Reprint permission granted by the author.
May 13, 2015
SNAKE VERSUS #POLITICS
Wayne T. Dowdy
Whether to put more emphasis on the topic of Politics or Snakes was my dilemma. Snakes won by a landslide; however, I will also write on Political Promises and Incarceration.
To be specific, what changed my mind was a foot-long, reddish-brown, coppery-looking snake, with black patterns and a white underside. Several of us prisoners stood gathered around, some saying it was a poisonous copperhead because it had struck at the first person who reached his hand down toward it, and because the shape of its head resembled a diamond when it lay poised to strike at the terrorists who taunted it.
It was a lively little creature, which struck at a folder filled with paper that I held near its head; I examined its markings and physical characteristics to determine whether a deadly reptile lay before me, or a simple non-poisonous one here to do its job of ridding the world of pesky insects, and rats too, after it grows large enough to eat them. I determined the latter to be true, based upon my experience at dealing with snakes earlier in life.
The colorful snake was a juvenile in fear of its life from the world’s greatest predator: human beings; a human who held an object close to the nose of the serpent to see what type of response he got from the venomous creature. Okay, I confess. The snake was not mean and vicious; the harmless baby was just trying to survive in a world no one understands, its instincts telling it to strike to deter the enemy from harming it. Hey, snakes do what snakes do. No harm no foul.
After three futile strikes it turned docile, portraying the message that it wanted to be left alone so that it could continue its sunbathing. That’s what it was doing before we rudely interrupted it by towering above it to gawk, while it lay on the ground not bothering anyone, just being a harmless snake.
How did the snake change my mind about what to write? The term “snake” fits scandalous politicians who tell lies to get votes, so there is a correlation between both topics. On this occasion, the serpent reminded me of my youth, when I loved to ramble through the woods with any device capable of sending a projectile into the body of some innocent creature (I would not consider harming anything today); or to trudge around a body of water to see if I could find fish, frogs, snakes, crayfish, salamanders, or some beautiful formation of rocks, trees, or plants.
I loved nature, even though I lost touch with that aspect of my life and became a destructive person who harmed people and the environment in which we live. I allowed my life experiences to turn me into a cruel person by becoming a product of my environment. Now I focus on becoming the person God created me to be.
My essay collection* contains several essays and poems about my life and some of the experiences that shaped me. In response to my childhood experience of growing up in a neighborhood across the street from the world’s busiest airport, I wrote “REMEMBER,” a poem which coincides with what I wrote in “An Airport Ate the Neighborhood,” (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy) ($0.99).
Remember walking through woods,
Playing in creeks, catching crawdads,
Watching for snakes, frogs, fish, turtles.
Remember roaring jets, planes,
Spewing toxins, shaking trees,
Poisoning streams with spent fuel.
Poisoned by noise,
Structures cracked by sound.
Remember houses on the trucks,
Men on top, moving power lines,
Helping houses move on roads.
Remember walking with nature,
With thick woods protecting creatures,
Life thriving under its cover.
Remember where I once lived,
Nature near, full of pleasure,
Before Jets and Planes came.
I wrote another essay with an environmental theme, “We Are the Cancer,” first published by Surepleasurez Promotions. You may read it in the March 2015 Archives (https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com/). I write such essays with the hope of effecting a small change in the lives of those who read them, and as my way of trying to compensate for the damage I caused during my youth and the early years of adulthood.
Back to the snake that changed my mind. The snake reminded me of the first time I captured one when I was twelve-years-young. In elementary school and at home, I read books on insects, reptiles, mammals, and amphibians. As a disruptive student, most teachers encouraged me to sit and read all I wanted as long as I did not cause trouble. I was not a good student (if interested in my education, read “Life from ‘F’s to ‘A’s,” (03/28/15); published by PrisonEducation.com on 09/18/14).
My family owned a nice collection of encyclopedias, World Books, and Science books that my parents bought for my older brother and two sisters to have for school assignments. Even before I could read, I enjoyed looking at pictures in the volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica and any type of book or magazine about science or animals. All a book needed to entertain me was photos of things that walked (especially on four legs), crawled, flew, or swam, and looked different than humans. That’s how I learned to capture a snake.
That first snake taught me a lesson. I did not adhere to what I knew on how to catch one by grabbing it behind its head, at the rear of its jaws to prevent it from turning to take a bite. It was a harmless green snake, with its head stuck in some weeds, its body stretched across a trail me and a friend walked on while playing “hooky” from school that morning. Since the head was not visible, I reached down and grabbed it at the portion of its body closest to the weeds. It turned and bit me on my hand to remind me of the proper way to handle a snake. The bite only hurt my pride.
POLITICAL PROMISES & INCARCERATION
Reading proved valuable for me in many facets of life. I sympathize for those who cannot read due to issues beyond their control, and those who may never have an opportunity to learn how to read due to their social, geographical, or economic status. Maybe American politicians will focus more on funding education, and less on making laws to incarcerate its citizens for more crimes than any human has the capacity to comprehend. For several years, governments spent millions more on incarceration than on education at state and federal levels in the United States.
