I've been contemplating things recently...Thoughts I've had of late concerning a guy on Death Watch who is facing execution this week...I want to believe in the basic goodness of people; I imagine our souls being placed within our body or vessel...Imagine a circle, and inside that circle is a complex spiral that leads to a beginning. Our life experiences dictate how many swirls each soul has. The more hardships, the more turmoil...I think the more layers the spiral has, the more it takes you further from your essential being or "self". I don't believe in over-simplistic terms like "evil", and I think life is far more complicated than just defining things as black and white. I believe that certain acts can be evil, but that doesn't necessarily make the person evil. There can be a myriad of circumstances that make a person what they are, or influence how they act: nature vs. nurture, mental health, a predisposition to drugs, etc.
That being said I'm not naive in thinking that bad people don't exist; for whatever reason they can't or won't change. These may be issues only science and/or medicine can fix. Anyway, yesterday I felt the need to tell this guy (currently on Death Watch) that I forgive him for all his crap over the years, and that I hope he finds peace within himself in his last moments. I sent him a note, but never received a response back. I'm only two sections away from Death Watch and I fully expected, at least, a "fuck you", as was his nature to do. He had a lot of rage; but after listening to "Execution Watch" earlier this evening, they gave a run down of his life, and he had it rough. Not only that, but it appears a lot of his anger came from the fact he was gay and hated himself for that. Maybe his life wouldn't have been so difficult had he just accepted that. Or maybe he was "out" early on but dealt with bullying, etc...Who knows? I'm curious to know where the seed of his hate and rage originated. He's passed now and I take no pleasure in it. I can only hope his soul is at rest.
The day was kind of blah, but there's a bit of good news, and rumors have been confirmed! Firstly, the officer who assaulted an inmate with a steel food slot bar did get fired. Amazing! This woman has reaped the benefits of nepotism for so many years, we thought she was untouchable. The other good news is that the captain who has caused such upheaval here on death row, is being sent to general population sometime this month, and our recreation schedule should go back to normal. It's all good!
You know, I'm always being told that I should write a book and that it would "sell big!" But honestly, while I am flattered and grateful for those compliments, my main reason for writing is for the therapy it offers...To just get it all out there is so healthy, and helps me to keep from bottling up my feelings...The other reason is simply because I've always enjoyed writing (for the most part) although it can at times feel like a chore, if I'm honest! But, I don't really think in terms of "selling big" or anything like that; besides, I'd just end up giving the money away to some kind of domestic or child abuse organization or something like that. When I was younger, I used to think, "maybe I'll tell my story, cash in and be comfortable in prison!" But to think like that, to have those thoughts, only illustrates how immature I really was back then. Whether or not I write a book, get published, or whatever, I'm extremely fortunate and grateful for this avenue; for the readership I have, and those who have shown interest and support over the years. That means more to me than any amount of "selling big!"...Or anything else for that matter. I will always be incredibly grateful.
For better or worse, all of the experiences I've had in my life - good, bad and ugly - have all lead to who I am NOW. And to those who see me as I am now...Thank you!
January 17th, 2016
I have a bunch of little things I have wanted to write about over the past week but it has been so difficult to concentrate because last Friday night I was moved to another pod/another cell and the section I'm currently on is the LOUDEST section on death row. It seems to be the one with the most jackasses. There was a psych patient on this section, but he's gone now (more on that in a bit) and that only added to the chaos.
I've been in a lot of cells in the 13 years since I've been here. Most of them, for the most part, are relatively clean. I may have to do some basic sanitizing but it won't take very long to sweep (with my towel, we're not allowed brooms and mops) and wipe everything down. But some cells...my God, I don't know how some people can live the way they do. I keep a top ten that kind of rolls. It has been a while since a cell or a person has made my list, but Friday? Sweet purple baby Jesus...this one took the cake. I won't go into the gross details but it took me all of Friday night to get it to the point I wasn't afraid to touch the walls or go to sleep. Then, I spent a good chunk of the next day scrubbing and cleaning as well. I don't even understand how the guards allow someone to live like that, but oh yeah, they don't care...It has no affect on them personally.
