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Friday, March 28, 2014

The Riddle of Steel -- Feb. 1, 2014

From copper to bronze and then into the Iron Age, the quest for the strongest metal has captivated man. It is believed the riddle of steel was first solved in China some 2,500 years ago, although small groups across Eurasia also learned its secret. Steel was so coveted, tribes would go to war for it. Entire villages were slaughtered just for the metal which could wield more power than gold. This is the era where the fantasy adventure Conan the Barbarian begins, however, the movie is mainly not about the forging of iron but of men. The character, Conan, played by a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, endures through captivity, great hardship, brutality, and sorrow. His tribulations rather than weakening him only made him stronger and more resolute. During my struggles I have learned the riddle of steel and I think society at large could as well.

Sunday, I did not leave the confines of my cage. Over the two decades I have spent in prison I know how to constructively preoccupy my time without any outside stimuli. In fact, at Stateville, I prefer the solitude. However, at about 9 p.m., I turned on my television just in time to see the band Metallica take the stage at the Grammy's. It was not the same group I remember as a child, but they played a song I knew all too well from their satirically labeled album "And Justice for All." The song is called "One" and it greatly resonates with how I feel:

   I can't remember anything
   Can't tell if this is true or dream
   Deep down inside I feel to scream
   this terrible silence stops me

    Now that the war is through with me
   I'm waking up I can not see
   That there's not much left of me
   Nothing is real but pain now

    Hold my breath as I wish for death
   Oh please God, wake me!

    Back to the world that's much too real
   in pumps life that I must feel
   but can't look forward to reveal
   Look to the time when I'll live
   fed through the tube that sticks in me
   Just like a wartime novelty
   Tied to machines that make me be
   Cut this life off from me

    Hold my breath as I wish for death
   Oh please God, wake me!

    Darkness imprisoning me
   All that I see
   Absolute Horror
   I cannot live, I cannot die
   Trapped in myself
   Body my holding cell

Often I have thought of killing myself and have even sought out death rather than living in prison. The brutality and physical pain I have been subjected to has been only a small part of my suffering. The real horror was being condemned to a slow death in captivity and the increasing oppression which followed. Similar to the soldier in this song, it is life after the war that I loathe and that torments me. After a land mine had blown away most of his body, he finds himself paralyzed. His injuries and the pain from them are extreme but what is worse is being fully cognizant and realizing he was doomed to suffer a wretched and miserable existence void of all meaning and joy indefinitely.

There is little difference to me from being behind the wall of a maximum security penitentiary and being bed bound. However, over two decades of incarceration has only made me more bitter, angry, and callous. In the lakes of fire, I have burned until there only remains a hot ingot of metal. Most of the soft carbon has been seared away and then hammered out on an anvil. My prosecutor described me to the jury as being cold and unfeeling. Purportedly, I let the victim go to his death and he sought to impress upon them my indifference to gain a conviction unsupported by criminal statute or law. I was never told Dean Fawcett was going to be killed, however, if the assistant states attorney thought my eyes looked soul less then, he should peer into them now. Indeed in another 20 years, he may only see the black hollow sockets of a skull.

Before I went to sleep Sunday night, I stared out into the blackness outside the cell house. Through the dingy windows, I could see snow blowing. A light off the side of the monolith prison building where over a thousand men were entombed alive reflected off the gusting white flakes. In the morning, there was not only a significant amount of snow built up but temperatures below zero. The prison was placed on lockdown and there was an announcement that there would be no movement. Even an inmate who yelled to guards that he needed to take a blood test before going out for a procedure at an outside hospital was told "no."

Later in the day I was surprised to be told to get ready for an in-house sick call appointment. Apparently, although there was no movement outside, prisoners could see a visiting nurse inside. Despite this, I was put in handcuffs and locked in the cell house holding cage for an hour. Being handcuffed and confined is a regular part of prison, however, I have never been accustomed to the bondage and loss of freedom. Fortunately, I was not crammed in the cage with numerous other convicts and waited alone, although cells of men were only feet away. I heard their complaints of being cold and could see them bundled up from head to toe. There was a draft of frigid air on the lower floor, but cold with a sentence of LWOP seemed insignificant.

A counselor stopped by the cage and asked how I was doing. I do not like these broad questions but appreciated his thoughtfulness and or possible concern. I am not used to kindness in prison and am generally skeptical of motives or sincerity. The nurse was also friendly and spoke to me as if I was just any other patient in society rather than another condemned prisoner. Reality quickly was reinforced, however, when I noticed the multitude of cameras installed last year had been connected with cables. The administration now can have almost omnipresent power. How Americans can acquiesce to Big Brother developments outside these walls I will never understand. I have been repressed for over two decades yet it is society that has forgotten what liberty is.

