I write to share my thoughts with those who are interested. For some, reading about my experiences may help them to understand better the perspectives of those who have had life experiences similar to mine. I write about my thoughts, even my troubling ones, because they have been thought. As thoughts that have been thought, they can never be unthought. In other words, the thought thoughts can never again become foreign to my mind. They constitute my reality.
Since my arrest I’ve received many messages of encouragement and support. Many friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and associates have spoken against the particular police action involved in my arrest. Several have also joined in noting lurid connections between what happened in the library and the increasing militarization of Emory University, places of education in general, and the nation at large. Of course, there have been some skeptics and critics. I feel that as long as the discourse surrounding the arrest is conducted with a fierce commitment to Right over Might, then it is of good accord. Self-conscious dialogue regarding any rights violation situation is passionately encouraged, as frank speech conducted with an orientation open to reception of the Truth actualizes a moment within and leads to the unfolding of justice and peace.
That being said, I cannot write any further without strongly denouncing the absolutely detestable sexist and homophobic comments that have appeared on various internet threads. Some may feel that given the particular identities at play in the arrest, the fact that such ‘trolling’ has come about as such is curious. But, it must be noted that misogyny and heterosexism not only drive intolerable attitudes towards women and LGBTQ persons, but also fuel human hatred in countless forms. Chauvinistic arrogance and wanton aggression both harm their primary targets and degrade human consciousness by plunging the minds of their possessors into states of emotional as well as actual intellectual regression. They Offend the Whole. No mistake should be made regarding the fact that sexism and homophobia have absolutely no place in our world, and just so there aren’t any misunderstandings, we all must make this abundantly clear.
Other than the reception of feedback, there are a couple other updates I can offer. Physically, I am feeling better –the joint is still sore when I rotate my wrist; there may be bruising. So far though, the psychological branding has been more challenging to overcome than the physical assault. Up until very recently, after the arrest not a single night passed through which I slept peacefully. Every night I was shocked out of an unsleep by a terrifying nightmare. I call it unsleep because I wish to reserve the word ‘sleep’ for denoting periods of time that not only entail unconsciousness, but also lead one to feel rested, in so doing bringing about feelings of rejuvenation and attentiveness-to-Life. While I’m no stranger to nightmares, to be seemingly zapped into a frenzied panic night after night for a period of weeks is physically exhausting and emotionally draining.
When this happens with such regularity, the moments before sleep become filled with a melancholic anxiety. Each night, it is uncertain whether or not I will feel in my mind the experience of being chased, assaulted, shot at, sexually abused, or tortured by the police.
Not too long ago, a neurologist diagnosed me with sleep paralysis. <– This wiki article provides an ample description of its symptoms:
“The paralysis can last from several seconds to several minutes, with some rare cases being hours, “by which the individual may experience panic symptoms” (described below). As the correlation with REM sleep suggests, the paralysis is not entirely complete; use of EOG traces shows that eye movement is still possible during such episodes. When there is an absence of narcolepsy, sleep paralysis is referred to as isolated sleep paralysis (ISP).
In addition, the paralysis may be accompanied by terrifying hallucinations (hypnopompic or hypnagogic) and an acute sense of danger. Sleep paralysis is particularly frightening to the individual because of the vividness of such hallucinations. The hallucinatory element to sleep paralysis makes it even more likely that someone will interpret the experience as a dream, since completely fanciful or dream-like objects may appear in the room alongside one’s normal vision.”
Sleep paralysis is heightened in both frequency and severity by a) lack of sleep, and b) extreme stress. My jail experience has brought forth both, resulting in some exceedingly terrifying nights. The first night I slept in a bed after I was released, I was thrown abruptly from unsleep into half-consciousness. My eyes opened, so I could see the room around me, yet I was unable to move. I was frozen in bed, supine, physically paralyzed and gripped with a panic. As my eyes searched the room, I saw the shadowy outline of what my mind at the time believed to be a cop standing outside of the (2nd story) window just feet away from me. I struggled against my paralysis to get up, leave the room… to do anything but lie there. I could not. I couldn’t even scream. All I could do was struggle as I endured complete psychosomatic shock. This particular episode lasted for maybe 30 seconds, yet the experiential terror of a hallucinatory looming cop combined with severe muscular restriction seemed to stretch that half-minute to a near interminable amount of time.