The noise on this section is insane. I live around a bunch of buffoons. Pure bonafide idiots and I'm not one to really berate people. To top it off there was a mentally ill guy who would just yell and scream out of his door all day. I'm not mad at the guy. I have a high level of tolerance for peole who are mentally ill and I don't like to see them picked on by inmates or guards and both were doing it on a regular basis. Some of the guys on this section were purposely antagonizing him and I would get so upset over it. My neighbor yells "bitch and ho" at him, just to rile him and I was like "Man, leave him alone. The more y'all do it, the more agressive he becomes". And the response to that is "Oh, fuck that ho. He's a bitch. He ain't crazy". I reply with "Dude, you're a retard you know it?" And the response I get is no surprise...."Well, he ain't foolin' me".
Well, one of the guards wrote the psych patient up for "creating a disturbance" and I'm thinking, you wrote him up for something he has no control over. You're supposed to contact the psych department (which honestly is abysmal and a joke but there is still a protocol in place) and inform them of the situation. Then, psych is supposed to come down and attempt to talk and figure out the problems. If medicine is required, give him what he needs or if he needs to be transfered to the psych facility you do that. You DON'T send him to the freakin' dungeon and compound his problems! This place...!!!
Speaking of dungeons and isolation, I was listening to a program on NRP today and they were talking about solitary confinement, how Obama has called for an overhaul of its use in prisons etc...Well, they had experts, officials talking about the issue and one proponent for solitary was going on and on about how these things are necessary and we get to leave our cell everyday etc...And I'm like "Really? We leave our cell everyday, huh? Because I've been out of this cell TWICE since Sunday and that is it". I don't understand how these people get away with the lies they do.
Anyway...just thought I'd get back on the ball and try to write something. More to come!
January 14th, 2016
It's 2:30 p.m. on a bluish grey afternoon and I'm entering that point of the day where I'm winding everything up and going to kick back, read and listen to shows on the radio. It has kind of been a slow day with not a lot going on. We didn't have recreation today so I exercised, took a bath in my sink because I see no point in going to the shower at 5 something in the morning, exercising and then having to rinse off again. People probably wonder how a person bathes out of their sink and I used to have a "shower hose" made from the rubber tubing of a coax cable, but I lost that in the shakedown so until I can get another cable and strip that down, I just jam the button with a pen cap, pour in some body wash, get a wash cloth and go to town. After I'm done I have to mop up the water off of the floor, but hey - I clean the floor in the process. Clean body, clean floor. It's a win-win.
Yesterday was a lovely day and I went outside for rematch with the guy I beat in the cold this past Saturday. Wednesday was close to 70 degrees and a considerable difference in weather. It felt like spring. I came out ahead with a four to zero lead and I got a bit cocky thinking, hey...maybe Saturday wasn't a fluke. Maybe...just maybe I've gotten really good. But like a fat kid having a delicious piece of cake swiped out of his hands, I was beat down and lost the following 16 games. Dude beat the living day lights out of me. Nope. Not as good as I thought I was.
Last night I received a few of the Facebook comments on my journal entry of December 21st and I really love when something I write strikes up a conversation or debate because I really think that is how people educate themselves or can potentially find some common ground. I wish I could join those conversations in real time and give my opinion from the unique perspective of actually being here as opposed to people who have never had to experience this kind of life. I know that by the time this is read it will be a conversation long past, but it does irritate me a bit when I hear people say that prisons shouldn't be a country club etc. That most definitely doesn't apply to the state of Texas. And while I agree that prisons are prisons and shouldn't be a hotel resort, there are basic things prisoners should have and be able to do for various reasons...First, let me ask this question: what makes a killer on Death Row anymore different than a killer in General Population? There are THOUSANDS of killers in general population who can have jobs, receive phone calls, watch TV, go to recreation, have contact visits...While people on death row in Texas sit in a cell all day, every other day now. Everywhere we go we are handcuffed, we have no physical contact whatsoever, no access to phone calls (and if we do get a call it is a five minute, heavily censored call ONCE every 90 days), no contact visits, very little recreation now, no jobs...nothing. And if you don't have family or friends who support you, you don't even get to buy basic things like soap or shampoo.