For lunch, I ate a tuna fish sandwich while listening to the Rush Limbaugh show. I cared less about the Grammy's and after listening to the Metallica song "One" had again turned off my TV. However, the talk show host informed me of some of the decadence which occurred on the program that I had missed. Apparently, the Grammy's were not just about music but promoting degenerate values. Homosexual weddings were presided over by Queen Latifa and Madonna. Incredible how much American culture has been debased since I was a child. Russia may still be fiscally and politically repressed from its years under communism, but kudos to Vladimir Putin for not allowing homosexuality to be glorified in his country even as it is about to host the Olympics.

Another day went by without me watching any television until the evening. Yet again I was disappointed to find another disagreeable program. This season's Bachelor on ABC features a man I cannot relate to. Although he was purported to say there should never be a homosexual bachelor, Juan Pablo has backtracked from his position. Furthermore, he does not seem to be very masculine but a rather average person with few admirable attributes. Despite this, the women on the program appear to like him and in this episode eagerly sought out kisses. The bachelor mostly rebuffed them except for a mongrel with disjointed Picassoesque features. I told my cellmate if the producers were so set upon a Hispanic bachelor, they could have at least picked the man who does commercials for Dos Equis and is proclaimed to be the world's most interesting man amongst other things. He replied that the man is not real and only an actor. I said I tend to think this show is fake anyway and went on to imitate the voice of the man in the commercials, "I don't always drink, but when I do, I drink Dos Equis."

Tuesday was another frigidly cold day to again make global warming believers scratch their heads. Yard was subsequently cancelled as were all activities. Confined to my cell for a third straight day, I began my routine as I regularly do. After a vigorous workout, I bathed from the sink and then washed clothes in the toilet. I had many more clothes to wash this time because laundry bags had not been picked up and apparently will not for some time. I was initially told a pipe in the laundry building broke and thereafter the washing machines were not working.

Prisoners were excited earlier when they heard chicken dumplings were going to be served. However, I think they changed their minds when it was brought to their cells. I have eaten chicken dumplings before my arrest and this was nothing close. It appeared kitchen workers just dumped entire chickens into large cauldrons to be boiled. After the bones, gristle, meat and skin separated, it was all scooped out for prisoners to enjoy. The meal was disgusting and later when I watched Conan the Barbarian, I remarked to my cellmate that it was the same green soup of boiled human bodies served to the followers of Thulsa Doom except it was made of chickens.

President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union Address and I watched it despite how repugnant I find his Marxist rhetoric. He continues to pitch his snake oil to the American public with the hopes they will all succumb to it eventually. Obama does not have the imposing physical presence or voice James Earl Jones had, however, he does have a sorcery of words. Like Thulsa Doom, his oratory skills have had a hypnotic effect on the masses. Many fervent followers are misled by his illusive utopian visions, ideas, and dreams which are laced with poison. Many of his goals are meant to undermine the Constitutional Republic and the values of its forefathers. Limited government, rugged individualism, and freedom are to be replaced with socialism and a ruling class similar to the politburo. Rather than a meritocracy which promotes self independence and strength, he seeks a nanny state with people dependent on government. President Barack Obama does not believe in the riddle of steel. He believes in seducing the public so they can be his servants at his "Temple of Doom" where they can partake in debauchery and eat his green head soup.

After the president spoke I listened to Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers give the Republicans' response. I was disappointed that she was chosen simply because she was a woman and not her ability to deliver a powerful message of opposition. Not only did I dislike the gender politics but the catering to the people who believed in "the right to live." I too oppose abortion in most circumstances, however, to exalt yourself for having a child with Downs Syndrome was despicable. For the rest of that child's life, he or she will have to be tended to and suffer. In ancient Sparta, the righteous thing to have done would be to immediately crush its skull or toss it off a cliff. However, in today's twisted modern society that would be considered murder, although nearly a million healthy babies are killed within the U.S. every year in utero and this is just fine.