In the ten days and nights following the 6th of December, deep distress would creep in on me. One particular point of pain had burrowed itself deeply in the recesses of my mind. I felt its twinge always at those times when it is least welcome – during intimate moments with family or friends, when I was reading or writing, or just sitting or lying down alone. Frequently, the normal flow of my mind would be interrupted disturbingly by flashbacks to moments with Dog, the Dekalb County Detention Officer with the searching eyes. The feeling of being forced to strip naked with complete strangers in front of a glaring authority figure would cause tension in my knuckles and shoulders. My face would scrunch up at the mental discomfort. Yet still, I would be thrown into an even more emotionally taxing state by a further reflection: Not only was I forced to strip for Dog, but potentially, I was made to get naked for the eyes of several impudent and immaturely-behaved male cops, uncourageous female officers, and Who Knows Who Else.
As I reflect on the experience, or rather, as the weight of the episode overtakes my mind, I remember looking straight ahead, past the two unclothed inmates standing on either side of me, past Dog’s cauterizing gaze, straight to the back chamber wall made of mostly glass. I remember looking directly at the dark plastic bubble that was perched high on the inside of the chamber. That dark plastic bubble concealed a secret. In the chamber in which I was forcibly stripped, there was a video camera.
The camera was covered in a dark plastic half-sphere and pointed into the chamber. Cameras in similarly designed chambers skulked high above the toilets. My initial frustration with them concerned their enabling of officer-involved visual penetration into urination and defecation. (If one cares to, there are ways to guard oneself from eyes when engaging in such activities; this writing is not meant to be vulgar, simply, these are the realities one is faced with in confinement – I cannot fully imagine the personal invasion that takes place in higher-security prisons, such as Quantico, where Bradley Manning was tortured – see here, here, here, and here). But beyond toilet-time watch, a different thought regarding police surveillance pierces my mind like a long fingernail stabbing itself into the folds of my brain. I remain unable to set the thought completely aside.
As we were made to get naked, stand still with our hands at our sides for some time, and then told to turn around and squat, the camera was facing in our direction – it must have been recording the whole time. Upon typing this I feel a violation which is located more in my heart than in my mind. I cannot stand the thought. Police voyeurism and indecency happen all the time – my victimization just adds my name to the millions nationally and billions internationally already scarred by such police activity.
I know that I can never fully deny the memory, so I must find ways to learn from it. Questions emerge. Why is the humiliation and dehumanization of all arrested by the police, regardless of guilt, considered to be just part of the process? Is the psychological assault deliberate? How can it not be? Do the authorities have some sort of Pornographic Security file loaded with naked pictures of inmates, which they can access whenever they wish to look upon the forcibly stripped body of any prisoner who has passed through their doors? With police flagrantly abusing their ‘right’ to physical force and authority time and again, the final question must be put forth: Is the effect of wielding Authority so cancerous to the human mind that those brandishing such Authority over Life and Death inevitably execute that Authority in vile and pathological ways?
As new realizations sink in, I can say that I’ve moved from feelings of absolute apprehension to reflective resignation. This resignation is not depressive, but rather involves a solemn affirmation of the realities that militate against one in life – leading to the acknowledgement that potent responses must follow. When the Order of Things provides no solace, one must find inner resolve through struggle. Yet and still, anguish persists more than sporadically. The nightmarish hallucinations induced by sleep paralysis have become more nebulous and menacing. While my older nightmares involved particular cops, my more recent paralytic experiences have spawned faceless person-shaped entities that crawl out from under furniture to watch or restrain me. I have been dealing with this through reading, meditation, and prayer, as well as relying on support from family and friends. Other than that, I can do nothing but focus my thoughts and rest when I can. Emory University has not attempted to rectify the situation or contact me in any way – there are no legal updates to offer.
I am keeping in touch with very concerned friends as we try to find ways to disarm and disable hateful, authoritarian, and oppressive ways of thinking and being. Many of us feel that the aim must involve changing the dominant social relation that holds between persons from economic-productive (which reduces to Hate) to communal-caring. My friends and I know that we must rely on our collective strength. Separate from each other, and indeed from ourselves, we dissolve in the inchoate symbolic order, falling prey to its manipulation of our desires and habits of cognition. Fragmented socially and cognitively, our minds are over-stimulated in the attempt to preclude the formation of habits of deliberate reflection and critical thought. But together, when we involve ourselves in the lives of one another and the world at large, we certainly can learn, grow, and resist. For the time being, I will try to find increasingly effective ways to do so.