~ from SCI Dallas (PA), by Norman Edgar Lowry, Jr.

Prisoner of Conscience:  Endure

by Norman Lowry

May 28, 2013

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”  — Mohandas K. Gandhi

In her autobiography FALLING LEAVES, author Adeline Yen Mah gifts us with the beauty of her Chinese heritage.  To her, the word “ren” (endure) represents the epitome of the Chinese culture and civilization, comprised of two components — “a knife with a sheath in the center of the rapier” and “the heart”–to endure means, “though [you are] wounding my heart, I shall ensheath the pain and live through it.

Prison wounds my heart; it wounds everyone’s heart.  Prison is a sewer; a privately constructed hell for those we will not love.  Like all other forms of our culture’s purposefully inflicted violence, prison has become a part of  “death, the destroyer of worlds” (The  Bhagavad-Gita); a part of “a consummate evil that unleashes its dogs of war on the helpless; an enemy motivated by insatiable greed” (Lynne Stewart).  Living in prison is like walking into a monsoon’s downpouring rain and wondering why the whole world is not weeping, too!

Do not misread me–societies need to deal appropriately and equitably with crime.  Yet justice is not based in the love of  “mercy is no justice”.  Rather, that is an illusion which ignores the truths which would require that we face all our own fears, frustrations and pains–and not merely those which can be so easily managed and manipulated by the institutions and medias to which we so regularly and freely seem to sell our souls.

In our society, prison was the inherent consequence of my repetitive choice to use pointed, purposeful acts of civil disobedience in my “amped-up” protestations (2009–vandalism/destruction of U.S. Military property; 2010–trespass on property leased to the U.S. Military; 2011–trespass on, and impeding entry to/from, property leased to the U.S. Military).  Regarding reasonings, you will find in me no sorrow or lack of peace, contentment and relative happiness.  You will never find me repentant for taking these “right” steps for the “right” reasons:  I am simply and irretrievably “crazy in love” (Eileen Fleming) with our Creator and with every woman and man who has ever lived, is alive now, or will ever live–period!  I will die before I will ever again consciously tread on another human being or participate in their enslavement.

My heart’s largest prison-inflicted wounding has resulted from the heightened level of apathy and anesthetization of my fellow inmates.  This utterly astounds me!  The self-centeredness of our greater society was not something that I would have supposed could be bested, as historically, these enslaved generally seem to be the more hopeful ones.  “Without hope, patience falters/ Leaving cynicism and wounded pride/Apathy follows/An alluring refuge of a barren kind” (Berry Friesen).

My peers do not seem to be in any way misguided, regarding our fast approaching “Day of Reckoning.”  Everyone I’ve met this far sees it as a given that the horrible consequences of our society’s choices are merely “inches away;” that the proverbial “excrement” has begun to “hit the [industrial-sized] fan..”  The masses say, “There’s simply nothing we can do,” which means, ‘let’s watch TV, drink coffee, eat junk food and smoke.’  Many say, “We’ll go out fighting,” which means, ‘I want to kill a cop, a judge, my prosecutor, etc’  A good number say, “I just hope that I can get out, get high and have sex, first.”  Most of the “Christians” are counting on Jesus’ “Rapture” thingy…sigh!  “Apathy is soul numbing and people prefer being comfortably numb–not wanting to know keeps them immune from having to change their opinions/preconceived thoughts” (Eileen Fleming).

Among the prison staff, the consensus seems to be that their “Security” lies in their “external control mechanisms.”  Their “hands down” favorite is “Superior Firepower.”   As all here listen to the near daily and abundant ruckus from the prison’s firing range, which is often bragged about by the day’s participants, no one seems to question what “Superior Firepower” means.

My daily interactions, though filled with unexpected and much welcomed richness, are also regularly laden with great sadness.  Many is the day that my wounded heart feels as if it has been broken “far beyond repair” (Linda Ronstadt).  At times, it is all I can do to remember that there is a “Love strong as death–that love which waters cannot quench, no floods drown” (Thomas Hardy quoting The Song of Songs).  It is this Love, our Creator’s Love, and its manifestations, in my interactions with my precious peers, that shows me how to “ensheath the pain [of my wounds] and live through it” (Adeline Yen Mah).

One set of issues that keeps me going and causes me to smile (and sigh) are the unwritten “Prison Rules” of my peers (of course I break them all the time).  My favorites are: 1.  Don’t talk too much to the staff, as they are our enemy.  (I choose to call no one my enemy);  2  Don’t take showers completely naked or people will think that you’re gay.  (I’m not insecure and I like to get totally clean);  3.  Don’t hug people, especially gays, rapists and child molesters.  (I hug only human beings who need and want a hug); and 4.  Don’t ever tell someone that you love them.  (Tellling others of our Creator’s unconditionally boundless love and of my love is my favorite pastime).

My peers often tell me that I’m courting death by my blatant unwillingness to “play by the rules.”  The truth is that I am courting life–passionately!   For those who are willing to listen, I reveal my “Prison Rules:”  1.  Mankind always wins, whenever anyone says “No” to Evil. (Gandhi); 2.  True personal freedom begins when we give up “the compulsiveness of [our vision] of self as the guardian of history.” (John Howard Yoder);  3.  True societal freedom begins when we accept that “the kingdom of God is an earthly phenomenon always shaping our world.” (Berry Friesen); and 4.  Maturity occurs as we give up the illusion of personal “effectiveness;” by choosing to “accept defeat {and/or death] rather than to be complicit with evil.” (John Stoner, Michael Hardin, John Howard Yoder.).

Most of my peers tell me that “I’m a dreamer;”  (“but I’m not the only one”–John Lennon),,,Smile!  Among the great crowd of fellow dreamers who write to me is Alina Dollet, from France.  Alina sends great pictures from nature, discusses great French writers (Victor Hugo, Rene Girard) and composers (Jean Racine), and speaks grand words of inspiration.  On May 3, Alina wrote, “…if all around the world they continue to oppress peoples, that can’t finish well…Human violence is escaping our control, today it threatens our world.”  Her profound closing words to me were her favorite line from “Le Cantique de Jean Racine,” which I gift to you, “May the entire Hell flee at the sound of your voice!


(Norman Lowry is serving a one-to-seven year state prison term for the 2011 trespass at military recruiting office in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that he mentions here.)