Sunday, July 16, 2006

June 29th, 2006

Dear Sis ~
It's a beautiful day outside, with a bright sun in a cloudless blue sky, and the birds flittering outside my cell. I'm waiting to go out to "yard" and get my daily stroll on, feeding the birds and perhaps enjoying a game of chess with Mike. As I've told you before, Mike has an execution date of July 27th, which means they'll take him to Greensville around July 17 - 18th (lately, they've been getting guys 8 - 10 days prior to their execution; it used to be 4 days). It is almost a certainty that Mike will die on the 27th, barring some unexpected and astounding legal occurrence, and Mike is fully aware of this, harboring no illusions or false hopes. He is resigned to his fate and fortunately, he is well-grounded and mature, possessing a substantial spiritual/metaphysical depth of character and nature. Still, when death is imminent, when it has gone from an abstract concept to a concrete reality, from the general to the very specific and personal... well, it isn't easy. As his good friend it is also hard, and awkward, for me as I count down his final days with him. We have a lot of good, deep conversations and yet in the background is that constant awareness that the minutes, hours and days are slipping past and the end is rearing up its ugly head, rushing forward to swallow him up. For all of my 18 years on the row, this is the first time I've had to go through this, on a daily basis, with someone who is a real friend, someone I like, respect and care about. Mike is on the row for killing a fellow prisoner - a convicted murderer who was a violent bully in another prison, a fact that Mike's jury was prevented from knowing - in a typical prison beef where one must choose to kill or be killed. I see a lot of myself in Mike. Like me, he was an inherently rebellious kid and ended up in a series of youth halls, reformatories and eventually prisons, with his crimes being either drug possession or burglary (trying to get money for drugs). At heart, he is a good guy with a strong character and solid values, not at all what the average citizen envisions when imagining a "typical" death row prisoner. Like me, he is totally self-educated, having spent many prison years questing for knowledge (academic, philosophical, spiritual, metaphysical). Society will not benefit one iota by executing Mike, and in my eyes will suffer a collective loss, although your "average citizen" cannot see that. Notwithstanding his seemingly dismal, dead end existence Mike has, through self discipline and will power, grown and matured remarkably and is far advanced on the spiritual plane, much, much more so than those who have judged him and deemed him worthy only of death. The shame is on them and their trivilization of death and life. Mike's execution caters to our society's desire for simplistic solutions (it's too hard to think about such things!) and our nation's ineluctable impulse, grounded in Puritanical moral certitude, to blindly inflict maximum punishment, to relentlessly seek revenge and retribution as the "answer" to all problems. This is why we, alone in the world, are always at war with someone, somewhere, over something. We are a violent people and we enjoy killing - it's as simple as that- though we refuse to recognize that inescapable fact (Americans love to declare that we are a "peace loving nation" which is a joke in the face of historical record). As a nation, we reap what we sow - blood for blood, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. It's the definition of a vicious cycle...
Anyway, it sounds like a cliche (Hell, it is a cliche) but Mike will be going to a better place, and he's a better man than most of those he leaves behind.
Love & Peace, Bill

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