May 17, 2008
It’s been over a month since I’ve written a dispatch. Much has happened in that time. Yesterday, May 16, I became officially 19 months to the gate. The months I have left in prison have fallen to the teens. It still doesn’t seem real to me.
Since I’ve been here at CRCI I have received two letters from friends back at OSP. Both are doing life. One will never go home. The most difficult part about my resentencing and subsequent move to minimum has been missing my friends at OSP.
I am leaving them behind. There is no other way to put it than I’m going home and they aren’t.
It’s not political. It isn’t relevant to anyone other than me. And more than a few readers would probably think they deserve their fate. But they are my brothers. They have stood by me for the last seven years. Together we have war stories, ones I can’t write about.
It seems silly to say; I can hear the echo of ridiculousness. Yet, I cannot justify my going home and their staying behind.
Prison is a horrible place. I have seen and done horrible things. But despite all that, the beauty of the human spirit can be found within this place. When solidarity exists it is not easily broken. When convicts unite they can accomplish many things.
Inside the walls of OSP I built a family. My family went beyond race and politics. Amongst those imprisoned for years a unique and powerful bond builds. When faced with the reality of doing decades behind bars you find strength knowing you have friends doing the same. You do not have to experience it alone. You have support.
My brothers at OSP have become an extended part of my real family and community. I have introduced them to my parents and friends. I have included them in all I have and shared all that I can with them.
I have no doubt years from now I will again sit in the visiting room at OSP, returning to see and talk to one friend in particular who above all will hold my love, respect and loyalty for life.
I look upon the relationships I have built in prison and I find myself wishing that our activist communities could emulate them.
In the face of the ultimate oppression, politics come to mean less and honor to mean so much more. In prison, I have found common cause with an anarchist’s most hated enemy. Indeed that even has extended into a friendship. The irony of which is not lost on me.
When looking beyond these walls I still see a movement factionalized and divided: green and red; black and white; progressive and radical. And I still see a capitalist monstrosity towering over all.
I ask myself, if I can walk the yard of a maximum security prison with a black gang member on my left and a Nazi skinhead on my right, why the hell can’t activists, radicals, and progressives find level amongst themselves when they have so much more in common?
OK. It’s not that simplistic. I know. Still, there are alliances we could and should be building. There are bridges that should not be burning. If we put as much energy into building community and making allies as we have talking shit and leveling criticism we might have already taken that first inch. And in the words of Conflict, “For once we take an inch, you just watch us take the mile.”
Could it be that we actually have a deeply ingrained fear of success? After all, our ideologies are proven. We’ve made little if any progress toward creating alternatives to this society. We remain stuck in the tearing down, laying blame and pointing fingers stage.
Fair enough. There is a lot to be dismantled and done away with. There is even more to build and learn.
I think it is high time to shrug off the chains of isolation and self-exclusion. The rhetoric of pure idealism has been tried and left as wanting.
Of course, it’s nothing I haven’t said before. A brief review of my dispatches will reveal different versions of the same recycled messages, which in itself says something—I’ve been saying the same things for years!
To succeed we need unity. Judi Bari taught us that. The Battle of Seattle taught us that. Even more state repression has taught us that.
For those who still choose to stand on their own; marginalized by their self-righteous politics and inability to open their own mind (while they demand it of others), I say good luck. Personally, I’m going to try to build a community and movement that realize we must rely on each other to create a healthy, stable, sustainable and safe society. It’s not about politics it is about life. Life needs diversity.
The real question is how do we build it? How do we create a broad coalition to challenge things like global warming and other social injustices?
While I can already here the groans from my green anarchist brethren, I believe a good place to start is by building bonds with the unions and working people. I know it may be a dream years in the making, but imagine a general strike demanding action on climate change. Picture a union action bolstered by direct action and civil disobedience. What if the docks closed as a gesture of solidarity with eco-defense prisoners? Visualize the world’s most powerful corporations capitulating to us, the people.
It is not beyond us to build alliances. It’s part of our own radical history. Our history also teaches us that we are more effective together than alone.
Jeff “Free” Luers
9111 NE Sunderland Ave
Portland, OR 97211-1708