I sat down this evening to listen to music with my headphones while I did some writing. I sat with another inmate. He was busy doing beadwork. Its a hobby of his. As I sat down beside him, I looked over and I saw that he had the cutout of a newspaper clipping taped to a folder showing the photo of a thirty something year old man with the only words written clearly in the caption being “…shot by police.” I asked who it was and he said it was his cousin. The raw emotion of the empathy washed over me and I choked up.
I didn’t know this man’s cousin and barely know him, but the moment struck me about how men memorialize family. By virtue of this man’s incarceration and the fact that his cousin was shot and killed by police, clearly the breakdown in civic compliance was a family affair, but it was still his family. He didn’t attend the funeral because he was here. The average citizen might not give a rip about these things and may even “celebrate” justice, but this man lost someone important to him. And the only memorial he has to visit is the newspaper cutout on the back of a folder. And only he goes to visit this memorial. Alone. Alone, without the support of family to pick him up when his emotions overcome him. Alone with his thoughts and his loss.
Inmates will often tattoo or draw photos in memoriam, or like this man did, a newspaper cutout. When I was in Iraq and we lost men, we mourned them as well. However, we did it with battalion formations and chaplains and reminders of dignity and strength in unity. But the loneliness of prison makes the situation of memorials singular, with little to no support and no family to grieve with.
I get it… its just justice to the common citizen, but the loss is real and the loneliness crippling. Who has the right words at the right time when no one can be there, especially family? The moment just hit me and my heart broke for him in the reflection of it. While the need for prisons are real, the empathy for your fellow human beings should be just as real, even when they might not have it themselves. Just carry the idea of empathy and understanding with you. It could do wonders to change the world you live in. Perhaps it might save a life along the way…
by Rory Andes
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