To Whom it May Concern
To Whom it May Concern,
By: C. Fausto Cabrera
February 10, 2013
Imagine the worst thing that could happen to you, painfully gruesome deaths aside. What’s the worst thing that could happen to you that you’d survive? Take a second to contemplate what’s important to you. Let’s outline a few tragic situations that may be lurking around the next corner.
UNEXPECTED HEALTH ISSUES
Our health is fragile and generally taken for granted. One day you’re first-rate and plagued by boredom, the next the word ‘problem’ takes on a completely new meaning. A car accident might cost you a limb or impair a primary function causing a lifetime of dependency and limitation. On the other hand, disease may debilitate you unexpectedly. It may not even be you with the problem; what if one of your parents gets cancer, has a heart attack, or stroke? It would change everything. Regardless of details, health care is extremely expensive. With a breadwinner down and out, the stability of any household will collapse; bills stack beyond income; the rent or house payment is due on top of the necessities of food. All of the little comforts you’re accustom to are expendable.
Everything in life is susceptible to be lost. The people you hold dear are not immune to death. The person closest to you could be shot tomorrow. Your friends could betray you at any point over something petty. That group you kick it with could suddenly change the way they view you and cast you out of the social network. Your intimate relationships are not everlasting because of what you call love and even simple list can be impeded if there is no sexual outlet.
The things you cherish can disappear. Stuff like your personal possessions in a house fire; all your photos, clothes, and devices. Think about the little particulars you value; your cell phone, a music collection, movies, internet, or favorite foods. Although most of these objects are what we tend to believe define us, there are inner essences that make us who we are. Our individuality and voice; our rights to privacy, ambitions, and opportunities; our power to have hopes dreams and the freedom to pursue them.
Consider what you call to freedom. How would you respond to slavery? Forced to work for next to nothing outside of meager living conditions. Fed what you’d call slop, only given pre-approved possessions and watched 24/7 as if the captors are waiting for you to try something they can punish you for. Losing all material identity you would no longer matter fashionably. You’d dress the same as everyone else. You’d be reduced to mere property calling your humanity into question.
Any one of these misfortunes delivers a traumatic kick in the teeth, crippling you emotionally with the capability of casting you into a bitter, loathsome, spiteful existence. If you are arrested, tried, and convicted of a felony, a degree of ALL these tribulations will befall you. You will go to prison without sympathy, because the blame is yours to bear due to the choices you have made.
IF YOU DON’T KNOW
When the police suspect you for a crime a warrant is issued. You are then arrested and booked into a country jail to stand trial. Could you afford, you can bail out by putting 10% cash down on the bond issued by the judge. You then go to trial, usually months later. If you are convicted by a ‘jury of your peers’ (who would not consider you as their peer) you are sentenced a month or so later by the judge and sent to prison.
ATTENDING YOUR FUNERAL
It took me awhile to adjust to the jolt of the system. Everything happened so fast I couldn’t grasp it all right away, I didn’t want to look past the next couple of days. My bail was set at $1,000,000 so I sat in county jail for ten months before trial. There was a dim hope I could beat the case, but looking back I was hovering in denial downplaying the severity of the situation. We are of a culture raised by television and movies, and that’s what it felt like; I naively thought, I’m the star, I can’t lose. The worst feeling I ‘d ever experience, alongside my Mother’s death, was hearing the judge read the guilty verdict. I can’t begin to describe that sick feeling. Everything I had built in life was gone. The lawyer ate up all my money. My house, my cars, all of my stuff…gone! It seemed impossible to conceive what thirty years of prison even meant. I could feel the vastly exhausting road ahead, and all I could do was put my head down and walk into my future. Judged by people that have no idea who I am outside the presentation if this crime was a shameful ordeal. This was my greatest mistake and now it is what defines me.
My family didn’t know how to cope so they shelled up and broke contact. It’d be years before we would start communicating again. My girl hung around for a awhile. But without that physical security provided by my presence I couldn’t expect her to stick. All I had to give her were words and well wishes. Her options became magnetic and she slowly drifted away. All the homeboys were missing in action from the beginning, kats that I had fed and took care of bounced now that I needed them. I was nothing but a dependent now with nothing to offer but problems. It was like attending your own funeral service; seeing everyone pay his or her last respects before moving on. A shell of your former life lying dead in a casket. The phrase, “life goes on without you” is common enough, but there is nothing like seeing it firsthand. Without me my house collapsed, and all that remained in the rubble was memories and regret. If you’re blessed, there will be people still supporting you. Not because of you, but who they are.
Sadly, prison has become just as much of a rite of passage for young men in our country as college. This is no school you’d ever want to attend. It is modern day slavery. Your ‘debt to society’ is enduring dehumanization. You’re broken down, literally stripped of everything material. You’re given only pre-approved items, clothes and food. Your average wage is about a $1/hour and all the canteen items are more expensive than what they are out in the world. You have to pay for everything: phone-time, envelopes, snacks, decent shoes. No R movies, no porn, no control over your music, no privacy or intimacy of any kind. Everything is manically controlled and monitored: calls, visits…showers. Your rights are non-existent in the name of security. They go in your room and dig through your shit whenever, they can pat you down and even strip you for any reason. It is micromanaged petty torturing existence. You’re no longer a man. You’re treated like a little kid no matter what you do. It isn’t a rite of passage into manhood; it’s a debilitating strike that arrests your development.
There was an old farmer that lived in the country. All he had was a small garden and his donkey. One day the donkey wandered off. Hours passed before the old man noticed his absence and set out to look for his friend. He came upon a mount of dirt pile next to a grave some six feet deep int the middle of a field. Lo-and-behold, the donkey had fallen in. The old farmer sat by the hole and contemplated his options. He knew he wasn’t strong enough to hoist the donkey out of the grave and there wasn’t anyone he could call on. After hours of lamenting over the inevitable loss of his best friend the old man resolved to bury the donkey, figuring it was the merciful thing to do. So he grabbed a shovel, said his good-bues through tears and began throwing the dirt into the grave. He didn’t have the heart to watch so he stated as far off as possible. About an hour passed and the farmer looked down to gauge his progress. To his surprise his donkey stood ona a mound of dirt a few feet higher than before. The whole time the donkey had been shaking the dirt off of his back and packing it under his feet. A few more feet and the donkey steps out of the grave and walks off.
Regardless if what life throws at you, what you choose to do with it is up to you. Even people that mean well put you in situations that ruin you. In the midst of extreme adversity you must confront the mirror that reflects your soul. Some people run away from what’s reflected, afraid to confront the pain inside their hearts. They decided to live by illusions and justify their selfish behaviors. They blame someone else for where they’ve ended up. They never take responsibility for their own success yet try to convince everyone else how great they are. Do lames know they are lames? Naw, everyone thinks they are the realest person on earth. A special few look into that mirror make a decision, to begin a mission sculpting and polishing their character into something to be proud of. That decision isn’t easy, and the path transforms from smooth to rocky, bright at times then desolate in a blink. No two quests are the same, but the results are always magnificent. That is where you’ll discover who you are.
The Government, the Police, the Department of Corrections; they don’t care which rod you choose. Prison is an industry; government is all about economics. They are not concerned about right or wrong; you, your family, or ‘victims’. We are in an era callus to empathy, forgiveness, and second chances. That one mistake can cost you your life, and no one will care that there was a reason for what happened: you’ll deserve prison. The justice system is a province of the mind absent of the heart. It’s all up to you to figure it out.
My plea to you isn’t about fear of coming to such a sinister place. You could be in hell anywhere. What I hope to do is ignite a thought that will lead to an in-depth assessment of your life. I pray you find the desire to confront your issues before they tailspin out of control. It’s not just about dodging the clutches of the system; you could be swallowed by pain and bitterness. Think a bout the miserable adults you know that wallow in the ruins of their hopes and dreams. That could be you soon, and the tragedy is that you won’t believe that’s you.
Life isn’t just about you. Your self-destructive ways affect the people closest to you, and impact the potential of your whole community. Although it may not be the person you’d want, there are people in your life that love you and care about what happens to you. Think about them for a second. Who is on your list of the most important people in yoir life? Now consider the people that would have you on their list. People that have made sacrifices for you; that went out on a limb for you when you didn’t deserve it. The world is full of people that ‘get it’ and want to help. Teachers, councilors, volunteers, even inmates that don’t know you…people that have no hidden agendas that are willing to help. We don’t have to completely understand what you are going through; no one can. But nonetheless there are people that will listen; willing to sit in the depths of despair supporting and encouraging you. You have a fan base cheering for you.
This shit ain’t easy…nothing worth having is. Who said it would be? Life seems hard because we expect it to be easy. Adjust your attitude. Lighten up and develop a sense of humor toward yourself. Confront your demons. Find your support system. Figure out what you want of life. Then go get it despite the odds. Prove you are the person you think you are.
I am writing this blind, I don’t know where you are in life right now. The details aren’t important. Consider what you have going for you right now; the people in your life, your health, and the little things taken for granted. Contemplate how easily these things could vanish. Imagine where I must be in relation to you as you read this. Understand that this is a moment where you can change your future; a literal fork in the road. Don’t waste it.
C Fausto Cabrera
 This writing is for a program that speaks to juvenile/youth that find themselves ensnared by the justice system.