A COLUMN BY JOHN SINCLAIR
WHEN THE PRISON DOORS ARE OPENED/THE REAL DRAGON WILL FLY OUT!
-- Ho Chi Minh
It takes us a long time to understand what's happening to us sometimes, and I'm just beginning to wake up to the fact that unless people out there can do something in a hurry I'm going to stay locked up in this penitentiary for a long long time. The way the Michigan Supreme Court denied my application for appeal bond last month, without even giving an excuse of holding a hearing, finally made me realize just how serious the political machinery in this state is about keeping me off the streets, and it has really turned me around. They are never going to let me out of the penitentiary if they can possibly help it, and the only chance I've got--if I've got a chance anymore--is for the people out there who know how wrong this is to put so much pressure on the courts and the rest of the politicians in this state that they will have to cut me loose or stand exposed as the vicious hypocrites and gangsters they are. I'm not in any position to do anything for myself, I've sat in these cells for more than two years now waiting on the courts to do what everybody has been telling me they would be sure to do, that is, rule on the legal issues involved in my case, we've all been waiting and waiting and people, they are not going to do it.
I have never understood that before. We've talked about me being a political prisoner ever since I've been locked up, but underneath it all we really believed that the state courts, or at least the Michigan Supreme Court, would eventually hand down the only reasonable decision possible, that they would be as outraged over the illegal actions of the lower courts as all reasonable people are, that they would set an appeal bond and then reverse my conviction because, after all, 9 1/2-10 years in prison, or anything more than 90 days, is just outrageous, right? Everybody knows this, but nobody ever does anything about it, and meanwhile months and months of my life go by with no relief in sight.
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, and this is what's really stupid about the way we've approached the problem, despite the fact that there is absolutely no legal basis for my being kidnapped like this and held without ransom in the first place, despite the fact that I have never received any justice from any of these courts ever in my life, some how I believed that when the Supreme Court got this case everything would be all right and I could go home again. Underneath everything I've ever said about the courts was the belief that all I had to do was wait for the "liberal" Supreme Court to dispense its "enlightened" brand of "justice," that G. Mennen Williams and Paul L. Adams and Thomas M. Kavanaugh, all members of the "enlightened" Democratic Party which adopted into its party platform last year the position that marijuana possession should be made a misdemeanor, that these "liberals" would take my case and deal with it on its own merits and not make themselves a party to the political persecution which put me here and which has kept me here for two years and three months so far.
It's taken that long for me to understand how wrong I've been--27 months of sitting patiently and waiting for the inevitable good news to come, 27 months of telling the people I love that all we have to do is keep hammering on the legal issues and the courts will have to come around, two years and three months of believing that they really couldn't do this to me and get away with it, right? Not after the Governor, the attorney general, the Michigan House of Representatives, the Michigan Medical Health Association, the Director of Corrections, the Democratic Party, the federal government, the legislatures of 27 other states around the country, the city councils of Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Birmingham, and a whole lot of other cities in Michigan itself, the Detroit Free Press, the Ann Arbor News, just about everybody you can think of has come out in support of the arguments which were first raised in this state in my appeal--it was just too credible to believe that they would let me rot in this place behind two joints of weed, you know what I mean?
Well, the evidence is in now and it's been in for a long time, but I was too stupid to pay any attention to it. These people do not want me out there on the streets, and they will keep me locked up as long as they can get away with it, which means as long as we let them get away with it. We can make them cut me loose, just like we can eventually make them give up everything we need to have to be able to live our lives the way people are supposed to live, but we can't do it by sitting around and waiting for them to deliver on their phony promises of justice and equality. We can get what we need by struggling for it, by refusing to accept the terms imposed on our lives by the control addicts and forcing them to deal with us on our own terms, in every aspect of our struggle.
That's why I feel so stupid right now, because I've just realized that my whole approach to the problem of getting my own stupid ass out of prison has been entirely contradictory to the analysis I keep running on all of you week after week, year after year, and I've really got only myself to blame for being locked up all this time, you know what I mean? I have been insisting for years that we can't depend on the established order to give us anything we need, that we have to rely on our own energies and our own resources and use them as economically as we can to get what we need for ourselves, that we have to rely on our brothers and sisters and not on the treacherous hypocrites in power if we want to liberate ourselves, and yet I've been sitting here waiting for the same people who put me here in the first place to turn around and cut me loose just because it's "illegal" to do what they've done! And what's even more incredible is that I actually thought they would do that with nothing more than a few gentle nudges from us to put them on the right track, you dig?
