I walked up to Red Square, guitar on my back, ready to play a little folk music with my friends. Then I saw them.
Graphic depictions of genocide, the Holocaust, lynchings, pictures that stabbed me in the heart. Walked a little further and realized why the signs were there. To get people riled up with hurtful images, then relate that to abortions in order to convert the uninformed.
But how could they? How dare they capitalize on the suffering of millions of people for their own cause? It was extremely inappropriate, slanderous, and disrespectful to those who have died in actual genocides, to women in difficult situations, to African Americans, to Holocaust survivors. Fetuses have not faced that kind of horror, discrimination, and torture.
The vulgar signs killed my mood and demanded my attention. I went up to the group several times, told them they can display their dead baby pictures all they want, but the other ones needed to come down. They wouldn’t listen. The fact that 4 white guys and 2 women who have never experienced abortion were out there talking about the signs angered me even more.
Hurt and rage built up like a ball of fire that engulfed my entire being. I ran, jumped over the barricade (like that will stop anyone), started taking down all the hurtful signs – genocide, holocaust, lynching, animal torture, skipping the ones that just had aborted fetuses. I didn’t know where the strength came from. I felt I was doing it for the dignity of all the people who were being misrepresented.
The crowd cheered. Hardwick kept egging me on. “You’re going to jail!” he threatened over and over again with glee. I didn’t stop till the last offensive sign was down.
“Run, David!” Someone cried. “They’re going to arrest you!”
I hugged my friends. “Take care of my guitar.”
I bolted straight into Miller Hall. Out the back door. Up Sehome, I ran until I felt safe. Hidden behind snowberries and ferns, crouching, watching police cars drive by, my eyes and ears alert. I could have stayed on Sehome all day. They would have never found me.
An hour passed. I got bored. They’re going to catch me sooner or later, and I didn’t want them coming to class or hassling my roommates. I decided to turn myself in and get things sorted out. Walked up to the trails.
“FREEZE! Hands in the air where I can see them, down on the ground, NOW!” an officer barked. I stared into a silver nozzle. Slowly, I lowered myself down. Another officer yanked my arms behind my back, cuffed them, searched me, and started dragging me off the ground.
“Excuse me, officer, you’re hurting me.” I growled. “I would like to get up on my own.” He apologized and backed off. I got up, shook my head, and started walking. We passed a big black poodle on our way down to the police car.
“You caused a lot of damage out there. $2700. That’s a felony.”
“What?! It can’t be that much.”
“That’s what they’re saying.”
He got into the front seat and drove me to jail. (down Holly, right on Bay Street, left on Grand, past the courthouse)
A man behind a glass panel took down my information. Name, address, social security, a bunch of medical questions (all of which I answered “no”). They took my wallet, keys, everything. Said I’ll get ‘em back when I get out.
I walked into what looks like a military installation—dark hallways, flat rectangular lights, thick steel doors, olive uniforms. A dude wearing leather gloves and a backwards Mariner’s cap took my mug shot and fingerprints. He’s pretty good looking. A real friendly guy. He asked how I got my hair to stick up like that. “Beeswax.” “Aren’t you scared bugs might get in?” “Bees might be a problem.”
I received my jailhouse accessories (2 blankets, 2 towels, a pair of slippers I had no use for, a paper bag containing 2 sheets of paper, 2 packets of shampoo, a tiny pencil--the kind you use for lotteries).
“Wait in here.” He locked me in a detention room.
As I sat down, legs crossed, meditating, I heard in my mind, loud and clear:
“Anger is a Prison”
and I understood why I was in there. The signs were meant to piss people off, and I played right into that trap. By acting out of anger, I blocked off other options that could’ve convinced those passionate people to take a different approach. Not only did I fail to get my point across, I gave the other side more conviction to keep on doing what they’re doing. (sigh.) Live and learn.
Another man unlocked the door and took me to my cell.
I got in, and
went the door behind me, echoes bouncing off the concrete everything, ominous, like your whole future is trapped inside. (So that’s why they call it the slammer.)
Black paint peeling off the walls like scabs. In a corner, someone scrawled “To hell and back.” Others have scribbled their initials or drew crosses.
The windows were all frosted except for a tiny thin line you can peer through to the outside world. A sliver of hope, reminding you where you are, and where you’d rather be.
Soon the other guys came back from the rec yard. Asked me what I was in for. “Malicious mischief, first degree.” I gave a detailed account of my battle with the signs. “You did the right thing man, tearing that shit down. I wouldn’t want my daughter seeing that.” I got a lot of respect from everyone there. Some inmates offered me legal advice, which I gladly accepted.
I found a book (“The shipping news.” By Annie Proux). Sat down near the phones and started reading. I’d hear fragments of conversations:
“---I love you, baby. We’ve been married for eight years, you know.”
I tried to read, but can’t concentrate. My mind keeps going back to the incident.
“---I’ll be out soon. 10 more days, they said.”
I’d look up now and then. Guys were sitting around, pacing, talking, pacing playing cards, pacing, back and forth, back and forth like lions inside a cage.
“---Can you take care of my dog?”
That night, lying on a plastic mattress in my cell, eyes closed, hands over my heart, I forgave the anti-abortion people, the police, and myself. I prayed for the best possible outcome for all parties. I saw light and felt warmth emanating from my chest, spreading out like wings, transforming my anger into forgiveness, compassion, and peace. All my worries left, and right there in that cell, I was free. More free than I’d ever been.