It is a game of chance when it comes to who is sentenced to death or not. A jury of nine people get to decide your fate. And even that comes down to what kind of defense a person gets, or whether you're indigent...You just have to hope the attorneys appointed to you are going to do the best they can, but even they are handicapped because the Judge doesn't want to give them the necessary funds required to put on a good defense. So, you can have two men with the exact same crimes, one can receive a life sentence and go to General Population and the other could possibly receive death.
But forget all of that for a second, and think about this...Why should men or women who have committed horrible crimes have things like TV or recreation? The consequences of depriving those people of such things is this: a more hostile environment that potentially leads to more assaults on staff and offenders, and mental degradation. I've seen guys I met years ago who were in total control of their faculties, break down and completely lose it over the years as a result of being in solitary confinement. Some of these guys I've been out to recreation with and had deep conversations, played basketball with them, and now they scream and yell paranoid rants, rub faeces on their body, or throw faeces at people who walk by their cells. I've seen guys who were once social butterflies withdraw, and never talk to another person back here again.
The biggest example of where any kind of mental stimulation (whether it be of a social of physical kind) comes from, is when they used to house me on the Ad-Seg pods, and they were a freakin' mad house! Guys beating and banging 24/7, or cussing at other inmates or the guards because they have no free world support, and therefore couldn't get mail or books or even commissary. If I was ever successful in getting this death sentence overturned, I would somehow start a book program for guys in Ad-Seg, and also find a way for every guy in a Texas Ad-Seg facility to have a right to a radio. Without these things the guys have nothing else to do but to scream, fight and go crazy. How do you expect someone who spends years living like that to re-enter the world and contribute to society in a productive way? There's a saying that goes, "You are a product of your environment." Odds are if you are treated like an animal, you're going to act like an animal. On death row, most of us try to look out for one another; if a man is down, there's going to be someone to try and lift him up. Whether it be by giving him snacks, or trying to get him a penpal and some support. There's a "brotherhood" amongst us because we all share the same fate. Though, if I'm honest, even that is starting to deteriorate as a result of years in isolation.
And why wouldn't you want a prisoner to have an education? I don't know many people who can't afford college committing crimes so they can get a "free education" (which as a point of fact isn't free in Texas, because once you are paroled you are expected to pay a certain amount back to the State that comes out of your parole fees). Why not educate them so they don't feel they have no other choice but to go back to what they were doing that lead to their incarceration anyways? Besides, Texas makes it very difficult to get an education as it is, other than a GED.
Here's something I haven't really talked about, but it's absolutely true: when we escaped I had nothing. Nothing to look forward to, nothing to build on in my life of having been in prison. I wanted an education; I wanted to go to college. I told myself "If TDCJ accepts me in their school program I'll have a reason to stay. It'll be something to do and I will finish my education. I won't escape..." And so, without the other guys knowing, I sent in an I-60 that is a request form, to the educational department. I was turned down because I was too far away from coming up for parole. I thought, what a bullshit reason to turn someone down! My reason for disclosing this, is to expose the lack of any kind of rehabilitation in the TDCJ...If someone is TRYING to better or improve their lives, why not make the chance available?
Also, as far as Texas is concerned and contrary to popular belief, guys in general population don't get to sit and watch TV and recreate all day long. You are required to work a certain amount of hours a day. You don't get paid for it either, well, they claim to give you "good time" but that is a fucking joke! If you have a sentence that requires you to do a certain amount of time before you are even considered for parole, none of that so called "good time" is added into that time. Texas is more of a labor camp than it is a "resort". And besides, just as a general practice...regardless of whether someone has done something heinous or not, isn't it a benefit to humanity to be above those who have done the awful, and treat people with a basic dignity? Again, if you treat people like animals you can't be surprised when they, in turn, act like animals.