I was wrong, I was stupid, I was a complete fool and I want to apologize to you for what I've done, ok? You might think this is silly, because after all I'm the one who's had to suffer for it, right? I'm the one who has had to live in this penitentiary for the past 27 months, and if I made a mistake then I've certainly paid for it--with my life too, because believe me, there is no life in these places at all. But it's not as simple as that finally--I've wasted a lot of people's time, energy, and money, expecially the people I love most in the world, by advising them to move along the lines of an incorrect strategy, and I've done all of you a serious disservice by projecting an unrealistic picture of my situation and how it can be corrected. Now it's down to the wire, I've got one more chance to get some air before the Supreme Court slams the door shut once and for all, and I hope with my heart--really!--that you will see fit to help us do what has to be done now so I can get back out there with my people and contribute what I can to our struggle for survival and freedom.
I'm trying to be as up front with you as I possibly can, because I really need your help now and above and beyond all that, you deserve as much honesty and truth as you can get, especially from people like me who say they want to serve the people and deal with the people's needs. If there were any other way I could get out of here, believe me, I'd try it, but we've tried the other way for 27 months now and it was all a big mistake. If we had come to you like this from the very beginning, if we had had sense enough to follow our own analysis, then I would've been out of here a long time ago, and we'd be taking care of plenty business together right now instead of spending more time and energy on this stupid problem. I know I have something to contribute to our common struggle, that's why they put me here and that's why they are determined to keep me here away from you, and if I couldn't do anything for you then I wouldn't be asking you for help in this battle, ok? I don't want to be beating my own drum or anything like that, but I do want to make it clear that the reason the state has gone so far to keep me isolated from you is because they know that I've got something to offer the people, and they do not want me out there.
I really don't know what else to say right now--I'm not very comfortable writing about myself like this, I'd much rather be talking about what we can do to build up our alternative community and how we can work together to get what we need, but I'm really fucking desperate, people, I want to get back to work, I want to be with my partner Leni and our two little daughters who are growning up without me, I want to be back with my comrades and with all of you out there in the streets, I'm tired to death of being locked up and I know that they're gonna keep me locked up unless we all really get our shit together and start agitating for my release as hard as we can. I will keep up the legal battle in the courts, with the help of our righteous attorneys, but the only way I can get any air from them is if the people out there who care about this outrageous shit make it clear to the political structure of this state that they aren't gonna be able to get away with talking all this shit about the "hypocrisy of the marijuana laws" unless they let me out of prison. I'll do everything I can to put pressure on them from here, but you have to realize that there really isn't much I can do for myself, and that I have to depend on you out there, everybody who smokes dope and gets high and knows how outrageous it is to have somebody locked up for possessing two joints of grass, to give us all the help you can, because we've never needed it like we do now.
I won't be continuing the series I was writing before until I get some air, because I've got to spend all my time on trying to get myself out of here, like I should've been doing all along. Ever since I've been locked up, that is since July 1969, I have never really talked about my own situation, or what people can do to help me get out of it, because like I said I've always felt that it was just a matter of time before the courts would cut me loose, and I didn't want to waste my time, or much of my people's time, dealing with something that would come out all right in the end anyway, you dig? I figured I could make it OK in here as long as I had to, and that the best thing I could do was study and write about the situation on the streets in the hope that I could do my people some good even if I had to be locked up. I don't like to talk about myself very much anyway, and it always seemed much more important to me to try to deal with the problems my people were having out there in the world. My comrades would always tell me that it was important to get me out of here first, because that way I'd be able to do a lot more towards trying to solve some of the problems out there, but I kept telling them that I could take it, it'd just be a little while longer, and if they spent a lot to time on my case that'd just be time taken away from the community, which didn't seem right to me at all. I just couldn't see spending a lot of time on a big campaign to get me out of prison, at least not the kind of campaign we have to start now, because it simply didn't seem to be necessary, you know? But now I know they were right and I was wrong, and I'm not going to do anything for the next three or four months except try to get myself out of this place--and when I do get out then we can work together to deal with everything that holds all of us down.
If our work means anything to you, if what we've been trying to do over the past seven years to create a real alternative community in this place has moved you at all or brought you any pleasure, if it means anything to you that I have put my ass on the line to get the marijuana laws changed once and for all, if you can imagine what it's like to sit in the penitentiary for two years and three months with only more months and years of the same deadly existence to look forward to, if you can relate to this outrage in any way, then I hope and pray that you'll help us get me out of here however you can. We've got one last chance to put an end to this particular madness, and if we don't do it now it'll be too late to try for another few years, once the Supreme Court comes down with its decision three or four months from now. If you don't think it's worth it then please let me know, because all I want to do is what the people want me to do, and if it means staying in here and contributing to our struggle through my writing then I can do it as long as you want me to. But if you want to get me back on the streets you can do it, and I can really dig that! It's up to you, people, it really is, what else can I say? ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!
October 6, 1971