October 24, 2005 - Duly Inspected

Dear Sis

Well, I feel so much better now because I've been duly inspected! A large group of visitors (some politicians, some prosecutors and a handful of prison inspectors, escorted by a raft of high-ranking prison guards) just passed through our cellblock, touring the central dayroom, pausing to peek into our cells. Being on death row you quickly become acclimated to such tour groups coming through, but I never lose the feeling of being an animal in a cage, like the monkey house at the zoo, with curious visitors pointing at you, staring at you, whispering among themselves. In Florida, we'd get about two tours a week; often they were college kids from the nearby University of Florida at Gainsville, male and female, either criminal justice majors or law school students. Invariably, they just pour out onto the wing, without prior notice or warning, trooping by the cells while some escorting guard gives them a running commentary on who is in the cell, what he did to get on death row, etc... On more than one occasion I (as well as others) have been on the toilet, only to look up and see a tour group walking by, staring in at me on the toilet. Sometimes it's embarrassing, other times it's enraging. Normally I mind my own business and basically ignore the visitors, but I've been caught on the toilet before and been in a bad enough mood to hurl a few choice obscenities at them. Living in a cell is like existing in a fishbowl - you've got zero privacy.

For the last month or so I've been watching the media-induced hysteria over the avian (bird) flu and the possibility of a deadly pandemic sweeping the world and killing millions and millions. While I don't discount the theoretical danger of a pandemic popping up one day (it's happened repeatedly throughout history) it's important to separate fact from fiction. The fact is that this avian flu is in fact a deadly threat - to birds ! The disease is spread from bird to bird and only occasionally (and only following extended intimate contact) from bird to human. In order to become a pandemic the virus will have to mutate to a different form that can be spread from human to human. While this mutation is theoretically possible, the fact is that it has not happened yet. There isn't a single case of human to human transmission yet. As long as the virus remains a bird-to-bird virus, with only an occasional bird-to-human virus, there can be no pandemic. Everything else is hysteria, and the media is blindly fanning these flames. It's all part of the post-9/11 trend to encourage citizens to live in fear. Our government (aided by our sensationalism-driven media) relentlessly promotes fear in our society, convincing the gullible to live in a constant state of fear. Either fear of terrorism, or crime, or disease - whatever is convenient. Just be afraid! And once you choose to live in fear, you've ceded to the government the responsibility to take care of you. This is exactly what the government (this administration in particular) wants: "Be afraid! Live in fear! Only the government can protect you! Give up your civil rights and freedoms so the government can protect you from the evils of the world! "More and more, this country is becoming a nation of sheep, incapable of thinking on their own, a society of trembling cowards. It's discouraging to watch this transition occur before my eyes in the span of a handful of years...

Alright, Sis, I'm outta here. It's time for me to hit the hay. I'll call you soon. Meanwhile, give the puppy a tummy rub for me!

Love & Peace,