January 10th, 2016
6:20 a.m....They're doing recreation today but I still feel the need to file my grievance about how we are constantly getting screwed out of it. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate feeling like an habitual whiner about things. For the most part I accept the hand that fate has given me and deal with it, but back here we have few comforts. I'm not one that gets super excited over commissary. But two things mean more to me than anything: seeing friends at visitation, and recreation. Essentially, just the opportunity to get out of my cell. If I was free I would never again be one of those people who waste a beautiful day sitting around at home. I'd go anywhere, everywhere! Rain, sleet or snow!
Contrary to this journal entry I'm not a super social person. Large crowds make me nervous, meeting new people scares the crap out of me at times (irrational, I know). I'm incredibly shy and introverted. However, I push that out of the way so that I do interact with other people outside of rec or even talking out of the cell. I almost crave the interaction because it helps to feel normal. I think I would do the same if I was free. I think I would throw myself into some sort of volunteer service, more than likely a homeless shelter of some sort because I have been homeless for a brief time. Plus, helping others does truly feel good. I would spend all available time out in the open.
Oh man, I watched the most incredible sunset out of my window last night. Picture this: a blue canvas with wide paint strokes of wind swept clouds. The sun began to sink into the horizon exploding into a kaleidoscope of violet, orange and purple. The lower the sun sank the more vivid the colors became. It was quite breathtaking. I watched until the sky became a navy bluish grey. Speaking of outside my window, I'm scheduled to go outside 3rd round. It's cold as can be but it's supposed to be a really really nice day.
It's late now and man was it ever a really nice day. I ended up going outside third round. The temperature was mild, not too cold. The sun was out, the air clean. For about half an hour I focused on every breath, taking in the fresh air. It was invigorating. I also had another basketball win. I'm on a roll!
I was thinking about something earlier...Why is it people accept the idea of "redemption" in stories, whether it be biblical or literary, in movies/TV shows and even societies "elite", yet, for the average person who does something wrong, redemption is seen cynically and is very, very elusive for those trying to obtain it. If a villain in a movie kills 100 people but throws himself on the bomb at the end of the movie to save the hero etc, people leave the theater thinking "That was the bravest thing I've ever seen! He did have good in him". If a society elite does something horrible, but turns their life around, we all say "Isn't it amazing how so and so got their life straightened out? I wish I could be so courageous...". But those of us who truly are trying to do better, change, ask for forgiveness and ultimately be redeemed...What do the majority of people say? "Oh, he doesn't mean it...bullshit...he's just trying to save his own life". Sigh...Something to think about.
January 8th, 2016
Friday...I didn't get moved last night so I spent the evening reading and finishing "The Force Awakens". So, now I know the secrets, know the movie, and all I can say is it was freaking AWESOME. I wasn't disappointed in the slightest. Even the novel had that classic Star Wars feel to it. I won't give any spoilers in here but there was a part that absolutely shocked - gutted me - and I would've liked to see more of Luke Skywalker but I understand the mystery of his whereabouts is what propelled the story and gave it a sense of direction. The ending was perfect.
Because I know the Star Wars universe so well, the sights, sounds and even the characters personalities, it was as if I was there, as if I was watching the movie. The book - and I give credit to the author tasked with the novelization of a script - found that Star Wars pacing of the movies. He didn't over explain or get bogged down in big language. He just told the story which works perfectly for an adaptation. I knew I wouldn't be able to go to sleep until I finished. It was about midnight and I had 20 something pages. My eyes were getting heavy and I was tired from a very long day. I considered taking it up early the next morning but the Force compelled me to keep going, haha. I'm excited for episode VIII. Lord willing I'll be around to read it.
So, last night I stumbled across the quote that will forever define my life. It was from the latest Rolling Stone magazine and an article on the new Star Wars movie. In the article Harrison Ford is quoted saying "I'm somehow extraordinarily lucky, for a guy with shitty luck". Isn't that the truth?!? I will have this quote on my tombstone...I'm somehow the luckiest guy in the world, and yet, I have the shittiest luck at times...
