Somebody else needs you!
Last week, I gave you a list of people who need you as we work to get rid of this unjust, oppressive system of arrest, incarceration, release, repeat, that keeps us chained to forces that keep us down. We talked about organizations that are working for that change…how those of us who have done time are essential to that change. In the words of Glenn Martin, “Those who are closest to the problem are the ones closest to the solution.” We need you.
But somebody else needs you!
And that’s YOU, as in “You need YOU!”
See, if you are going to be about changing this corrupt system of incarceration and punishment, you got to be fit for the journey. Not perfect, just fit– as the old folk used to say, “Clothed and in your right mind.”
That means the “YOU” you need is not the rep you’ve built, or the street cred you’ve earned. SO much of that is the result of acting in such a way that people will see us in a certain light. That has its place, your image is important. But it ain’t you. YOU are you.
Who is YOU? That’s bad English, but good thinking. I was asked that question while sitting in a group in detox, recovering from another run with the bottle. The counselor had us watch this video on self-esteem and self-definition…”Look at YOU!” he practically shouted. “That ain’t YOU sittin’ there. It’s the shell your drug of choice created! But somewhere inside that shell is the real YOU and we are going to work to find it.”
As I’m writing this on the train, we just passed a state prison. I wonder how many dudes in there have discovered their real self. Tough to be YOU in prison; you can get played, punked or worse. But, as Lennie Spitale, a veteran of serious time and later a prison volunteer, has told me, “In prison, even the toughest guy cries at least one night.”
Underneath the rep and the cred beats a heart that is as normal as anyone’s. And to enter the struggle to straighten out this foolishness we call a criminal justice system, we need to be fit. How I’m gonna be sick and change a sick system?
So for me, that means it’s time to do another 4th Step in recovery. List my resentments, my pain, and most importantly, my role in either causing it, or putting myself in a position to be hurt because I was selfish in the first place (as in “she played me, hurt me, ‘effed’ me over, but I wanted to be with her in the first place because she made me look good”). Do that thoroughly, and ask someone I trust to give me feedback on when I’ve been self-centered, selfish, dishonest, manipulative, and so on. When were those times when I’d rather save my face than save my ass, and keep churchin’ and perpetratin’? Then ask God, Allah, Jesus, Something greater than me to remove those flaws, so that the real ME can shine. That’s my way. Yours may be different. But the truth remains, you need YOU to get things straight, and enlist in this army that needs YOU, too.
I’m reading a book called Crook County by Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve. It’s about the corruption in the Cook County jail system in Chicago. Incredible account of what’s wrong with the system, from cops to DA’s to PD’s to the laws on the books. But two things are true. Not only is the system corrupt, but I am at my best in challenging that system when I am at my best. That means I need ME. And you need YOU. Let’s get fit, and change this sh-ystem.