Really, guys, it’s okay. Don’t worry about it – I’m cool with it. Definitely no reason for you to worry about it. Sometimes life, in rather large ways, doesn’t turn out “right.” Certain aspects of capital-R Reality aren’t going to conform to our expectations. Our challenge is to grasp this, to accept it, and to make the best of our lives. For one reason or another, I’ve always expected that, at some point, for some reason, I will go to prison.
I’ve thought about it since I was a little kid, which is maybe why at this point I’m fine with it. Think about it. There are upsides. You think there aren’t, but there are. Nobody’s denying there are very significant downsides as well, but they aren’t guaranteed. Glass half full, right? If I can manage to avoid the worst, though, just imagine the possibilities. I’m sure the prison library is somewhat limited, but seriously, when will I ever get another chance to get so much reading done? Think of the writing! I’ll never miss another solstice, equinox, or cross-quarter day again in my life. (I mean, maybe I won’t be able to post what I write anywhere, but if I ever get out – if it’s not one of those throw away the key type deals – my marketability as wizard will skyrocket. You ever heard of a wizard felon? Me either. That’s payday right there. (©2015 Wizard of Monadnock Media, motherfuckers.)
Now, as soon as the good wholesome folk pick their jaws up off the floor, they’re just aghast. How could I even talk like that? Prison is for other people. Surely I know better than that! I’m a 31-year-old father, a family man, a (semi-)professional and wizard on the side. What kind of respectable young man talks like that about going to prison?
Well, whatever. In any case, why am I talking about this now? Once again, I am forced to lay the blame on Tim Donovan. Way back on January 30, he wrote a killer piece for Salon exploring the story of Barrett Brown within the context of the current law and order/civil liberty climate in the US. Listen, guys, you don’t have to be Fox Mulder or Alex Jones to understand that if you make Them mad, They can put you in jail. Of course, we probably shouldn’t find this shocking because, I mean, COINTELPRO. And a million other things. But for those of us who grew up reading mid-90s end-of-history neoliberal paradise narratives in the Scholastic Weekly Reader, it’s important that we are reminded that these aren’t scary tales out of a deep dark past. They are now.
We know Brown’s prosecution related to his linking to a cache of stolen documents (including credit card information) hackers scored from an evil private spy company called STRATFOR. As Donovan tells it, however, he wasn’t actually arrested and charged until he lost his shit and made a YouTube video allegedly threatening the FBI. Read that again and tell me all of it doesn’t sound fake. Not just fake but bad fake. All of it. Donovan points out that legal experts literally can’t agree (slash don’t know) the true number of laws in the US Legal Code. Throw in 50 entirely different sets of state law and a bazillion local ordinances, absolutely nobody knows what all the laws are.
“Indeed, we have criminalized so much of our day-to-day life that, according to one estimate, Americans commit something in the realm of nine hundred million crimes a day, so that state prosecutors…pick the person and then find the crime — and not the other way around. This is arguably what happened to poor Barrett. After making the wrong enemies in our national security apparatus, FBI agents flipped Sabu into an informant and used his testimony to secure a search warrant of Brown’s apartment. But it’s important to remember that their search warrant bore no fruit; when they eventually arrested Brown six months later, it was on charges of allegedly threatening an FBI agent in an angry YouTube video. This is the definition of prosecutorial discretion, of leveraging the legal code to harass, intimidate, and silence critics of the state.”
Essentially, we have a legal code that all but guarantees that all of us, even good kids from good families like me and some of you (some of you), are criminals. (And, for the most part, I should add that those of us who puff the chomb are definitely definitely criminals.) All I have to do is make somebody mad or make enough noise when the wrong ears can hear it and they’ll find some reason to nail me. It’s not just the petty crimes, either. Remember the USA PATRIOT Act? You know, that thing we all used to get mad about back in the day and then kinda forgot about because it outlasted our attention spans? Remember how it even authorized authorities to secretly gather data on people’s reading habits? I mean, I have some seriously questionable books. Enemy Combatant by Moazzam Begg, Fugitive Days by Bill Ayers, Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman – just to name a few. And I mean I bought all of these with plastic. They know I am reading this seditious shit. I actually just accidentally became Facebook friends with Mark Rudd (Facebook suggested him to me, no joke, so I bit, and he accepted ¯\_(ツ)_/¯).
Okay, so even if we’ll agree I have some dangerous-leaning tastes, why would they get mad at me? I’m no hacker or even really an activist (not a good one, anyway). I like to think my public socialism makes me a threat to the state, but that’s just ego. Still, I’ve got a bit of a streak in me that makes me think I’ll get myself into something. When I do, you just remember you heard it here, first. In preschool, I started a little mafia. In Kindergarten, when the teacher kept putting my friends in the time-out chair, I sat up awake nights plotting to break it with a hammer I would smuggle into school. I told her right to her face I planned to take power as President and ensure she was fired and ultimately abolish school altogether. I started another little mafia in fourth grade. Toward the end of high school, I organized a cohort to launch a coup overthrowing the student council itself (it failed, barely). Back in my early office days, I again attempted a revolt on the floor, but this time it was squashed (nearly along with me) before a single person could voice support.
(You know, maybe I’m less of a threat than I think. I am since I seem to be getting less effective over time. They probably notice these things.)
So even if it’s not me, what about you? We’re all criminals. How certain are you that you’ll never step outside the lines and find yourself looking down a long barrel? Artist Molly Crabapple has an FBI file 7,526 pages long. For what? She’s extremely talented and unquestionably courageous, but who does she really frighten? How much do specifics even matter when everybody’s a terrorist? Okay, not everyone, but almost 700,000 people, with nearly half that number possessing no affiliation with any terrorist group. Huh? 280,000 people who are just…criminally disgruntled? What does that even mean? Apparently the law doesn’t even have a definition for terrorism!
It’s no wonder you have people like the gentle, saintly NYPD commissioner who wanted to get his hands on an arsenal of machine guns…to guard against protesterterrorists. (Fortunately, people noticed what he did there, and he did not get his machine guns.) But seriously, this is the chief chiefski of the country’s biggest police force basically saying he wants to go all Fallujah on protesters. That’s one bloodthirsty motherfucker, friends. He wants to kill us. And I’m sure he’s not alone.
So sometimes, if you think about it, jail’s not the worst thing that could happen. Few things are, even if they seem like it. I’ll go when it’s my time to go, I’ll catch up on reading, do a ton of tai chi and meditation, write volumes of all the things I’ve wanted to say – hell, maybe if I’m lucky I’ll even start a cult. Or a gang – but I’d rather a cult. Maybe a cult-gang. Whatever. I’m going, and I’m gonna make the most of it, and I’m even gonna write and sing my own little jailhouse melodies. I’ll even start now.