You know I'm incredibly grateful for those who follow "my life" on Facebook or even the website. There are a thousand ways to say thank you and I mean every one of them. I know there are those who come across my words and feel I don't deserve anything for mistakes I made at 18 years old, and poor - very poor - choices at 23 years old, and a part of me can understand it. I'm mindful of the cynicism, but judging me now, at 38 years old, a completely different human being, is in no way a fair representation of me. Someone recently told me that they know I'm not full of shit because they have read the volumes of my journals going back to 2005, and it would be difficult to put up a facade for so long, but also the entries read like a story and you can see the growth/changes throughout the years. One of these days I'll go back and read them all and see what they're talking about. Anyways, for those who do believe in me: THANK YOU!
January 7th, 2016
And it begins...It's 8:50 a.m. and the shakedown crew has arrived to begin the searching of the cells. I've gotten everything just about packed up and in the red crate so the guards can then DUMP everything out and ransack my stuff. Fortunately, I haven't got any excess property and I'm pretty good at packing stuff. The key is books first, as they take up most of the room. You can strategically jam other crap in the nooks and crannies of the crate. I'll be fine.
That being said, you never know which guard you'll get and what kind of mood they might be in. Here's a fact: we can buy our own stuff, radios, fans, etc...People can send us things like books but NOTHING and I mean not a single item that we "own" truly belongs to us, the inmate. At any moment, for any contrived reason, a guard has the authority to confiscate or throw away our items. It's just the way it is.
They seem to be moving pretty fast though, which means if they get A-pod out of the way the lockdown could be over by Friday or Saturday. I sure do hope so. Well, hell, they're already on B-section. There are six sections to a pod. I'm currently on C-section so they could be over here in an hour or two. Time to get this over with.
I don't know what it is but we've had two good breakfasts in a row. This morning was like freakin' Denny's. Two biscuits, hot oatmeal, apple sauce, a big ol' glob of grape jelly and potatoes and eggs. I ate the oatmeal and apple sauce and went back to sleep. After I finished exercising at 6 a.m. I heated everything else back up and it was delicious. I expect a loooong stretch of pancakes soon.
Around 7 a.m. the mail room showed up with my copy of Star Wars: The Force Awakens novel! My body was full of excitement and I'm thinking to myself, as I signed the receipt and the mail lady was still holding my book, "Just give me my damn book!" haha. Okay, I need to finish packing and I'll finish the shakedown report when they finish C-section.
12:45 pm. WHEW! Got that out of the way. They spent about 30 minutes on my cell. It was ransacked, but nothing was missing. I straightened everything up, cleaned my cell, washed my floor and here I am. The one thing I hate more than anything about a shakedown is the absolute feeling of being violated. Imagine being taken from your "home"/cell and having a group of guards go through every one of your personal items, pictures, letters, everything. It's a feeling that sucks extremely and has a quality of intimidation much like the Gestapo in World War II. I can't describe it any other way.
Now there's nothing left to do but settle down with a cup of tea and my book. It's possible that I will have to pack all of my stuff tonight to get moved so we shall see. Until then I'm going to read as much of this Star Wars book that I can.
January 5th, 2016
As I write this I'm listening to a program called "Totally 80's Tuesday". I'd normally be listening to the "Classic Club Hour" but he's doing a Natalie Cole tribute. Rest her soul but not really my cup of tea. Right now John Waite's "Missing you" is on. I feel like a kid roller skating at "Big wheel skates" in Arlington. Remember when the D.J. would say "all single skaters leave the rink...couple skates only, couple skates only!" Now kids all running around on these hoverboards or whatever the hell they are. I feel old, haha.
