PHOTOGRAPH: BRIT SCHULTE
For some time I have been communicating with a young man on death row in Livingston, Texas; an innocent young man. His name is Robert G. Will, Rob to his friends. He sends me, along with more personal letters, his "Diary From Death Row," which I type and another volunteer posts on his website freerobwill.org.
I urge you all to go to his website and read his diary. You will never be the same. And once you know, and can no longer unknow, I'm positive you will add to the growing numbers of people around the world, and most notably, Americans who can no longer tolerate our heinous system of capital punishment.
There is much information on the Internet to sway even the staunchest supporters of this murderous act of revenge we call justice. You can start here. Inform yourselves. Be braver than brave and take a stand against capital punishment.
For regular updates and a growing sense of support for Rob become his friend on facebook.
Please read Rob's latest diary entry from death row:
I Must Fight.
Anything Less Is Treason To Humanity.
February 5, 2011, Saturday, 9:45 P.M. P.M.
“When the world is pregnant with lies a long hidden Sacred Truth will be revealed.”—Ancient Odinist Prophecy
“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act..”—George Orwell
Quiet. Quiet at 9:45 P.M.—especially on a Saturday night—is a blessing. I do believe that the noisemakers and sports fanatics wore themselves out during the day with excessive hoopla in anticipation of the Super Bowl tomorrow. Oh yes, tomorrow will be insane, an absolute madhouse—men leaping about their cages with fervent glee, beating on their cell doors and screaming at the top of their lungs. Coping mechanism bliss. Imagine really living in an Orwellian environment, imagine how heavily this would weigh on your mind. Some would say out overall society is quite Orwellian—and interestingly enough I’ve heard several right wing commentators suggest this recently—but the Orwellian nature of this environment is overtly clear and distinctly evident.
I mean, it’s all here: Thought Police, doublethink, surveillance cameras everywhere, prolefeed, duckspeak…whew, just thinking about it is exhausting. Let me go wash some clothes and listen to this Groove-Soul-Jazz House show on KPFT, soak up this beautiful music…oh, wow, a song with excerpts from MLK speeches and now a Marvin Gay House Jazz remix—it can’t get much better than this!…And I did some Yoga, Shaolin Warrior Qi Gong, weight training and Jujitsu. If the beetlemen come to murder me they are going to have some very serious problems. Back to Orwell, but first do I dare?…Do I dare commit this act of bravery? Let me go to my door…O.K., my neighbor’s light is out and it looks like all of the other cell lights are off. O.K., I just took my earplugs out; hopefully I won’t be assaulted with any more hoopla tonight, but on never knows—the Great Hoopla Beast can be sneaky, suddenly appearing out of the beautiful quiet and devouring it and then immediately replacing it with maniacal pandemonic chaos! Some brief recollections on some passages from Orwell’s 1984:
“There was a whole chain of separate departments dealing with proletarian literature, music, drama, and entertainment generally. Here were produced rubbishy newspapers, containing almost nothing except sports, crime, and astrology, sensational five-cent novelettes, films oozing with sex, and sensational song.”
This place doesn’t actually produce such things but these things are ever-present highly sought after here. Crime novels, shuck and jive radio shows, action movies guys can catch on their radios, urban novels, trite men’s magazines—these things are ever-popular in this environment.
“It was curious how that beetlelike type proliferated proliferated in the Ministries: little dumpy men growing stout very early in life, with short legs, swift scuttling movements, and fat inscrutable faces with very small eyes. It was the type that seemed to flourish best under the dominion of the Party.”
This perfectly describes the warden and major who come from the Walls Unit to pick up people and take them back to the Unite to be executed. Extremely curious—this description of Orwell’s beetlemen really does fit the Walls Unit Warden and Major with eery and creepy precision. My God. I don’t want the horrible beetlemen to come to take me away. … Whew, O.K., I just had to breathe deeply a few times.
“…petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer, and above all gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep [the proles] in control was not difficult…And even when they became discontented as they sometimes did, their discontent led nowhere, because being without general ideas, they could only focus on petty specific grievances. The larger evils invariably escaped their notice.”
Terrifying, absolutely terrifying. This passage is so very relevant to this environment. Need I even include any commentary at all? I don’t think so, or at least not much—I’ll go ahead and say a few things I suppose. Myself and the few others who have engaged, and continue to engage in what I suppose could be called psycho sociopolitical activism have made much progress, but we’re up against a Behemoth. This is the hardest environment imaginable to organize in this place—which is a Control Unit Prison—designed by psychiatrists to destroy the human Mind, Body, Spirit, and Soul.
