A Conversation w/ Gabriel Gonzalez recently had a rather interesting conversation with my comrade Gabriel Gonzalez about a topic that’s rather “controversial.” I’m just going to drop some thoughts on the subject and all responses are welcome. First, as you read in the update I put out on the 10th, I conducted a sit-in demonstration in protest of Carlos Granados’ execution and of course, in protest of EVERYTHING else. Gabriel and I had planned a joint action that day. After the Riot Team left (from the “incident” in which I occupied the walkway) I hollered through the vent to Gabriel who is upstairs from me. I expected to hear a report of his demonstration. Instead, he avoided the topic and told me that he’d “holler at [me] later.” I thought that was a bit strange but I know G. is 100% dedicated to the struggle and his determination and loyalty is unquestionable, so I left it at that. The next day G. came to the dayroom which is directly in front of my cell and Amun’s cell and we had a very interesting discussion. I know that what I’m going to write about will probably make some of you angry, but this subject needs to be talked about…
To begin with, as I’ve said before, I do not “glorify” death row prisoners. I think it would be safe to say that the majority of people there have committed murder. Some of the crimes make me sick to my stomach when I think about them. I started studying psychology when I was out in the free-world about ten years ago. Though I do not think I have an overly-exceptional understanding of the subject and I certainly do not have any formal training in the field of psychology (or criminology, sociology, anthropology, etc. for that matter) I’ve been conducting my own little “studies on the mind of murderers” for many years now. I’ve talked to serial killers, child murderers, serial rapists, mass murderers and everyone else. I’ve actually spent hours and hours, for example, psychoanalyzing a man who was a well-known serial killer using all kinds of Jungian depth-psychology tactics, Freudian “free association” methods and everything else. A “criminal” will talk to another “criminal” in a way that he will not talk to anyone else, so I think I’ve gained an interesting and rare perspective on the “psyche of a killer” or whatever you want to call it. Many people’s cases are rather easy to understand from a “Cause and Effect” standpoint: You were born and raised in and around a criminal environment. Perhaps your mother was a drug addict prostitute and your father a drug dealer who was (and is) in prison and your environment molded you into being a criminal.
Then, on a night you were high on drugs and committed a robbery. They robbery “went bad” and you killed a store owner, perhaps. That’s not an in-depth analysis of the example concerning many people’s cases here. One can easily say “OK, I know why he committed the murder; I can see how he could do it.” But what about those who have child rape and murder cases, or cases so shocking that a person thinks, “How could any human being, any member of the Human Race do such a thing?”
Now, I am far “Beyond Good and Evil.” There are no set universal principles of “right and wrong” or “good and bad.” Every person has a different “code of ethics” and all moral values are a result of one’s psycho-social conditioning. It seems many people define what’s “right,” “good,” “acceptable” and “just” as that which most effectively allows them to achieve their goals and objectives. I don’t. My opposition to the death penalty isn’t based on the fact that I’m on death row, nor is it based on any personal religious conviction. Simply put, capital punishment promotes a culture of violence – a conclusion I have come to through rational and pragmatic critical analysis of the question – so it is “bad” for humanity. Of course, state-sponsored executions creates a new set of victims, takes millions of dollars away from social programs that could help prevent crime and everything else, but, back to the conversation between me, G. and Amun.
As soon as Gabriel came to the dayroom cage for “recreation” he hollered at me and let me know that he wanted to tell me why he didn’t conduct a demonstration the day before on Carlos’ execution date. G. asked if I knew Carlos, I told him that I didn’t and he began explaining how he knew him. Carlos and Gabriel were in the same pod together and housed around each other at one point. One day, when Carlos was in the dayroom recreation cage, him and G. had a conversation about Carlos’ case. He told Gabriel exactly why he was here, he explained everything in detail. Carlos told Gabriel that he was on death row for murdering a 3 year old child. He told G. that he had gotten into an argument with his girlfriend (the boy’s mother) because she was “running around with other guys and cheating on [him].” Carlos said that she had broken his heart so he flew into a violent rage and grabbed her 3 year old son and stabbed him in the heart, then he stabbed her over 20 times. (This is even hard for me to write right now). Gabriel was so upset by what Carlos told him that he told Carlos to never speak to him again and they remained silent until Carlos’ rec. time was finished.
One of the most psychologically damaging effects of this environment that I have noticed is that people here obsess over issues or events that cause extreme emotional responses, sometimes to the point of neurosis or psychosis. This “control unit” environment is designed to cause severe sensory deprivation. (This affects everyone including myself.) So, being that we are deprived of things people in the free world take for granted such as sunlight, touching other human beings and breathing fresh air, any sensory stimulation that is out-of-the-ordinary causes us to become overly emotional. When we experience sadness we are extremely sad and when we experience happiness we are extremely happy. After leaving the rec. yard, Gabriel went back into his cell and couldn’t stop thinking about what Carlos had told him. How could he have done it? Not physically, not the physical act of stabbing a child and his mother, but mentally, how can anyone’s mind allow them to commit such a crime? G. though about his own children and he couldn’t get what Carlos told him out of his mind, to the point where he actually cried. G., Amun and I talked about the situation for a while and I asked G. if he specifically didn’t protest on Carlos’ execution date because of Carlos’ case or if it was because of the fact that Carlos actually personally told him about his case. Gabriel explained that he felt conflicted about the situation and he basically just couldn’t get motivated to conduct a demonstration because he was having what basically amounts to a deep personal moral debate with himself. We’ve spent hours and hours and hours debating with each other about things like: Should we try to reach out to guys who are extremely racist? Even though we know certain individuals have treacherous and manipulative tendencies, should we try to work with them on things that benefit the struggle? Is it possible for us to deal with child molesters and child killers and rapists in a cordial manner? We’ve pretty much answered “yes” to all of the above questions and that’s why I think G. felt like he let himself down on Carlos’ date. We agreed that we should write about this situation because we know very good and well that many people who are in the abolitionist community deal with the same conflicting feelings that G. death with on Carlos’ date. I’ll be straight up, even though I understand mental illness and I understand the reasons why people here have committed the crimes they have, I still have an aversion to dealing with rapists and child murderers on a personal basis. But, the fight to abolish the death penalty isn’t about individual cases. We fight to say that all killing is wrong. We fight to stand in opposition to the promotion of violence through retribution. And most of all we fight in order to help advance the process of healing humanity. I’m about to get on this workout, I have the feeling that I’ll be facing the Riot Team again very soon and I need to be as strong as possible.
with Strength and Love:
P.S. Everyone be sure to go to the DRIVE site and check out everyone else’s updates.