The day started off with a cool sunrise. There was this vibrant violet line on the horizon. A nice way to start the morning. Then I listened to a speech on Executive Action for gun control by Obama. It actually got me choked up when he mentioned all of the lives lost in mass shootings. Guns suck! They fucking suck!! Worst human invention EVER. Anyways, he called for tougher background checks. He even said "I'm not trying to take your guns. This is just common sense".
Curious as to what conservative thought was, I went to a couple of stations and as expected they totally misinterpreted and mischaracterized his speech. It's a shame that people can get away with being so - not just intellectually dishonest, but dishonest in general. Shame on them. Each Republican presidential candidate has vowed to overturn the executive action should they win. Fine, let's see how they deal with a plethora of mass shootings in office, should they become president. Bunch of intellectual cowards they are. Just another reason why a Democrat has to win.
Anyway, they should be doing B-pod, or even possibly A-pod on the shakedown tomorrow. I sure do hope it's A-pod so I can be done with it. It's the wait/anticipation that blows the most.
You know, I have a very easy last name to pronounce. Phonetically you break it down into two syllables "Hal - Prin". It isn't difficult and yet you'd be surprised with how many guards say my last name wrong in so many mind boggling ways! They add extra syllables, vowels, letters that aren't even in it and while I've gotten to the point where I respond to every iteration and pronunciation, I do think "How did they get that out of Halprin?" I've heard Harplin, Haplin, Halperlin, Hiplin, Haplerin...Clearly, the American educational system needs an overhaul.
January 4th, 2016
We are still on lockdown...They're back to the shakedowns, and I believe today they're doing C-pod, which also means sack lunches! Yesterday for dinner...good G-d! I had no idea what it was until I took a bite (and spat it right out). Imagine a tuna stew - yes, tuna stew. It was slimy and well...okay, a starving village wouldn't turn it down but personally I'd rather go hungry. Come on Bologna!
I slept so good last night but had some of the craziest dreams and they are incredibly vivid. In one I was fighting this real asshole of a guy and I mean really putting the smack down on him and he just laughed saying "I'm still going to kill you". I woke up thinking "Damn...that was one tough son of a bitch!" Another dream I had I was willingly letting a guy remove my liver. He cut me open and was scraping it out and I'm like "Wow, it doesn't even hurt !" Weird.
I woke up at about 6:30 a.m. but didn't get out of bed until 6:50, and began the day with my normal morning ritual - exercise. By 7:30 the sun was rising and there was frost on the grass outside. As the sun reflected on the grass, it looked heavenly. I haven't seen frost in a long time. As a kid I used to love walking across frozen grass and the way it crunched under my feet. Remember when things like that amazed you as a kid? How everything was exciting and filled with wonder? Why do we lose that as adults? So, in between workout sets I would look out the window and at some point all of the horses came into view in the field. It was really nice to watch.
Another couple of changes here: we now only get 10 minute showers. There's good and bad to this because they lock us in the shower, and it really sucks when you get trapped in what is essentially a hot box for the 30-45 minutes that it takes for the officers to come back and get you. 10 minutes is more than enough time to shower. However, it's not enough time to shower AND shave. Because I shave my face and head it takes a bit longer than normal and if I'm rushed I'll look like I was attacked by a ginsu knife weilding ninja, or I got in a fight with a Cuisinart.
Wow, we did got a hot lunch tray for a meal and not a sack lunch. Maybe we'll get the same for dinner? Time will tell. It's now 2 p.m., the sky is bright, clean and blue outside of my window. Finally a full day of beautiful sunshine after two plus weeks of dreariness. Looking at the horses, they're just grazing what grass is out there. I could spend the entire afternoon watching them. Lunch was okay but I'm feeling hungry. I have no snacks, just workout fuel - definitely not something to munch on. It doesn't help when one of the guards is doing his security check with a bag of delicious, oh so mouth watering, salsa verde chips in his hands, aggghhh. You know what people take for granted? The act of running to the gas station and buying some freaking snacks! I can't recall a time that I didn't buy some kind of bag of chips and a soda at the gas station!
Well, I need to attend to some other stuff. I will close this here.
