“Nobody can bring you peace but yourself." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
I sometimes forget that I’m in prison. I don’t mean that in the sense that i am no longer aware of the electric fences or cinder block cells. I mean it in the way that I’m just another cat, in another village, trying to have a good time. Trying to make it to tomorrow, and in that I am succeeding. We all have struggles in here. We all have hard days, but that does not mean that every day is a bad day. Some days I laugh so hard that my coffee shoots out my nose. Sometimes my head hurts and my stomach aches and tears stream from my eyes. All this from laughter, all this from the good times. Some of the best times of my life. Some of the best friends a fella can have. Sometimes an overwhelming, heart warming sense of peace. Like a buddhist monk in a hilltop monastery I have endless time for reflection and the long pursuit of understanding. A simple act of kindness is worth the world. Material things mean nothing to me. What can I do with a car I can’t drive? What can I do with a diamond bracelet?
I’d rather have a cheeseburger.
I have felt loved and appreciated throughout my life, but I can tell you from first hand experience, nothing makes me feel more loved than when I call a friend collect and they accept the charges. It is worth more to me than all the Bentleys in the world. It is simply wonderful. This time next year I will again be free. Free in the sense that I will no longer be in prison. And with every day that passes and as the time gets closer to me leaving this place, I come to appreciate my time here more and more. I notice the positives and pay more attention to the good things it has brought to my life. Things like friends, and how I have a totally new perspective on society and what that entails.
For instance… I’ll tell you about one person that I have met that has opened my mind to so much and in the process become one of my dearest friends. His name is Draws and he was convicted of 2nd degree murder when he was 16 years old for shooting a rival gang member that was shooting at him. He was tried as an adult although he was barely 16 and sentenced to serve 15 years to life. That was 21 years ago.
He still has no release date.
Draws is one of the few people that I trust completely in this odd little jungle I call home. He is at my old prison, which is a bummer, but I can and will continue to consider him as one of my best friends. It is strange how life works sometimes. Here was a guy that has been behind bars more than half his life, yet has twice the wisdom of anyone I have ever come across in the "free” world. So humble, so patient. Always ready to listen to me vent and drop some wisdom. He would always open my eyes to a different perspective or turn my thoughts into questions. We would be like Socrates and Plato. Modern day philosophers inside cells of a fallen empire. We would always question.
We would always seek truth.
All too often we would find that truth and understanding have nothing to do with reason.
I would question everything. I wanted to know why we are so quick to accept the wrongs of our world. And I found too often that it is only when an injustice effects an individual does it get them to look into it faults. One question always came to my mind. Why do we try minors as adults? I am having trouble as to why we as a society have not found a better way of dealing with minors. For instance let me use my dear friend Draws. He was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. His neighborhood and school district is one of the poorest and most violent in the United States. It is easy to say that he falls into the category of under privileged and underachieving. Yet he was deemed an adult and tried as such. Now you say it was because of the crime. But in California they try juveniles for murder quite often. If found guilty they serve 10 years flat. A much shorter sentence due to the fact that they are not mature enough to comprehend the ramifications of their actions. Yet with cases like Draws who was a gang member, they are deemed especially incorrigible and tried as adults. This is where I think we need to reevaluate our approach. If a boy or a girl gets straight A’s in 9th or 10th grade or sets a scoring record in the state finals of a basketball game when they are only 16 do we give them the right to vote before they turn 18? Because of their great achievements? If a person gets a perfect score on their SAT and gets a full scholastic scholarship to Harvard when they are 16 do they get the right to vote before they turn 18 because of their genius level of intellect? Here are just two examples of the best reasons a minor can be thought to be wise beyond their years, yet in our society, nothing you can do can make you an adult before you 18th birthday. . . unless that nothing is a crime. And there lies the problem. We take people from the worst backgrounds and propel them to adulthood. We hold them to a higher standard than any of their peers. We elevate them far beyond their years.
Now don’t misunderstand me, I am in no way minimizing the horrifying impact of their actions. Nor am I trying to say that they do not need to serve penance. I am only saying that a minor is not an adult. And I don’t think that we should hold our worst minors to the standards of adults, A 16 year old at the end of the day is just a 16 year old and should be treated as such. We need to look at more than the crime and individual. We must question the society and circumstances that breed such things. It is conversations like this I share on a daily basis. My days are often tough, often repetitive, often long, but overall things are not so bad. In the grand scheme of things I have so little to complain about and so much to be grateful for. I got friends like Draws to remind me to look at everything from all angles and to never stop learning and dreaming and more than anything else I got today. And today was a good day.
So keep your thumbs held high and KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN.
Your student of philosophy, Daniel Dart
Song: Today was a good day
Artist: Ice Cube