Reality Check

As we started our journey home yesterday from the CeaseFire program info session in Oakland, I received a call from my brother who had just received some startling news: his best friend has been arrested and accused of driving drunk and fatally injuring a motorcyclist in southern California this past weekend.

The unfortunate fact about the place where I went to high school is that young people with DUIs are all too common and considering the topics we are talking about in the program, clearly there was a deeper connection. In class, I mentioned that it was extremely difficult to emotionally disconnect from the inmates in the Salinas correctional facility; to be inserted into a situation where other humans exist and be told NOT to interact with them doesn’t agree with my internal wiring. In this specific situation, as many mentioned in class after, there were certain emotional similarities to being in a zoo that I also had a problem with. This same disconnection is now impossible as I now have the unfortunate natural reflex to see one of my brother’s best friends doing pull-ups on the yard bars or running laps with all of his Aryan Brotherhood gang members.

I wasn’t expecting that day in the jail to emotionally influence me in the way that it did. The separation that my circumstances enable me to have from such realities was forever comforting but misleading; although the movies and media portray these types of things quite regularly, there is such a large distance from actually feeling the energy in a prison. However, after having someone very close to me spend some time in that situation, as well as having a very, very recent incident happen that involves someone I know potentially being faced with spending the next 25 years to life in that situation, things became real all too quickly.

Something that has profoundly changed within me as time passes being a part of this program is the idea of unconditional love for other humans. I think that I am inherently like this, but if someone makes a mistake and ends up paying the price to our justice system for it, I would have adopted the “He-deserved-it” approach before I arrived to the “That-poor-man” emotion in the past. Having now been in a prison, accompanied the idea of people very close to me being apart (or about to be apart) of that environment, AND having acquired some of the tools necessary to better understand and draw conclusions about the justice system in the country, I feel nothing but pain for the people in that place.

As humans often do, I immediately felt as though I wanted to help my brother’s friend but I think first I am feeling pain for how his life and the lives of everyone around him are all about to dramatically change for the worse…and that is a tough pill to swallow.

Here’s the article.