TODAY IS… a terrific day to whistle while you work. By Tony Casson

Time for another excerpt from the book, “Today Is….A Gift From God.”

http://www.amazon.com/TODAY-IS-Gift-From-God/dp/1497365244

December 22

TODAY IS…

a terrific day to whistle while you work.

“And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life – this is indeed a gift from God.”  Ecclesiastes 5:19 NLT

ATTITUDE. We all have heard about people who have a good attitude or a bad attitude. But what do people say about our attitude?

If our relationship with God is a strong one, our attitude about every aspect of our life will be upbeat, positive, and cheerful, and people will notice this.

“Perhaps,” you say. “But what about during times of loss and tragedy? Will we be ‘upbeat, positive, and cheerful’ then?” Certainly there will be times when sadness will enter our lives. But our attitude toward whatever it is that is making us sad will have a definite affect on our ability to cope and people will notice this as well.

When our relationship with God is strong, we try to see lessons in everything that happens to us, and around us. We want to use whatever comes our way in this life to help us become closer to God. The right attitude will find us always relying on God when we face trying situations, but the right attitude will also find us thanking God, humbly, when the days of our lives are truly blessed with happiness as well.

Our attitude reaches into every corner of our life. It determines our willingness to accept another person despite differences that we may have. It determines whether unpleasant or mundane tasks are undertaken with enthusiasm and the same level of attention to detail as those tasks we enjoy. Our ability to “whistle while we work” grows out of a good attitude and a good relationship with God can help us to “pucker up and blow” as Marilyn Monroe once said.

Ruth’s quiet determination to pick from the fields what was left by the harvesters reflected her good attitude towards work. Her industriousness was noticed by Boaz when he came to inspect his fields and he asked his foreman about her. “The servant in charge of the reapers replied, ‘She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab.’” (Ruth 2:6 NASB).

Her good attitude was rewarded even though she was looking for no reward. This is just a small example of how a good attitude can affect our lives in a positive way. Of course, it is important to ask God to help us always maintain a good attitude and a good relationship with Him will help to bring that about.

Our attitudes can reflect the selfishness of the world around us if we so choose, but an attitude that reflects the humility and self-sacrifice of Christ will help us to “whistle while we work,” and that will be music to God’s ears.

TODAY IS… a good day to acknowledge that all you need is God. By Tony Casson

Time for another excerpt from the book, “Today Is….A Gift From God.”

http://www.amazon.com/TODAY-IS-Gift-From-God/dp/1497365244

December 21

TODAY IS…

a good day to
acknowledge that all you need is God.

“David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.’”  1 Samuel 17:45 NIV

Of the eight sons of Jesse, David was the youngest and least experienced in war. Unlike the rest of his brothers, as well as the entire army of Israelites, when David looked at Goliath he did not see a giant who was to be feared. Instead he saw an ordinary man in defiance of God. While his brothers, and even King Saul, thought the idea of David facing Goliath in battle was ludicrous, David’s only thought was victory for God.

Armed with his faith in God, David told Goliath exactly who would defeat him. “This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.” (1 Samuel 17:46a NIV). David knew that God would claim victory through him and his faith. While David would physically slay Goliath, it would only be possible because of God. “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:47 NIV).

David taught us that when we are doing the will of God there is no possibility of defeat. David also taught us to have confidence in ourselves when we are fighting battles in God’s name.

Because of his faith, David reaped great rewards. This is something we all need to take note of. If we can establish a relationship with God where our lives are lived with the goal of doing His will, we will find a path to rewards beyond our wildest dreams. When we ask God what He wants us to do, “You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:2 NLT).

Sometimes we get so caught up in complicating things that we forget how incredibly simple it all was when it began. God created a diverse world of beauty and wonder. He created birds to fill the air with music, and He created a multitude of creatures to walk the earth. He populated the oceans with fish of all different shapes and sizes, and planted trees that produced delicious fruits and scattered flowers about to add color and to scent the air. He created man and woman for no other purpose than to enjoy what He had made when He left them alone. He did not leave a long list of instructions. There were no cumbersome rules and regulations to follow. There was one simple rule – do not eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

We all know that did not work out so well. But we all have another opportunity to live uncomplicated lives. All we have to do is live for God. If we make our relationship with Him one of the complete faith and trust of David, then God will lead us to a life worth living and no one – not even Goliath – will be able to stand in our way.

*******

TODAY IS… an excellent day to avoid the crush. By Tony Casson

Time for another excerpt from the book, “Today Is….A Gift From God.”

http://www.amazon.com/TODAY-IS-Gift-From-God/dp/1497365244

December 19

TODAY IS…

an excellent day to avoid the crush.

“Though we are overwhelmed by our sins, You forgive them all.”
Psalm 65:3 NLT

This time of year is a difficult one for millions of people. Certainly many people simply feel the crush of the season as “the day” approaches. Shopping, parties, family, friends – all good things, certainly, but each one adds to the burden that we carry. The good news for all of these people is that Christmas Day acts as a safety valve, and once it arrives, the pressure is off and many people relax and enjoy the peace and goodwill that seems to settle over the world, if only briefly.

Millions of others feel the weight of the season in an entirely different way. Millions dread the arrival of this time of year and many of us face severe bouts of depression and loneliness. Many are overcome with negativity and bring their self-worth into question. Many of us feel the weight of our sins and do not know how to keep from being crushed under that weight. There is no time that is good to feel the burden we feel when we are overwhelmed by our sins, but this time of year seems to make us more aware of the oppressive weight on our souls that comes as a result.

If we fall into the first group, there is not much that can help beyond patience – it will all be over soon. If we fall into the second group we need to turn to God and ask for His help. We also need the prayers of those in the first group.

Sometimes we feel that we have nowhere to turn. Our actions have caused us to dig ourselves deeper and deeper into darkness. We see no way out, other than to fill the hole in on top of ourselves, and the ability to see any light at the end of our personal tunnel has long since left us. We have forgotten that this season of joy, which we have allowed to become an additional weight on us, signifies the birth of the very One who can remove that weight from our shoulders and lift us up out of the hole that we have dug.

There is no problem that we have that is too big for our Lord. There is no sin too great that cannot be forgiven if we accept Christ into our life, repent of our sins, and ask forgiveness. There is no darkness that cannot be thrown into comforting light by the grace and glory of God if we will only reach out and ask God to take our hand.

Many, many people choose this time of year to pronounce a death sentence upon themselves. Pray for those who would take their life with their own hand and ask God to help them reach out for His hand instead so He may lift them up from under their burden.

*******

Time for another excerpt from the book, “Today Is….A Gift From God” by Tony Casson

Time for another excerpt from the book,
“Today Is….A Gift From God.”

http://www.amazon.com/TODAY-IS-Gift-From-God/dp/1497365244

*******

December 18

TODAY IS…

a fine day to accept the appointment.

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that He considered me faithful, appointing me to His service.”  1Timothy 1:12 NIV

Given Paul’s background as an ardent persecutor of those who followed Christ, what an unusual selection by Christ for one to serve Him. Or so our human minds would think. It is important to constantly remind ourselves that God sees into places we cannot see and knows things about us that perhaps we don’t even know.

The story of Paul is a great one on many levels, but one of the most encouraging lessons to be learned from Paul is that God will use us, regardless of our past, if we will only let Him. Paul could have refused the appointment, but he did not. This can only show that his heart was good in places that he couldn’t see. It took God to bring out his best, but it took Paul to let Him and to follow His instructions for service.

One of the things that distinguished Paul from many others was his commitment to travel in spite of the hardships that travel in those days presented and spread the Good News about Christ to everyone he met. He recognized the importance of the instruction Christ had given to His disciples when He said, “So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into His fields.” (Matthew 9:38 NLT).

God is trying to appoint all of us to become “Pauls’” as well. The question is how many of us will accept that appointment? If we have doubts, we need to examine the cause. Perhaps we have had “checkered” pasts. Maybe even darker than checkered. Jesus told His disciples that “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37 NASB). He was speaking about the abundance of people eager to be led to salvation and He was calling for prayer for those who would be willing to be appointed to be workers for Christ. If Paul, given his background, can accept the appointment of Christ then the person who should feel unworthy of service because of their past simply cannot exist.

If Paul can do it, so can you.

How we have lived our lives in the past is of no concern. How we are willing to live our lives in the future is all that is important. If Christ is calling you – if Christ is trying to appoint you – it is because He sees in you what may not yet be visible to you. It is not our place to second guess Him.

We must pray for courage to accept the appointment to serve Christ and not let our past hold us back from our future. And we must pray that others will accept the appointment as well, because “the harvest is plentiful.”

*******

“PARTING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW – THE GREY DOG” By Tony Casson

‘My’ bus finally rolled into the station and those holding tickets were all standing in line, waiting to board. I was not the only one who had been anticipating an earlier departure. The bus seemed larger from the outside than I had remembered, but once on board I became aware that what I was seeing was an optical illusion. While the exterior graphics package was a newer, updated version from the one I remembered, the interior actually seemed smaller than I recalled from times past. This, too, may have been an illusion, but the feeling of closeness on a full ‘Grey Dog’ indicates otherwise, and this ‘Dog’ was full of ‘fleas’!

None of that mattered however, as the predominant thought in my mind was that we were finally underway and I was going to be moving farther and farther from Oakdale with each passing minute. The entire undertaking was accompanied by a numbness of my senses that would prove to be a prelude to the numbness my rear-end would experience as the hours wore on. Still, as the ‘Grey Dog’ began its run towards Mobile, Alabama, I was acutely aware that the future had begun.

My traveling ‘companion’ for the first 8 hours or so was a short woman of Hispanic origin who was probably around 50. She did not speak English but required some assistance with her carryon luggage at each stop where we were required to leave the bus for 30 – 60 minutes. Those stops included Baton Rouge and New Orleans, with her final destination being Mobile. She was quiet, but pleasant, and offered me money for helping her. I declined, so she wrote her name and phone # on a piece of paper instead. As I had no phone, I had no number to give her, but I thanked her and did my best to explain. I made sure she got her bags from beneath the bus when she needed to do so and helped her get to a place where she could await those who were coming to pick her up in Mobile.

By the time we left Mobile, it was dark, and I was fortunate enough to be one of the first to board. I managed to get a window seat near the front of the bus. My next ‘companion’ was an attractive young woman named Mila (rhymes with vanilla). Most of the people who ride ‘The Dog’ look like people who ride ‘The Dog’.

Mila did not look like someone who rode ‘The Dog’. Before anyone asks, I cannot tell you what people who ride ‘The Dog’ should look like. You’d recognize them if you saw them.  I can only say that, as a rule, they don’t look like Mila.

There was also a young black couple on board who turned out to be a brother and sister who were traveling up into Georgia, and were changing buses in Atlanta. They had been on the bus since I first boarded it and were very well dressed, well mannered, and well spoken, and were traveling from one parent in the Houston area to visit the other parent in Columbia, Georgia. We exchanged pleasantries at each stop. Like Mila, they didn’t look like people who rode ‘The Dog’ regularly either. As it turned out, none of them had ever ridden a bus before, so if I am guilty of stereotyping, I guess I can at least say that I was good at it (hahaha).

Mila proved to be a very interesting young woman who was willing to spend time talking with an old man on a bus. When I asked where she was headed, she indicated she was traveling first to North Carolina to attend a wedding, then she was headed to Portland, Maine where she was going to intern for a state Senator. I told her about my connection to Maine (I was born there and had family there), and further discussion revealed that she had recently graduated from a Christian College in Pensacola. The course of the conversation ultimately revealed that she had been born in Romania and had been raised in Malaysia as a Muslim. She had converted to Christianity at 14, so I asked her about the difficulty that I assumed accompanied being a Christian in a predominately Muslim part of the world. Mila was very intelligent, open, and willing to talk about God, and was the perfect traveling companion (No offense to Olga, my little Hispanic friend).

I admit here that I mislead her about where I was headed and why. I was reluctant to tell her that I had just been released from prison. I did tell her I was headed to Washington, D.C. to live in a Mission, but I sort of led her to believe that I was going there to work, as opposed to going there to live until I could reassemble my much disassembled life. I did show her my copy of my book, “TODAY IS….A Gift From God” and I think she might have examined the back cover where I mentioned being incarcerated, but if she noticed, she didn’t say anything. More than likely it was simple politeness on her part.

Before I boarded my next bus, I saw her standing off to the side smoking a cigarette. I wrote down the address to these “Chronicles” and called her over. I gave it to her and asked her to check it out.

Perhaps she will even read these words. If she does, I hope she accepts my apology for any deception on my part. I was not intentionally trying to deceive for nefarious purposes, or out of any embarrassment or reluctance to discuss my experience and the reasons for the incarceration in the first place. In fact, had we had privacy, I probably would have told her as much as she wanted to hear, but the “Grey Dog” is not conducive to private conversations as we discovered by the interruptions into our conversation several times by a very colorful individual on his way to Washington as well. The conversation with Mila made the extreme tedium of the journey disappear. It was so nice to have pleasant, meaningful conversation with someone outside of the prison environment and I was glad to see I could still participate in such a ‘normal’ conversation.

As the night wore on, we both drifted off to sleep for a while. When we parted in the wee hours of the morning, I was sorry to see her go. We wished each other well, and I knew she would be difficult to ‘replace’ as a traveling partner. I was quickly proven right as my next ‘seatmate’ was a young man who chose headphones over conversation, which was fine, but it was also temporary as he was only next to me for a couple of stops. The crowd thinned out, and he would prove to be my last seatmate. As the morning dawned, I had a little more room to stretch out, and as we rolled into Charlotte, North Carolina the scenery had improved dramatically over Louisiana, Mississippi, and the southern part of Alabama that I could see before darkness had consumed the scenery.

Charlotte was home to my first really scrumptious ‘free world’ food. A black man who, by his girth looked like he really enjoyed food, recommended the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on Texas toast prepared in the little grill located in a corner of the bus station. Fresh, hot, and made to order, it was truly a thing of wonder. I love a good breakfast sandwich and this one was exceptional.

There still remained about 8-10 hours till we arrived in Richmond, Virginia, but the countryside was beautiful, the weather was gorgeous, and freedom was in the air!

I saw some lovely towns and cities throughout North Carolina and into Virginia. Since the bus was not an express, we sort of took the long way around, but in the end it was worth it.

The entire trip was about 32 hours, and by the time we rolled into Richmond at 7 PM the day after my release from Oakdale, the entirety of my derriere felt like it had been injected with Novocain. Those reading this may find that amusing, but I kid you not: My rear-end was numb, and it was a numbness that did not completely wear off for 3 days!

Seeing my sister in the bus depot in Richmond was one of the most welcome sights I have ever experienced. We hugged and left the station to the comfort of her Volvo crossover. We chatted for a few minutes as we left the city and headed north towards Lorton, where she lives, and then I used her cell phone to call Anthony, my son. To not have the call introduced by a mechanical voice saying, “This call is from Tony Casson, an inmate at a federal prison” was something I had anticipated for a long time. To not be reminded twice during the call that “This call is from a federal prison” was something I had also anticipated. And to not have the call terminated at the end of 15 minutes was priceless! We hung up when we were done talking and it was over 30 minutes before that occurred.

I missed my friends already, but I was thoroughly enjoying the stimulation of my senses by all of the different sights, sounds, and smells that accompany freedom.

There are not enough pages, nor am I in possession of enough talent, to ever adequately describe to you all that I thought about, saw, and felt during my first 36 hours of freedom. I can tell you this much, however: Whether or not that was my last run as a ‘flea’ on the “Grey Dog” or not, there will never be another bus ride which will mean as much to me as that one.

That ride carried me from the place God trained me to be for a little over four years, and delivered me to where He wanted me to be for the next phase of my life of service to Him. The unpleasantness of the physical discomfort of the trip itself is nothing when compared to the opportunities to serve God and glorify His name that I was being directed to.

Those left behind may think they are forgotten, but they are not. They are in my thoughts, my prayers and are a part of many discussions I have. God leads me and guides my steps as I work to help people around me now, but the men I left behind are an indelible part of who I am, how I think, and they will remain a part of my life.

I have written in the past in these “Chronicles” about the ability of our faith in God to allow us to be free no matter where we are, and those words still stand. For me, it was the “perfect prison experience”, and I had never been as free in my mind and my spirit as I was in Oakdale.

I carry that freedom with me into ‘the free world’ and I will use it to help me to fully appreciate the physical freedom of being on this side of the razor-wire. I will ask God on a daily basis to help me remember what Paul had to say about freedom in the Book of Galatians in the Holy Bible: “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13 NLT)

This responsibility Paul speaks about, “to serve one another in love”, is something that can prevent most of the things which cause men and women to go to prison in the first place, from ever happening.

Think about that.

For now, I am ‘dog’ tired. God bless you all and may He keep you and your families safe. I will be writing more on my experiences as time goes on, but I need to get these articles done and posted.

“PARTING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW – A CHANGE OF SCENERY” By Tony Casson

I didn’t sleep very well the night before my release (go figure). Poor Pete – my ‘cellie’ – was undoubtedly aware of my tossing and turning, to say nothing of my somewhat boisterous and frequent release of gas (nervous anticipation plus cabbage for lunch combined with that chili for the last supper equals, well, you get the idea). I’m not sure that ‘nervous’ is an accurate descriptive phrase, though. It was more a case of being flat out eager to meet the future and step out of the time capsule I had inhabited for 4 years, one month, and 20 days. I was excited to get a chance to demonstrate to everyone who was interested – be they incarcerated or ‘free’ – the full power of God to change us when we invite Him into our hearts and totally submit to His will. I was also chomping at the bit to put my faith in the Lord to work beyond the constraints of the fences and razor wire.

Finally, after bouncing up and down all night, looking out the window of our cell door, and praying, praying, praying for patience, our cells were unlocked about 5:10 AM. I took my last shower in the showers I had cleaned for 2 years as my second ‘job’ in the prison, finished getting ready, and looked around the 7’x11’ space I had occupied for the previous 4+ years, over 3 ½ of them with Pete as my roommate.

My locker had been emptied by the end of the previous evening, my little mesh carryon bag was ready to go, and I went downstairs to find a couple of people waiting for me that one normally would never expect to see at that time of day: “Big Bad Billy Bo-land” (ok, he really prefers to be called Brandon, he’s not real big, although he does need to lose some weight, and he’s not what I would consider bad at all; I just made that name up for its alliterative value and because it was very ‘prison’ sounding) and Stanley, my very first prison ‘cellie’, had made a special effort to get up and see me on my way. It was a gesture which was greatly appreciated. Due to an unforeseen power outage related to exterior security, we were subjected to an ‘emergency’ lockdown the night before, a full 30 minutes earlier than normal. Because of this, I had not completed my ‘rounds’ of farewells. I did not get to see Joseph, David, Brian, Dan, and several others for that one last time and I felt bad about it, but didn’t feel I should go around waking everyone up. Perhaps they will read these words and know that I wanted to tell them ‘goodbye’. They should all also know they will all be on my mind, and in my prayers.

Emotions ran high that morning, as they had the previous evening. When one asks God to help them use the experience of incarceration in a positive manner, the act of leaving becomes bittersweet. Powerful bonds were formed over the months and years, and it is difficult to describe the conflicting emotions at work within us all. In spite of the emotions involved and the love that develops out of positive relationships in prison, the time does come when the door opens for each person and that person must go. There is no putting it off. No delays are allowed. The call comes for an individual to go to Receiving & Discharge (R&D) and off you go.