Read my essay, “Education, the Prisoner, and Recidivism” (03/28/15, first published in May of 2013 by PrisonEducation.com), to see where statistics prove education reduces recidivism (the return to old habits or behaviors). Politicians still continued to vote on Mass Incarceration policies until recent years. I show reasons for that in “The Truth About Incarceration, Part II” (04/05/15), where I address the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and private prison companies on high incarceration rates.
Prisoners became a commodity due to the rise of Prisons-for-Profit, whose owners and representatives gave politicians hefty financial incentives to continue “Tough-On-Crime” policies. That trend changed because the operation of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and state prisons began to consume the largest portion of criminal justice budgets. Too many prisoners became too expensive to house with rising costs of incarceration.
On a positive note, Daniel Malloy reported in the May 3, 2015, edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the “South Leads Push to Reduce Prison Populations.” In a well-written article about changes in the political spectrum on incarceration in America, he reported that several states changed policies and practices: Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Mississippi, and others across the South, as did New York. All have shown favorable results at reducing state deficits and incarceration rates. Most importantly, some of those states began providing better substance abuse and mental health treatment for their prisoners, as well as implementing re-entry initiatives. Those states and politicians deserve praise, even if most of those policies and votes were likely based on financial concerns, instead of any moral convictions for decades of wrongs inflicted upon their citizens by previous policies.
According to a quote in Malloy’s article from an ALEC spokesperson, former Texas Governor, Rick Perry, started spending more money on diversion programs in place of prison beds in 2007. I respect him and Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal, for creating diversion programs as alternatives to incarceration for juveniles and other offenders. Gov. Deal implemented different phases to change Georgia’s failed criminal justice system (CJS). I am a Georgia native who spent numerous years of his life in their CJS. Last year, Gov. Deal focused “[o]n improving ways to rehabilitate inmates who are serving prison sentences and ease their transition as they re-enter society. He’s poured millions into education programs at the state prisons.” AJ&C, 05/03/15, under sub-heading of “Tide Swells Across the South.” That was an honorable act. Politicians such as Governor Deal and Rick Perry, are a rare breed who take a stand for what is right that may not be politically correct.
As a general matter, Politics are depressing. No wonder I chose to focus more on snakes that crawl over those who walk. Who wants to read about immigration, legalization of marijuana, or the politicians who deceive voters by campaigning on issues and then promising to vote a particular way if elected, who then votes contrary to their promises, after their voters put them in office? Not me. The Snake lying on a prison yard has more appeal to me than a politician lying when making campaign promises.
With statistics proving the over-incarceration of American citizens, and the cost of keeping them in prison for decades, the 2016 presidential candidates and other politicians are campaigning to reduce prison populations. The future will reveal which ones chose to be honorable by voting according to promises made and introducing bills to support the words flowing from their mouths, as well as those who engaged in political pandering to get votes, who are more slimy than any reptile crawling on the face of the earth.
Respectfully, I say to those who win the seats, represent the office upon which you are elected by being honorable men and women, whose words mean something. As I write, I have spent almost twenty-seven-years in prison for my role in crimes no where near as harmful to the nation as the policies that put me here for decades. Countless taxpaying victims have struggled to pay the cost of my incarceration, shelling out more than a million dollars for me to stay in prison for driving a second getaway vehicle in a serious crime.
I challenge all politicians to read my essay, “No Sympathy” (first published in my essay collection,* and then posted 04/09/15, to let people read it free to see the true cost of failed Criminal Justice policies. Read it and look at the facts to determine whether the damage caused by “Tough-On-Crime” bills have been worth the price paid by American citizens. Now “YOU” have the power to change what was done for the sake of a vote that came with the expensive price tag of human lives. Please vote to correct the policies that lead to mass incarceration rates.
Oh, BTW, a prison guard arrested the snake for posing a threat to the safety and security of the institution and for it being in an unauthorized area. We pled for him to have mercy and not execute the poor little snake for its crimes. The guard promised to help the snake escape the confines of the prison by carrying it home in his pocket. I hope he did.
The guard really did say he was going to carry it home with him and that it was a juvenile garter or king snake. The tiny one wrapped itself around his fingers as he walked away to end the terrorism of the snake.
Stay posted. I plan to write more on politics based upon the AJ&C article. I thank those of you who follow my blog posts.
Wayne T. Dowdy, #39311-019, B-3
P.O. Box 725, FCI
Edgefield, SC 29824-0725
*ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN, $10.95, Midnight Express Books (http://www.straightfromthepen.com). For those willing to do a book review, contact me at email@example.com and I will provide a free Smashwords coupon code to download the eBook; otherwise, download it as “Reader Sets Price” from https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy and pay what you like.