The Battle For Love Over Hate
Mark Stroman and Rais Bhuiyan
“Ah, I well understand that you do not know what solitude is. Where there have been powerful societies, governments, religions, public opinions, in short wherever there has been tyranny, there the solitary philosopher has been hated; for philosophy offers an asylum to a man into which no tyranny can force it’s way, the inward cave, the labyrinth of the heart: and that annoys the tyrants.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Schopenhauer As Educator
“Confinement in this small area all day causes a build up of tension. The unavoidable consequence is stupidity, a return to childish behavior, overreaction. I refuse to let myself be punished with stuff like this. Locked in jail, within a jail, my mind is still free. I refuse even to allow myself to be forced by living conditions into a response that is not commensurate with intelligence and my final objective.” – George Jackson, Soledad Brother.
Today I’m in a very solitary mood. It’s 5:28 PM and hot. The sun is high in the clear Texas sky, just beyond my view from my little three-inch ‘window’ that I just looked out of. And what did I see? Barbed wire fences, security lights, a guard tower, the street in front of the unit with vehicles traveling down it, the buildings on the other side of the road framed by the tall, thick trees behind them—another world almost surreal, unfathomable, cartoonish, mocking.
Does the person driving the black Ford F-150 truck that just went down the road know that Mark was executed on Wednesday? Mark? Mark who? Probably not; surely not. Does the person driving by right now in the silver sedan know that Steven is set to die by lethal injection in only 52 days? Steven? Steven Woods? Never heard of him. What about the individual who just sped past at a rapid rate of speed in the burgundy SUV? Does this person know that right now on Death Watch Duane Buck, or “Brother Buck” as he is known, is “staying strong in the word” as he would say, fellowshipping with the other Christian guys on Death Watch, keeping their spirits up? No, they’re completely oblivious to the true nature of the great Beast that is in their midst. They recognize it’s there but really know nothing about it.
There’s something so horrible about this. I’m reminded of when I drove out to Livingston not long before I got locked up. I didn’t even know a prison was out there much less the prison that housed Death Row! I grew up in Houston, which is about an hour and a half from Livingston and many people from Houston drive up to Lake Livingston to go fishing and camping. That’s what Livingston is generally known for; or, was known for, I should say—Death Row was moved to this unit not long before I got locked up so I think Livingston is now known more for Death Row than for the lake. People are aware of Death Row but generally aren’t aware of what goes on here. Hell, most officers and most inmates here on DR and in population aren’t aware of execution dates until the actual execution date arrives. There is something so very twisted about this.
It’s like all of the pain and terrors and horrors of this place are hidden behind a veil of illusion. Every so often this veil is slightly pulled to the side and some people in the general public see some of what goes on but they understand even less. I work hard to tear apart the wicked illusionary veil and help people understand. This can be rather overwhelming sometimes. I tend to take a somewhat harsh stance toward the thoroughly complacent and completely acquiescent individuals here—who make up the vast, vast majority—but perhaps I shouldn’t. It takes an immense amount of strength to engage on positive and productive activity in this wretched environment. And to engage in positive and productive activity that stretches beyond one’s own self-interest takes Strength, yes, but it also takes Love.
To encounter a person who possesses a true strength of Will and an all-encompassing Love is extremely rare in this environment and I do believe it is rare in our society as a whole…Yes, I’ve been in one of my solitary moods the last few days. I never stop working when I delve off into my brooding nihilistic states. So, what do I do? Amidst work I usually go to my Nietzsche and G.J. After reading Mark’s last words in a J-Pay I received last night that’s what I did.—I read some George Jackson and most of Nietzsche’s brilliant essay Schopenhauer As Educator. The last words Mark Ströman spoke before he was murdered are as powerful as Nietzsche and G.J. Here they are:
“Even though I lay on this gurney, seconds away from my death, I am at total peace. May the Lord Jesus Christ be with me. I am at peace. Hate is going on in this world and it has to stop. Hate causes a lifetime of pain. Even though I lay here I am still at peace. I am still a proud American, Texas loud, Texas proud. God bless America, God bless everyone. Let’s do this damn thing. Director Hazelwood, thank you very much. Thank you everyone. Spark, I love you, all of you. I love you Donna. It’s all good, it’s been a great honor. I feel it; I am going to sleep now. Goodnight, 1, 2, there it goes.”
Mark was convicted of and sentenced to die for a hate crime. Mark was called the “September 11th Rage Killer.” As many in our society do, he used to look at hate as a virtue. In the movie “Falling Down” with Michael Douglas there is a character who owns an army surplus store—for those of you who’ve seen that movie, Mark was like that guy when he first arrived here. ‘Very intense Right Wing fanatic’ would be a good way to describe how Mark was. “Hate is going on in this world and it has to stop. Hate causes a lifetime of pain.” — And these were some of his last words! The last words of a killer, a multiple murderer! Is the profound nature of this understood?
The Nietzsche scholar Walter Kaufmann—one of the very few who actually deserve to be called a Nietzsche scholar—said that the following lines from Thus Spake Zarathustra represent a wonderfully concise statement of much of Nietzsche’s philosophy:
“When power becomes gracious and descends into the visible—such descent I call beauty. And there is nobody from whom I want beauty as much as from you who are powerful: let your kindness be your final self-conquest. Of all evil I deem you capabler: therefore I want the good from you. Verily, I have often laughed at the weaklings who thought themselves good because they had no claws.”
This passage from Nietzsche reminds me so very much of Reg [Rob’s comrade and friend who was executed 10.27.2009]. For one such as Gandhi to speak of peace and against hate is a profound and righteous thing. But what is even more profound?—For one who has the power to be a destroyer to speak of peace, for one who possesses the spirit and might of a lion to demand an end to hate. And of course the above passage reminds me of Mark—not only did Mark have the power to destroy but, he did destroy, he murdered, he killed. His hate spoke to the world in the language of murder, in the act of murder—he killed two people and tried to kill a third because of hate. Yet, in his dying words he spoke against hate, against the great destroyer of lives. How many understand the power of this?
And Rais Bhuiyan—this man is an absolute Saint! He was Mark’s intended third victim. Mark shot him but he didn’t die and Rais has led a campaign calling for Mark’s sentence to be commuted to Life. Even though they killed Mark this was and is such a very powerful thing: indeed extremely inspirational…Ah, so yes, I was over here in a very solitary mood and I thought I’d just let a few of my thoughts flow from my pen onto this paper. We’re still on lockdown and getting wretched little Johnny Sacks, which means that we haven’t had a single vegetable or anything really nutritious in 19 straight days.
Two days ago Big C over in the next section fell out and had to be pushed to the Emergency Room unconscious. When the C.O.s came around to do count he was passed out on the floor of his cell, non-responsive. No one knows if he’s dead or alive. They shut the water system down for two days because some type of extremely toxic substance was found in the water (more toxic than usually accepted, obviously). No telling how long we were drinking this toxic water.
What it the toxic water that made Big C fall out? The wretched Johnny Sacks? The stress of the oppressive lockdown? Inadequate medical care? No telling, but when something like that happens it makes everyone a little nervous, a little scared. This is such a wretched oppressive environment, a Dantean Hell, an Orwellian nightmare…
But I continue to battle righteously from the confines of my little cave, with my mind free and unchained. And I know that in this confinement, this solitary confinement I’m not alone—many others all over the world are fighting to tear down the wicked veil, fighting for social justice, fighting against hate, lies, illusion, ignorance. And in the spirit of this fight I’ll sign off…
From the Polunsky Death Camp In the East Texas Piney Woods, With Peace, Strength and Love: