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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Prisons Are Relative

Prisons Are Relative

Prisons are relative. I toured Alcatraz in June, sat in a cell, and tried to imagine what it would be like to be forced to live there, confined, controlled, limited on what I could do when. 

But then again, I have spent most of my life in a metaphorical prison, a different kind of confinement, controlled by society on what I should do when and what I shouldn't based on standards designed to silence and shame me. Could I have resisted that prison, broken free, moved somewhere with fewer restrictions? Absolutely, but as a professional, it was easier, safer, and smarter not to. Anyone who isn't part of the majority knows what it means to be forced to assimilate, to fit into the white/male/heterosexual/Protestant/Anglo mold. And that doesn't mean WHASPs have never known what it feels like to be oppressed or different. One need only move to Rwanda or Moscow to experience being a minority.

But here, in America prisons are relative. There is a reason suicide is so prevalent now. Adolescents are suffering with what it means to be an individual. Teens struggle to assimilate to a world that doesn't fit them or worse, they're bullied or condemned for their differences or inability or resistance to conform. Adults, too, deal daily with their frustrations, their struggles, their self-perceived shortcomings. Knowing people like Robin Williams or Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade or Alexander McQueen see suicide as their only option makes non-celebrities feel even more at a loss. If they can't cope, then how can I?

But prisons are relative. "Likes", fame, money, or fans don't matter. Lonely is lonely. Depression is depression. Trapped is trapped, no matter the mechanism. It is suffocating. A permanent solution to a temporary problem may not make sense to most but it does to many. The answer? Open your mind to differences, to individuality, to caring, to kindness, to acceptance, to inclusivity. Resist the urge to name call, to discriminate, to judge, to view the world through that WHASP lens. Why try to make us all the same, to fit into a cookie cutter mentality when it is our differences that make us special, unique, and stand out?  

To someone, it may be the first chink in his or her prison wall. And perhaps to one, it may be the key to opening the door.