There are scholars and academics who have suggested that the death penalty is a form of sexual control and the reason those in power who support the death penalty do not want to abolish it—even though capital punishment serves no valid societal purpose—is because they do no want to relinquish any sort of control or power. This is an interesting theory. One of the most horrible things about this place is that the vast majority, 98% of guys willingly walk to their own execution. The devious Party Man and dedicated Myrmidon to Big Brother in Orwell’s 1984, O’Brien spoke of power:
“Power is tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing…power is power over human beings. Over the body—but above all the mind. Power over matter—external reality as you would call it—is not important. Already our control over matter is absolute…we control matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull…”
I read a transcript of an interview with members of the TDC execution “tie-down team,” the group of officers who actually strap people to the gurney right before they’re murdered. One of them talked about how the guys who are about to be executed thank them, they’re nice and friendly to them, and they thank their murderers. This is the most sick and twisted thing imaginable and I’ve seen similar depraved interactions between officers and inmates who are scheduled to die. Again, Orwell’s O’Brien:
“…no one whom we bring to this place ever leaves our hands uncured…The party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies: we change them. Do you understand what I mean by that?
We are not content with negative obedience nor even with abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us; so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his mind, we reshape him…we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely heart and soul…even in the instant of death we cannot permit any deviation.”
Most TDC officers aren’t O’Brien-type party men, they just “do their job, they’re cogs in a wheel of the larger machine and they’re not conscious of their place within the machine. There are devious and treacherous O’Briens here and I’ve known some of them and have had extremely interesting conversations with them. I actually have always been able to interact decently with the intelligent, deviously Machiavellian types—even in the midst of heated battle but the slap-stupid, ignorant-to-the-point-of-obscenity, almost incomprehensibly witless fools are the ones I have problems with. There was one high-ranking officer who used to work here who was on a real-deal O’Brien type vibe. I’ll call him “Officer X”. Officer X and I battled and then came to a sort of mutual understanding after he realized that none of the psychological tactics of social control that he was so fond of utilizing would work on me and that it was in his best interest and the best interest of “the Part” to not try to use them on me.
Officer X was good, very good at breaking people and he loved doing so—he really fancied himself some type of modern day Draco or perhaps a more fitting comparison would be a more intelligent version of the warden from the movie Cool Hand Luke (or maybe a TDC Mubarek!). One day I was out on visitation on the day a guy had an execution date. He was in a visitation cage about to be taken to be executed, when Officer X came around the corner and cast his glance in his direction. The suddenly like a hawk who has spotted easy prey he darted over to the cage and he did his thing—a twisted macabre scene ensued: Officer X forced his Will To Power upon the guy and made him “follow the rules” and shave right there in the cage.
Do you understand the depth of the depravity of this? The guy was about to be executed in a few hours and Officer X forced him to comply with an asinine order. (Note: Enforcement of petty demands is a strategic tool utilized in control unit prisons to breed a Pavlovian-style complacency. Echoes of O’Brien:
“By the time we had finished with them they were only the shells of men. There was nothing left in them except sorrow…and love of Big Brother…
What happens here is forever. Understand that in advance. We shall crush you down to the point from which there is no coming back. Things will happen to you from which you could not recover, if you lived a thousand years. Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling. Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or of living or laughter, or curiosity or courage or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves…
The heretic, the enemy of society will always be there, so that he can be defeated and humiliated over again…Always we shall have the heretic here at our mercy, screaming with pain, broken up, contemptible—and in the end utterly penitent, saved from himself, crawling your feet of his own accord.”
Before guys are executed they take the handcuffs off and 98% of the guys walk to the gurney, they fully participate in their own murder. I’ve seen it too many times—guys laughing and joking with their murderers as they lead them of to be executed. Once, I watched as a man was led off to be executed and he said these last words to the other inmates present: “They’ve been good to me, the, the officers have been good to me, they, they’ve been good to me…” And then he was loaded into the death van and taken to the Walls Unit and murdered. This person was on death row for about 12 years and was repeatedly oppressed by officers and openly acknowledged that he was well aware of the oppressive conditions of this environment.
You best believe that there are those in our society who would love to create some type of Orwellian, Huxleyian, Margaret Atwood A Handmaids Tale type of world. Hell, just listen to some of the ultra Right Wing talk shows, they say as much. These are the same people who virulently support capital punishment. I understand this. I understand that this place, Texas Death Row, is a microcosm of the larger U.S. Society and indeed the World. I must act, I must fight—anything less is treason to Humanity. The last line of Orwell’s 1984 reads, “He loved Big Brother.” Mark my words on the scroll of life, write them in the Sacred Stone of people’s History: I will never ever, ever love Big Brother.
A Rebel-Jazz Trumpet Call: Come Now! And Dance To the Music Of a Thought Crime Renaissance!