The call came for me at about 6:15 AM and I said a few hurried, absolutely final farewells, and proceeded to walk through the compound, barely able to resist the urge to run. (There is no running on the compound, unless it is on the rec yard, but believe me, the urge WAS there!). Reluctance to leave was quickly turning into a need to leave. It was rapidly turning into focus on the enormity of the impending event. It was a very surreal moment and I felt as if I were merely skimming along the surface of the ground. In a few minutes, the BOP would be through with me, and I with them, and I would be on my way.

I arrived at the door and was dismayed that no one was standing there, holding it open, smiling in happiness over my release. OK, so that is not exactly true. I didn’t expect anyone to really care and I was not disappointed. The actual processing only took a few minutes. I discovered that a promise to pay me for the work I had done from the 1st through the 16th, along with the bonus my unit manager had indicated I would get as a parting ‘gift’, was not fulfilled. This was not financially devastating, but it was just one more thing to add to the pile of ‘things’ that made one wonder about the character, integrity, competence, and level of professionalism of the staff. In addition, there was a certified copy of my birth certificate and a new social security card in my file in my case manager’s office which I assumed would be given me, so I inquired about it. I was met with the response, “Didn’t you ask your case manager for it?” I could only respond with, “This is the first time I have ever been released from prison. How would I even know to ask? Shouldn’t it have simply been given to me?” I wrote down my sister’s address in Virginia and asked if he would please see to it that they were sent. In all fairness, I must say he was good to his word as they were actually received about 5 days later.

Lt. James was the lieutenant on duty, so he had to come make sure they were releasing the right person. He shook my hand and wished me luck. No one had shaken my hand for 4 years, leaving me to think staff was afraid they were going to catch something. Perhaps they would have caught something, but it would have been more along the lines of something called professionalism, respect, and raising people up. He also wished me luck and walked me out to the building I had entered on April Fools’ Day, 2010. They went through one last ‘verification’ procedure and then someone pointed me to a white Ford Ranger idling in the parking lot, and I went out the door. That act was every bit as surreal as entering the building 4 years earlier, but in a very, very, very good way!

No one stopped me, called me back, or paid me any further attention. The only person interested in me now was the inmate from the camp next door whose job it was to deliver me to the bus station in Lafayette. The bus station was about 90 minutes away and I was looking forward to whatever scenery the surrounding countryside would afford me. It proved to be a very pleasant trip through piney woods and fields used for growing cotton and rice. The inmate driving the pickup truck was ‘short’ as well, having only 23 days left before his own release.

My excitement built as we drew closer to the point from which my ‘journey’ would officially begin. The camp inmate’s final task was to escort me into the building and make sure I purchased a ticket (non-refundable) for the correct destination. I had prepared my sister for picking me up at the bus station in Richmond, Va. based upon the departure time of the 9:15 AM bus, but that bus was sold out. I had to purchase a ticket for the next one, which didn’t leave till about 1:30 PM, leaving me several hours to kill, and a problem to solve: How to notify Kathy, since there were no pay phones in or around the station, and I had no cell phone, of course. I asked the inmate if he would notify the officers back in Oakdale and he said, “They don’t care. They are done with you. You’re someone else’s problem now.

And with that, he was gone.

Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, control of my life had been handed back to me. For sure, it was not an absolute “I-am-in-charge-of-my-own-destiny” type of control. After all, I was expected to board the bus and report to my Probation Officer within 72 hours, but the control I did have was of mammoth proportions when compared with the lack of control I had had as an inmate at Oakdale FCI.

I had the same control over my life I had when I was expected to self-surrender 4 years earlier: I could not do what was expected of me if I so decided! I could run! I could flee! Fortunately, the time I had spent in Oakdale taught me many things, and high up on the list was the fact that I had spent a good portion of my life ‘fleeing’. It took some work, but I finally figured out that it was myself I was always running from, and no matter how hard I tried, I had never been able to escape me. Wherever in the vastness of this country I wound up, I was always there. Besides, fleeing would set the U.S. Marshalls upon me and I didn’t want to wind up facing Tommy Lee Jones in a storm drain trying to convince him I was a good person with him telling me that he didn’t care.

