Below is a letter I received from Kenneth recently that he asked me to share publicly. As we commemorate this anniversary and I pass along these words to you, I keep Kenneth, Tasha and Nydesha in my thoughts because today is also Kenneth’s review to decide if he will be granted a new security level. This could be huge! With this level it would then be possible for Kenneth to enjoy contact visits. How he has longed for over a decade to embrace his family! Once I hear news of the review outcome I will pass it along.
August 8th, 2008
I’m like a piece of steel in the fire. However, the longer I stay in the fire the more I will purify.
This is the image I must constantly keep in my mind. This is the image that allows me to endure everything I’m going through.
Fire is an intricate element. It’s an element that depending on the material, will burn/destroy or refine/purify. For the latter such an element is steel, which is why I attach myself to its likeness. While I do not shallowly relate myself to something that is “cold” and “lifeless” I cannot deny, as Ho Chi Minh said: “Calamity has hardened me and turned my mind into steel.”
The operative word is MIND which highlights the fact it’s not the heart or soul (which would be the centers from which a person’s love, peace and hope stem from). The mind is a vehicle- much like a car- that must be reinforced to withstand harsh damages and impacts; while the heart and soul would act like the gasoline and oil. Without those 2 substances the car will be immobile and useless.
This is why it’s important- in a struggle like this- that the mind be made into steel. To allow my mind to become any weaker than this material would result in a crumbling effect- that which the system relishes in seeing. This system is built on Conquer not cultivation. Just look at its track record: World War 1, World War 2, Gulf War, and from Vietnam to Iraq. A conquered mind is a conquered person, therefore I MUST remain…that steel.
What sparked this writing was my reflection on my quickly approaching 1-year anniversary of leaving death row. I remain in constant analysis of myself and my surroundings, because a moving mind will not be an idle mind; and idleness leads first to boredom, then to mischief and eventually to evil. I continue to ask where I am with my Self (12 building still insight [see my last journal of 2/17/08]) and what I have to do to get where I want/need to be.
For those that have kept up they know not much has changed for me in my struggle within these walls. I’ve traded one demon for another. While the greater challenge (defeating the executioner) has been lifted, the pain and adversity has not. Some things can be worse than death.
With me it was never about dying. An excruciating execution or not- that wasn’t what shook me. It was the INJUSTICE of it all- personally and politically. To quote an intense writer on his (Jack Henry Abbott) time in prison:
“It has been my experience that injustice is perhaps the only (if not merely the greatest) cause of insanity behind bars.”
This rang so true to me that it made me grit my teeth. You see- I have not accepted my circumstances nor my surroundings (i.e.- as “destiny”), but I deal with them and I adjust to them. And during this process I have come to deal with the most vilest of things and kept my sanity. I have been forced to wrestle with rules (often times arbitrary ones) that were made to subjugate me. Even when the table is shifted in their favor it’s still not enough. It’s not enough for them until you have been grinded into a pulp. As Abbott stated: “America resorts to the use of reason only as a final attempt to persuade, only after it has tried unsuccessfully to destroy a man, only after it is too late.”
I deal with the oppression, but find it unmanageable to accept not getting the things I’m due. When it’s time for the system to screw you over they are quick and masterful at accomplishing it. But, when giving justice, reparations etc. are due it’s like pulling teeth. These are the injustices that drive me mad. “I have been twisted by justice the way other men can be twisted by love”, so said Abbott. (In fact, for any of you that would like to dive into the mind and soul of a man that has endured the pure sickness of the Penal System I would encourage you to read his book “In the belly of the beast.” You won’t regret the time spent on it.
As I approach this year anniversary I wonder in what ways will my life shift gear. It will be a turning point- not just spiritually, but physically as well. Because as ironic as it might be- August 30, 2008 is the exact date my review for my next level is set. This next level will decide exactly what doors will be open to me: jobs, school. programs, more visits, contact visits, no handcuffs. Can you imagine that for the last 10 years I have had to be handcuffed everywhere I go, in/out my cell, in/out the shower, recreation yard, visit- back and forth, back and forth everyday all day! Not due to any prison rule violation, but simply because of my label- death row. I’ve got so many scars around my wrists that I no longer remember where they originated from (“Shackles have baptized my limbs with murderous rust.”); so many scars that I just decided to get bracelets tattooed around my wrists (literally)- one for my wife and one for my daughter. Reminders that I’m chained to things more beautiful than these iron soul breakers. Whatever privileges come I will not dignify them by calling them more “freedoms” because does making a cage bigger make freedom any closer? I can be appreciative for what advantages I do get, but I can’t dignify it to be more than something it’s not.
I do the best I can to make free-dome a state of the mind, but freedom is not a one-dimensional thing. It cannot be COMPLETE/FULFILLED in a one-dimensional state. Freedom is multi-dimensional like a prism. For now I can only experience pieces of it, but I’m constantly in thought of what to pursue, what’s waiting for me.
Whatever’s waiting for me at the end of this month- be it upgrade or not- I’m going to have to decide how I will deal with it. I’m not quick to make promises, because a person can only tolerate what he has contempt for for so long. There is always a breaking point. It’s a mantra I emit with much sincerity. This mantra-emanating from thoughts of not having touched my family in over 12 years- is one so strong that it threatens me with vulnerability. How does the steel hold up in the scorching fire????
Not long ago I watched the sands of time run down the hourglass as I awaited death. I now flip that same hourglass over. This time- at the other end of the spectrum- I watch the sands of time run down that hourglass again, but this time…..I await another aspect of Life.
What shall come of me (this steel) as I toss, turn, mold, soften, harden, re-form within the flames? I keep my purpose in focus and thrive on, as Abbott said:
“The most fragile and delicate of all ideas are those that reflect the fact that within human beings, there is an impenetrable area that no one can enter and defile: a heart of human tenderness so tenacious, so all-suffering and accepting, calm and resilient to human response, to love, that no force on earth can ever defeat it.”
Therefore, I remain as strong as ever in the struggle and in the fire….fighting!!!
Kenneth ‘Haramia’ Foster