/ Culture /
I’m paused a third of the way into a National Geographic flick called Aryan Brotherhood. According to that movie an entity called the Aryan Brotherhood is a dominant gang in US prisons.
Sounds racist, doesn’t it? One member insists that it isn’t: it’s a criminal gang, not a white supremacist gang: they’re into drug trafficking, extortion, and murder for hire. Maybe, but it sure sounds racist: and it’s that latter appearance that sparks me to launch this consideration. Hearing about it I’m launched back to 1961. My hot dog franchise partner and I are on the ground floor of a race track business, six days a week we’re at the NYRA flat tracks. In August we’re in Saratoga, we hang out in a coffee house there, folk music. But there we also meet a guy who bends our ear about Muslims in prison. If he was trying to scare us he at least partly succeeded, he was telling us that America builds prisons, fills them with blacks. Once upon a time America filled the plantation fields with blacks, told the blacks that suffering in this world would be made up to the sufferers, Jesus would save the faithful, sufferers would wind up ahead: so blacks took all the shit, hoping against a nice future. Not any more, this guy assured us. The Christian blacks were saying Fuck this, to their pacifist Christianity, they were becoming militant Muslims, jihadists. These prison blacks had prayer rugs, faced Mecca and prayed several times a day, believed that killed in a holy war they would be instant martyrs, become immortal in a garden, beautiful virgin pussy heaped on them.
David and I worried a bit, then forgot about it, never saw any hoards of militant black warriors attacking us, hoping we’d kill them so they could go straight to heaven.
But ever and anon I see other interests telling the same story, trying to scare us: only here it is again: inside out: it ain’t the Muslims, it aint the blacks, it’s the whites! Tattooed nazis, with shanks for shivs. Now that‘s supposed to scare the shit out of me.
I’m gonna put this up, then add to it scrapbook fashion as the spirit moves me. [Hours later I confess: the piece started running in its own dizzy directions, it’s just awful, but maybe I’ll improve it: another time.]
One association I’ve already narrated here: I repeat it quick.
John, my fishing buddy, and I drive to Fire Island in the 1960s, surf fish all night. The decade before I’d know Fire Island as the place you couldn’t drive to. Basically it still was, all the communicites were reachable only by ferry: there were beach buggies but no roads, no traffic except on the beach. But the western top of Fire Island was reachable, for fishing, via a bridge. John and I are headed home, 3 AM, Triborough Bridge, cross 125th Street. I say let’s go to Sherman’s, get some ribs, we do. John’s never been there before, John doesn’t like what he sees: bunch of Muslims spilling out of the temple next door to Shermans, toting rifles, Yelling “Kill Whitey!” John says, “We gotta get out of here”; I say, “Pay them no mind, it’s OK.” I whisper to John, “They’re about to kill each other, they don’t even see us.” Sure enough, one Muslim screams some more and hauls off and knocks his girl friend down. This cute woman is on the sidewalk, her legs kicking, her crotch flashing the world, and her assailant is kicking her, waving the rifle aloft, stomping on her stomach. “See?” I said, “We’re not in any danger at all.”
I don’t know what John believed but he stayed mum, we ate our ribs, and continued our drive home, over to the Hudson River side of things.
Thinking back I realize I had no business believing we were safe, anymore than I’d had any business in 1961 being scared. The Muslims could have suddenly attacked and killed us on 135th Street. They didn’t, who’s to say they couldn’t have? The same of different Muslims could have broken into my apartment an hour after dawn rose and I set and killed me and my girlfriend: what do humans know about safety, all such beliefs are founded on the most rickety of rationals: which doesn’t stop us from believing, and acting on our beliefs.
I’ve lived by acting on the belief that I’m in no particular danger no matter what appearances seem to be. That is, we’re in the gravest possible danger, from myriad conditions, ecological, political, military; but don’t blame the blacks: the Muslims are no more puppeteers of the world than the KKK was, or Hitler and his toy men.
We blamed the Communists, Inquisitors blamed the devil, the Jews; but if anybody’s the boogeyman, it’s us ourselves.
Back to my movie, these Aryan brothers are something.
The fed put me in jail for 15 months. The first jail, holding me just for the weekend, treated me as though I was one of the most dangerous men alive. One guard came to solitary, saw actual me, started, said, “Wha? there must be some mistake.” Right, there was a mistake all right. But within the first week they’d changed their fears, put me in the dorm for harmless old men. So: I never set foot in the violent dorms, the gladiator dorms they called them. The holding cells mixed everybody, and it was awful, but it never lasted more than a day. I knew guys, black guys, in my old man’s dorm who passed back and forth to and from both types. If they were violent, they were violent only in the violent dorms, not at all in our old man’s recess.
I did finally see some violence: against me: in the Jesup GA jail.
And in solitary later in Jesup when I sneaked a note to the guards that my friend Terry was warming up toward harming me they got me out of there in a hurry. Solitary was never solitary: simply because no matter how many jails they had built, they had incarcerated twice that many prisoners: there could be no solitary, they’d have to lease a special room at the Hilton.
Terry wanted to stomp me, but he was white, my friend. Two black guys, toward the end, did want to stomp me: one did, one wanted to.
It’s so funny: the guy who did stomp me got put in solitary: so did I. The guards have only one bad thing to do to you: put him in solitary. I got stomped: so they put me in solitary, with other guys also in solitary: solitary sardines. Had my other roommate in solitary stomped me, what would they have done? put him in solitary. Special Housing it was called.