Nope, the best thing to do would be to figure out a way to call Kathy and let her know of the change in schedule, and proceed as planned. I wandered around in downtown Lafayette for a while searching fruitlessly for a payphone, and I finally gave up and walked back to the station. The man behind the desk told me to ask people to use their cell phone, but I felt really awkward about that. I finally got up the nerve to ask a friendly looking Hispanic man, and he turned me down. I have written about my past experiences with rejection, and I began to get a little tense, but I prayed silently (really, really prayed!) and tried another man who thought I was going to ask for a smoke at first, but gladly let me use his phone. I left Kathy a message, since it was only to be expected that she wouldn’t be available to answer. She called back right away, though, and he handed me the phone as soon as he saw it was a number he didn’t recognize. I gave her the new info, we chatted for a few moments, and then I hung up. I was considerably more relaxed now, and spent some time talking to the man whose phone I had borrowed. He worked on offshore oil rigs and had just come in for his shore time.

Many people wanted to know what the first thing I was going to eat was. What we envision and what constitutes reality are often two different things, as I have come to learn, and accept. What I wanted was unimportant. I actually went to a Burger King near the bus station and ordered a couple of breakfast sandwiches and a carton of milk. One of the sandwiches was the wrong thing, and the first mouthful of “ultra-pasteurized’ milk carrying an expiration date of a full month in the future was sour. Flat out spoiled. Maybe they weren’t aware that even though it was ‘ultra’ pasteurized, it still required refrigeration.

Welcome to the free world. Still, all things considered, it was the best-tasting sour milk I’d had in 4 years, and there had been plenty in Oakdale.

There wasn’t much I could do beyond watching the minutes, and the people, pass as I waited to board the bus that would take me miles away from here. I did buy a hot dog off of a cart outside the station as it got closer to noon, but I didn’t wander very far even though I knew when the bus was coming and could have gone exploring. I felt rather conspicuous in my cheap blue jeans and white golf shirt issued by the prison. It seemed as if I had this big sign on my forehead that announced who I was, where I had been, and the reason.

I began to pray in earnest for the patience to be calm, to be strong, and to be content. It would take all of that, and more, because my time was coming, and I hadn’t ridden on the bus in over 30 years. Like it had done me, time had changed the “Grey Dog” as well.

“PARTING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW – THE LAST SUPPER” By Tony Casson

Leaving prison should have represented something akin to one of the best days of my life, and while there certainly was a growing sense of anticipation, that anticipation was cloaked in something which more closely resembled sadness as the time drew closer.

My last meal at Oakdale Federal Correctional Institution (FCI), on Monday, May 19, was chili with cheese and onions which I used to smother a humongous, perfectly-baked potato. The term ‘baked potato’ itself is a misnomer most of the time as the potatoes falling into that category are most often just boiled with the skin on. Since this potato was actually baked, this was a definite treat. Before being executed, this would not have qualified as a particularly spectacular last meal, but it was more than adequate as a meal I attended for the primary reason of seeing individuals from other housing units I might not otherwise get a chance to see before leaving. In other words, my last supper was more of a social event than a stop for sustenance.

Walking back to my housing unit, I lagged behind my dinner companions to say goodbye to a man named Frank. In his 50’s and of Filipino descent, Frank has a year or two left on his sentence. Frank and I both have a child living in Seattle: he, a daughter, and I, a son. We shook hands, embraced, and left each other with as much encouragement as we could muster. After leaving Frank, I heard my name and turned around to see a young man named Cameron, who was walking with Bernie Ebbers. Bernie is seven years into a 25 year sentence for ‘cooking the books’ in the incident responsible for the collapse of WorldCom. I have often pondered the necessity for locking him and others like him away for so long and causing so much devastation behind them when there are most likely better options that could be employed in our collective search for justice, fairness, and punishment that is meaningful and achieves a purpose beyond causing intelligent, successful, and enterprising individuals to simply waste away in prison. This is a complicated issue, and I digress from the main story, although that is nothing new. It is an issue that will need to be dealt with in greater detail later. For now, suffice it to say that I pray for Bernie and for his family.