January 1st, 2016
Happy New Year! Wow...It's kind of hard to believe that I've survived yet another year in this place. When September rolls around I'll have been locked up (minus a month...) 20 years. Unbelievable! I've spent more than half of my life behind bars and that is just freaking depressing to think about. That being said, we live our lives, regardless of the circumstances, the best that we can. Right? A long time ago a guy told me that "freedom is an inside job". You can live your life totally free in the physical world, but be a prisoner of your soul.
So, here I am, facing another year. Each year, on the first day is like stepping into the realm of the unknown. Everything and anything is possible. What will 2016 bring? What won't it bring? Who knows? I'm not big on new year resolutions because I feel that if we know our problems and what we want to do with ourselves or change we should constantly work on that. Not pick out a point of time and say "This is when I want to try to do it..." Because don't we always set ourselves up for failure? Instead, everyday we should say "Today I am going to..." Fill in the blank. Or as Yoda says, to paraphrase "There is no try, only do". Little green dude was on some serious Jedi Master shit!
So, over the past day I've been writing down little things that I'd like to see happen in this new year. Some of it, I feel, is in the realm of possibility. Other things, it is going to require work and human determination to change. We have to want it. Not just talk about it. I'm so sick and tired of talkers...Stop talking and just freaking do it! Be a doer. Some of these things are directed at Americans. And they are political. I mean no bones about being a true blue liberal - it is what I am. You may not agree with some of what I think should change but don't close yourself off to it. Think about them, debate in a healthy way with your friends and family. There's nothing wrong with a healthy dialogue between two people of different opinions. That being said, I might be somewhat abrasive with what I write but only because I'm making a point...If you're not into this stuff, feel free to skip over the next few pages...
Of course, I would obviously like to see a Democrat win the presidency, whether it be Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. I prefer Bernie because he's a true Democratic Socialist and not an establishment elite. Another thing I really like about him is he hasn't been afraid to step into the lion's den and TALK to people with opposing views. I listened to a question and answer forum he had at a conservative Christian university and he was calm and polite. He didn't talk down to the students and even though they didn't agree, he TALKED with them. That is how you get things done, or at least create dialogue. You don't dig in and say "it is my way or no way at all" like a lot of Tea Party conservatives believe that the government should be run. Regardless, in a selfish way, many lives on death row depend on a democrat winning the White House.
Comprehensive Criminal Justice system reform...It goes without saying that things need to change. We lock up kids for LIFE for crying out loud. We ruin lives of those who get caught with a small amount of drugs. The U.S. incarcerate more people than anywhere else in the WORLD. And because we support the death penalty we rank up there with China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and a list of other countries who have real human rights problems that kill their own citizens. How can the U.S. can be the "shining light on the hill" and expect people to follow our lead when our own hypocrisy is laid out for the whole world to see?
An end to xenophobia and fear mongering against those who seek asylum, and a new beginning without worrying about having their heads chopped off or be blown to bits. If you want to know a perfect example of how a peaceful, loving Syrian can start anew in the U.S. I suggest reading "Zeitoun" by Dave Eggers. One of the best non fiction novels I've ever read. An end to institutional racism. Seriously. It is 2016...
An increase in the minimum wage for ALL workers. I heard an interesting report on a conservative talk program that was going on and on about how under Obama there are more people welfare than ever in U.S. history. He cried foul by saying "People would rather sit around and do nothing and get paid for it! Hell, in some states they get more from welfare than in a minimum wage job". I had the image of John Stewart looking at the camera with a serious look on his face, as this guy said it, because I'm no economic expert but I'm pretty sure the dude just argued to increase minimum wage. Pay people more. If you can't fork out a few extra cents for that ultra processed cheese burger you are devouring as ketchup sauce dribbles down your chin, then you should seriously re-evaluate what IS important in life. These people slave for YOU. Pay them extra so they can buy a delicious McCheese burger for their kid every now and again.
