Monday, December 11, 2017

Never Let Others Define You

Last week President Trump made an announcement that sent shock waves throughout the Middle East. By announcing the the United States was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and would move the US embassy there, he was, in his own words acknowledging the reality that is already on the ground. The fact that this came as a surprise is itself surprising since this is essentially what he had said he would do throughout his campaign. Whether one likes Trump or hates him the one thing that is clear  is that for better or for worse, he has tried to do follow through on his campaign pledges.

The reaction to the announcement was swift. Trump's supporters, many of which are right of center Jews and Evangelical Christians cheered the announcement while muslims across the Middle East issued statements of strong condemnation and even engaged in engaged in violent protests. The leader of Hamas even called for another Intifada, ignoring the obvious truth that previous intifadas have accomplished nothing. In Jerusalem itself, ironically, the reaction was relatively muted. So whereas right of center Jews in the US were jumping for joy, the Jews in Jerusalem did not really pay attention. Whether the US or anyone else considers Jerusalem to be the capital is of little concern to them as they have already accepted that truth since either 1948 or 1967, depending on where in Jerusalem one happens to live. In other words, it did not affect them at all. The view of the Israeli is admirable as it shows a lack of concern for how others view them; what matters is how they view themselves.

Someone who is caught of in a criminal investigation will be subject to may different labels assigned to him by either the prosecutors, the media, the judge,  and even the prison system. Prior to being indicted or arrested, he will be called a Suspect or a Target. Following an indictment he will be called a Defendant. If convicted, he will be called a Felon. Once incarcerated he will become an Inmate. Finally, once released, he becomes and Ex-Felon. Obviously, none of these labels is remotely flattering, and the longer a case drags one the more demoralizing these labels become. Unfortunately, it does not end there. Prosecutors, and the press can and will resort to name calling and plenty of former friends will do so as well. The prosecutors themselves called me a terrible, immoral person to my face and the press was equally harsh. Of course, the labels ascribed by friends and former friends are even worse simply because we expect our friends to know us better and, while the prosecutors and the press have the courtesy to insult you to your face, members of a social circle will try to do so only behind your back.

The key to mentally surviving the ordeal is not let any of these labels matter. While someone is defendant in a case, he should not allow him to fall into the trap that this label defines him. Even someone is a felon who did commit crimes, the felon label is based on person who existed in the past, it does not define who he is now. In prison, it becomes even more difficult because to the prison guards, everyone is simply an Inmate. Individuality gets checked at the gate once a person enters the prison walls. It is all to easy, when surrounded by other prisoners, many of whom have either been in prison for a long time or who really are bad people for a person to think that all he is is a prisoner. But like all the other terms, a prisoner is not who you are or even who you were; rather, it is simply statement of circumstance. Once a prisoner thinks of himself a just a prisoner, he enters the long road to despair that will encapsulate him even following release.

It is important to realize, at any stage of the criminal justice process that while there are many things the government can take from a defendant, namely freedom, there are many things they cannot take, unless you let them. They cannot take your intellect, they cannot take your sanity and most importantly, they can never take away who you are, if you do not let them do so. They will try to define you, demoralize you and make you feel as though you are nothing more than a low life felon who has no rights. They will use every ploy, and too often they are successful. However, if you make up the mind, that it is not the government, nor the press, not your friends who define you, but it is only you who can do so, you will maintain your mental health both inside as well as outside the prison walls.

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