Wednesday, I got to listen to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn give his state of the state speech. It was mainly a campaign opportunity for him to rally his Democratic base and paint a very rosy picture. Like Obama, he called for a minimum wage hike to $10 an hour, although he lacked the president's oratory skills in deception. Increases to the minimum wage may sound nice to low income earners, but it only distorts the free market causing prices of goods and services to rise while reducing employment or moving business out altogether. Quinn failed to mention that Illinois has the 2nd highest unemployment rate in the country and there is expected to be a shortfall of state revenue of between $1.5 and $3 billion at the end of the fiscal year. Nothing also was said if the governor plans to continue the 67% tax increase which was claimed to be temporary so the state could clean up its massive debt, although this never occurred. Clearly, Illinois has a spending problem, but it would be unwise for any Democratic governor to talk about cuts before an election. Explaining the riddle of steel to constituents does not go over well particularly amongst liberals and dependents on government.

Thursday morning, my neighbor Leprechaun began tapping on the side of my cell with a plastic mirror. He was interrupting me, but I went to see what he wanted. He told me the movie Conan the Barbarian was on the weekly DVD list and would be played later that day. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote the LTS supervisor asking him to rent the film. The midget next door seemed envious that he responded to my request, however, unlike him and many other prisoners I have never written him before and I probably never will again. To watch Conan the Barbarian uncut with all its brutality was all I wanted.

Close to noon for the first time in the week I left my cell to go to the gym. I happened to notice the lieutenant on the way out the door and briefly stopped to ask him if he could call the laundry department to get the clothes prisoners turned in two weeks ago. He said he was already way ahead of me but thanks for telling him how to do his job. He went on to say if I ever needed advice about how to be an inmate just let him know. I tend to think he was just trying to be funny. I did not know and did not have any words for him at the time.

The gym is on the other side of the penitentiary grounds. It was a long frigidly cold walk particularly without my jacket. Gusts of wind also picked up snow which lashed against me. At the gym, I improvised to use the broken machine weights. I was determined to work out regardless of my circumstances. After I did all I could with the equipment, I did calisthenics and ran. My cellmate joined me doing push-ups and although I did sets of 50 with my feet elevated, he struggled with regular ones. I put my foot on his back and pushed him down to the floor. I needed to teach him the riddle of steel. He was getting too soft. Throughout the gym period, I thought about the struggles and adversary of Conan the Barbarian. I knew the movie and every scene by heart.

Laundry bags had been returned when recreation lines came back to the cell house. After dusting the snow off my sweatshirt, I yelled down to the lieutenant, "Good job on the laundry" and gave him the thumbs up sign. I was trying to be patronizing after what he had said earlier. His sarcastic mood seemed to have abated and he was to eventually ask if I was staying out of trouble. I do not know what kind of trouble I could get into being in my cell most of the time or how it could be any worse than being damned to a protracted death in prison. If I were to kill ten people, I would still have LWOP and be in a cage.

After a brief mid afternoon nap, I waited anxiously for the DVD to be played on the prison's cable system. Conan the Barbarian was one of my favorite films, and I still recall when I first watched it as a child with my father in the mid 1980s. The film was to have a strong impact on me and continues this day to be inspiring. When the movie began, I was riveted to my television screen. Friedrich Nietzsche was quoted, "What does not kill me, only makes me stronger," and then the forging of a sword was dramatically depicted. It was the tribe's ability to make quality steel and weapons which made it a target of Thulsa Doom and his army. They butchered everyone and sold off Conan who was a boy to toil in slavery. He was shown pushing a mill in circles until all the other slaves perished.

From years of hard labor, Conan became a muscular young man. He was sold yet again to a person who wanted him to be a gladiator. Initially, he did not know how to fight, yet he was forced to learn. After many victories, his owner paid for him to be taught by experts making him even more lethal. Eventually, the man who bought him had made more money than he could ever spend and he could not even find other opponents. Out of pity, he released Conan who had been a captive most of his life.

The skilled warrior and former slave did not know what to do with his freedom and he wandered until chased into a tomb by wolves. Inside, he found a sword amongst the dead. The sword gave him purpose and he sought out those who killed his entire clan. Over the years, Thulsa Doom had created a huge cult following. His followers traveled hundreds of miles to serve him. They were a lost, delusioned people spellbound by the sorcerer. The hippies had been misled to believe in a nihilistic, utopia and followed him blindly. Conan almost single handedly killed his entire army before going to Thulsa Doom's temple and beheading him. The masses were finally free from their spell and Conan had his revenge.

Learning the riddle of steel has served me well all these years. I do not know if I could have persevered all this time without it. I have lived a cruel, brutal, and austere existence and will most likely continue to do so for some time, if not until my death. It is doubtful the governor will ever take pity on me and a successful legal challenge of my conviction in the courts is probably almost as unlikely particularly without a good attorney. Nations, empires, and entire civilizations can remain powerful for thousands of years forged in steel. However, time will eventually bend and break the strongest men.