Comprehensive gun reform...Now, I interpret the 2nd amendment of the U.S. Constitution differently than some in believing that our founding fathers meant what they wrote: A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed...(my emphasis). I'm not a Constitutional scholar but I can read and it seems pretty self explanatory to me. That being said, there are many, many, MANY Americans who interpret this as meaning a right to have as many guns as you want. Regardless, the 2nd amendment does include the words "well regulated" and I believe that it gives the government authority to regulate arms. And what is the definition of "arms" anyways? Lets see what good ol' Oxford has to say...Arm: weapon...Hmmm...So, by that definition and some people's interpretation of the 2nd amendment it means that if you want a nuclear weapon you should be able to have one, right? It doesn't say assault rifles or hand guns. Though, I'm pretty sure that letting just anyone go out and buy an atom bomb would be a pretty bad idea...You would think.
I'm not a fan of guns. Even as a kid I wasn't. Now, Lazer Tag was a whole other ball game! I didn't like cap guns or air rifles. Sure, I played around with a few, but I would rather take the caps from the toy guns and beat them with a hammer and risk blowing my hand off than point it at another person and say "Bang! You're dead". I don't think guns do a service to anyone. I had this conversation with a guy back here and he said "Well, what if the U.S. government turns on its people. How will they defend themselves?" Dude, really? You're going to pit your hand gun or rifle against bombs or even a nuclear weapon? I think you're going to be dead pretty fast. A rifle against a Tow Missile? Just look at the civil war in Syria. The rebels are begging the U.S. military for heavier weapons because they're being bombed to bits. The Taliban or Iraq's insurgency wasn't effective because they're running around with AK-47's. They use I.E.D'S and car bombs. "Guns don't kill people. People kill people". Yeah, but they do it a whole lot faster and more efficiently with a gun.
What is wrong with some regulations? Here's some hard numbers to consider from the CDC: in 2013 there were 32,383 firearm murders or suicides in America. Of those fewer than 300 were deemed justifiable. Which is to say, if you have and use a gun, you are about 100 times as likely to murder someone or kill yourself as to defend yourself or your family, and those numbers are higher if you are a man (reported in the December/January Esquire 2015). Let Obama do his job. He's not trying to take your guns, but he is and has to do something to slow or stop these mass shootings and all around homicides. I mean, seriously, who the fuck thinks it's a good idea to let college students pack heat now? I'm tired of these knee jerk idiotic reactions to mass shootings. "People got themselves killed dead? That means we need MORE GUNS" YAY FOR AMERICA!
I love my country; I love Texas. But Jesus Harold Christ...I'm tired of the violence, mass deaths, and living in a society that is one of the most violent in the world.
And stop killing in the name of ANY religion or God. I doubt very seriously God is telling you "Hey, lets go shoot down some people or blow them up". Or "Hey, you know what you should do because you're a protector of "life"? Go down to that planned parenthood clinic and shoot a bunch of people up. I've got a nice place in heaven for you". Seriously people? You know what we need to do? We need to screw more like the bonobo apes. Man...wouldn't that be sweet? To quelch any agression or possible violence, you could be like "Argh! I'm so mad...I could kill your ass, but you know what? Let's get it on, donkey kong". Problem solved. And yes, bonobos really do screw to keep peace. What a life...!
I'd like to see more kindness, more humility, more love...More people should hug and tell each other what you're grateful for in life. I think more people should write letters, send more cards and "thank you" notes. People, don't say you are too busy when all you have to do is put the phone down for 10-15 minutes and write to a person that you care about! Someone PLEASE start this movement #BRINGTHETHANKYOUCARDBACK. I'm serious! Write a note to someone, take a picture of it and of you putting it in the post box and post it on the internet or Instagram or wherever you kids do things like that.
I'm sure I could think of a hundred other things to change or hope for and this is a good start. Ghandi said "Be the change you want to see". We do have to start with ourselves. We only have ourselves to blame for the way things are right now. We can go on business as usual or really do something. 2016 has such potential. It could be the year we back slide, or it could be the year that a real, true cultural revolution begins. What do you want 2016 to be?