Imagine…     by    Ruth Utnage

I wish I could tell you the details of some interactions I have with certain state employees, but I am not allowed.

Let me run a “what if” scenerio to you. Let’s say you’re in prison and you cannot leave an area until a certain time, very specific times. In order to leave that space and not cause trouble you must leave it neat and orderly, putting away all items used, such as tools. So you work or utilize that area until a certain time, knowing you will need “X” amount of time to clean up the space appropriately.

Are you with me so far?

So we’re working along and suddenly a return movement is called (this is the time you are allowed to leave, the only time you are allowed to leave until the next one is called), at a time that it is not normally called at- we have now deviated from a standard that has been set for nearly a decade. Clearly something is wrong. Something happens at the precise same time every day for such a long time that an unannounced deviation from that standard can only mean one thing, something is now amiss. Do you begin to clean up your area? Are we going to be told to leave soon, to accommodate whatever situation has occurred? Perhaps it is time to inquire of the local authority on duty?

Yeah, let’s do that, let us go ask the on-duty authority.

“Excuse me, Sir,” you begin asking the man behind the desk outside of the room you’ve been working in. He snaps his head up from his computer screen and scowls deeply at you. “Are we needing to pack up our area, I see that movement has been called early.”

“Man, does that movement concern you!” He snaps back. His scowl only deepens more into his face, permanent creases turn into deep crevices around his eyes and mouth, his hat pulled low to his brow.

You proceed cautiously, simply excusing yourself at this point is dangerous because he could see this as refusing an order, he is the authority and has asked a question. So, you adjust your posture to open your chest and show you are no threat, a technique used on violent predators in prison, and proceed in a calming voice “Yes Sir,” you begin, waiting to see any kind of change in his aggression, when none occur you continue on hoping to ease the tension “the movement was called a strange time, which usually means that something has happened and I have tools that need to be returned if that’s the case.”

“Did they say recall?!” He says, now leaning toward you and squaring his body, clenching his fists, obviously ready to attack.

You take a step back and raise your hands up to show no threat, despite being over ten feet away already. He sees your fear and suddenly changes his posture, relaxing into his chair once more.

“Look,” he says with a little less bite, but still snarling “I know they called movement late, but as far as I know we’re here until 8:30 tonight, unless you need to go somewhere.” pauses momentarily for you to respond, when you don’t he continues “if you don’t then we’re here until then.”

You go back to your area without another word.

Let’s say that was a scene that actually happened. Your heart is racing, your fight or flight is fully activated, face is flushed, and now you’re trapped in a small room with four other people who all watched the whole thing play out and are now sheepishly quiet. How do you react? How do you “return to business as usual”? Can you?

Now, imagine this, you can’t even talk about it because if you do you’ll be hated by other authorities, his work buddies and next time you run into him you never know what he’ll do.

Now, imagine that all you can do is go back to your cell and do your best not to impact anyone else negatively because others are sensitive to change in mood and temperament and problems could arise if you come across as short or annoyed without explanation.

Have a good day…

With Love
Ruth Utnage

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To contact me you must be a humanist…

“A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, then by a thousand actions in their favor without that trust.” (“Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire )