The fact is the Nazis haven’t cornered the market on hate, violence, or racism. It’s rampant in here in its purest form. You get a look at blind tribalism that would make any anthropologist jealous.
There are four to five, make that six, guys on H-mod who are Latin.
There is Moses, the new mod worker, who I see as a good guy, but I temper that with the fact that the best deal the DA could offer him was 25 to life. I can’t even begin to imagine what he did in order for that to be a “deal”. There’s Victor, a young guy who looks like a kid. He’s constantly pacing, singing spiritual songs in Spanish. There’s the new guy, whose name I don’t’ know. He’s got his left leg amputated – it appears to be above the knee – and rolls around in a wheelchair. I still can’t seem to grasp that a guy on one leg, in a wheel chair, committed a crime.
There is the gay guy, Francisco, who was discharged a few weeks ago; but who’s back less than a month on the outside. Apparently he was getting high, put a call in to 911 for some reason he can’t remember; so when the police got there and took his name, they discovered he was on probation and that his emergency constituted a probation violation. They brought him back to jail.
There’s Victor’s celly, who just looks crazy – and everyone in here believes him to be – because he spends his entire “unlock” at the microwave cooking and eating. And believe me, to be considered crazy amongst this band of misfits that is H-mod, you really have to have something wrong with you. One thing’s certain, he speaks only Spanish and he is not even remotely interested in holding a conversation with anyone except one of his compadres. The anger in his eyes takes racism to a whole new level. I am of the opinion that the Nazis could learn a thing or two from this psychotic.
And that’s what was disappointing to me. I didn’t want to see this group as prejudiced as the rest of us, and I was devastated – in a manner of speaking – to find they were.
And they are because my celly, Niko, confirmed it for me. Nike, as I pointed out earlier, is from Mexico, looks like what we racist in America would call a Mexican, and speaks Spanish; but, again, he’s from an endemic tribe of Indians who retreated to the mountains with the arrival of the Spaniards. He has known racism, and although he is conscious of it, he wants no part of it.
That is why an astute officer like Stewart moved him into my cell. It was like, “Let’s put these two together; they’ll get along and it’ll be one less headache to deal with each shift.”
Niko and I can’t claim to be friends, but we can claim to have a “band of brothers” like commitment as far as Solano County goes. We’ll do what we must to pay whatever debt society believes is owed, but we have no interest in joining the culture of the disenfranchised.
And so it was Niko who originally brought up the notion that the congregating of my Spanish colleagues wasn’t merely a connection based on a shared language. It was a tactical meeting to discuss strategy on survival in a situation in which they were outnumbered.
I expected as much from the crazy guy, but I was surprised to realize that Victor was in fact a ring leader. It just confirms that a tribal mentality – the anti-conceptual manner of thinking – is not purely the arena of the guards. The inmates can be equally as stupid, whether they’re white, black, or Latin.
It has served, though, as a conversation point for Niko and me, and realistically for that I am grateful. Though we don’t, as I mentioned earlier, have a lot in common, it does make us kindred spirits.
Niko is studying for his GED and it – the conflict that is always under the surface here in H-mod – gives him an opportunity to discuss the things he is learning. It also gives me what I need: a way to help and thus feel useful in an environment which is designed to achieve just the opposite: to make you feel useless and discarded.
I have even suggested – which I now believe him to be taking seriously – that he returns home and takes some of the things he is learning back to his village to make life for the people there better.
He works on cars. I suggested that he buy four or five trucks and return to help during the harvest. Apparently the people are scattered amongst the mountains and have long treks to come together in September each year. He could set up a transportation network, charge a fee and create jobs and a business. It wouldn’t hurt to introduce a school for the children either. Education is potential power.
He’s now started to get that far away look which suggests he’s at least considering it.
I for one have committed myself to keeping him juiced about doing it; after all – the secret to life is purpose. For the time being it gives both of us that and makes Solano County a bit more bearable.
That too has been my secret to surviving here. I find that I spend less and less of my days at Solano County – at least as far as my thoughts go. I am tenacious about my routine and engaging in goal-directed behavior takes me mentally and spiritually away from here.
My colleagues, particularly Joey, find me quite funny. Because Joey is looking at life in a mental hospital, his posture has become to accept reality. I believe we create reality.
He was making the point to me the other day at “unlock” that he knows he will probably spend the rest of his life in a mental hospital. I said to him that that was too bad, because “right now, I’m sitting at an outdoor café in Cabo San Lucas. I have on a white linen suit, blue shirt open at the collar – made by Brioni by the way – the sun is on my face and a cool breeze has made me feel quite comfortable. I just ordered the lobster and crab cakes as my entrée; a very beautiful woman has emerged from the water in a breathtaking bikini and is making her way toward the chair opposite me. Kids are playing within earshot and their laughter and giggles make it all worthwhile.
As she gets closer, I am literally amazed at the perfection of her facial features. I take a sip from an ice cold Heineken, things are all right.
Of course, Joey interrupts my scene with the comment that “you should maybe go over to the state hospital with me.”
“I should, Joey,” I think, “but not for the reasons you think. The fact is I know things are better on the other side of the fire; that’s where I’m headed. These people in here will never change me. They’re not going to make me angry and resentful. I’ll stick with the facts and turn the page when it’s appropriate and simply move on.”
That’s the task here. You can come to the conclusion that I’m in control and I can make the choices that make my life better. Or you can let a system that ismean and indifferent label you the way it wants to. I choose the former.
There is comedy in each inmate’s story. While Francisco called 911 to bring him in, to arrest himself; Victor, who I have empathy for, has a story that is equally as ridiculous. While on probation, Victor decides to flee. He’s going to get out of California. For what crime, I do not know. He gets on a bus to Utah with the intent of heading to Philadelphia, and then home to Mexico. There is a layover in Salt Lake City and so he decides to make a call home. Before he hangs up the phone, an officer is waiting to bring him back to California…Don’t these guys watch television? Don’t they know their family phone is being tapped and if they dial their number the authorities will be listening? Don’t any of these guys watch ‘Law and Order’?”
What’s funnier, though, is that my Latin colleagues discuss all these matters, out loud, only in Spanish, as if no one else in the room understands Spanish. Hell, California is Mexico.
The “crazy Mexican” has taken it even further. He has adopted the idea that Anthony – a kid of Latin descent whose family is from Mexico, although as compared to the crazy looks Caucasian –is “mad-dogging” him. Anthony, in disbelief of this guy’s antics, has taken to staring at him and he takes offense to it. His conclusion is that he may have to fight. But again he’s saying it out loud, only again in Spanish, because he believes no one understands him. Now Anthony too is on the defensive, and the potential for serious problems lies in the fact that Anthony is a young kid, 20 to 22 years of age, and because of some sense of false machismo is more than willing to oblige him
. That’s the reality around here. If you are looking for a confrontation, there are more than enough really angry guys, more than willing to oblige you. Put that together with the frustrations of a system that doesn’t run well, and you realize it’s only a matter of time.