Cameron is in his late 20’s and had taken pictures of his girlfriend while in a relationship. The pictures were of a personal, sexual nature. His intent was not to post them on the internet, but the relationship deteriorated, and somehow the young woman’s mother ‘discovered’ the pictures, and turned them over to the police. You see, the young lady was 17 and Cameron was 24 when the photos were taken and Cameron was charged with ‘production of child pornography’. He struck a deal which netted him ‘only’ 9 years instead of the mandatory minimum of 15. I think back to something my good friend Richard Roy told me about his grandparents. Richard’s grandfather was 28 and his grandmother was 14 when they were married. The relationship ‘only’ lasted 50 years.

The times have changed.

Cameron and I embraced and wished each other well. I was not close to Bernie, but we did say goodbye. He was a regular fixture walking the track, and in chapel services on Sunday. He addressed a business class I had taken and I was saddened by the story he told, but I was saddened many times over the previous 4 years of my incarceration by the stories I was told. They headed off in the direction of their housing unit, and I headed back to mine. I walked about 20 feet before looking around. It was a rare moment when there was no one close to me, either in front or behind me and I was thankful for I had to suppress an almost overwhelming urge to break down and cry.

The enormity of the human tragedies represented by the men I had come to know, to care for, to pray about, and to respect slammed into me like a freight train and for a brief moment, I simply wanted to fall down and weep.

I have written quite often over the last four years about my own acceptance of responsibility for the irresponsibility of my actions, and the enormity of the situation surrounding incarceration in general and the draconian, pointlessly long sentences handed out for internet crimes in particular as it all pertains to my friends, their families, and this country as a whole so the scope of it all came as no real surprise or revelation. I guess I just had a moment where I didn’t want to deal with it anymore. Like the occasional urge I still get to inhale cigarette smoke, it lasted only a brief moment, and then I was back to worrying about my friends. I was deeply saddened to be leaving them behind. Did I want to go? Of course, I did, but I wanted to take them all with me.

What I was preparing to leave behind was just a tiny snapshot of the total picture of what we are allowing to happen to this country because of our preference for pursuit, prosecution, and incarceration over prevention, as well as our growing need to sexualize everything in our lives until there is nothing left to sexualize but our children. We are pathetic, really, as a nation, and as individuals. There will be those who will point and loudly proclaim that it is me, and those like me, who are responsible for that condition, but that accusation would not even begin to adequately assign the blame and the responsibility.

I have accepted the blame for my part in all of this, but I can not, and will not, accept the blame for the misguided government officials who have allowed this to happen, not just to me, but to thousands, and potentially hundreds of thousands, of American citizens, to say nothing of their families.

As I reentered the place which had been my residence for the previous 4 years, I made a conscious effort to taste the sweetness of the successful completion of my sentence, but the bitterness of those misguided sentences received by some of those I was leaving behind rose like bile in the back of my throat. Stanley, 25 year sentence; David, 20 year sentence; Joseph, 17 1/2; Ken, 17 1/2; Pete, 15; Phillip, 12 1/2; and on, and on, and on. And for each one who leaves, there are more to fill in the spaces left.

Do not misunderstand me. I am angry at, and disappointed in, each man who willingly, knowingly, participated in his crimes. That said, I believe there are better ways to deal with the problem, as I have stated so many, many times before over the last 4 years. Ways that would also provide greater security for our children and protect other innocent victims from the scourge of internet pornography.

As I went around talking with different people, there were several awkward goodbyes as men who are not accustomed to displaying emotion in public fought back the urge to do so.

As I continued to say my goodbyes, I reflected on the fact that many of them expressed confident hope in me. The hope was that I would continue the things I began in prison and I will not disappoint them. Adjusting to breathing the ‘free air’ that Steve Marshall wrote to my dear friend Diane about will take some time, but I get ahead of myself.

In order to continue to do the things I have maintained must be done, I must first get to Washington, D.C. to begin my new life at the Central Union Mission (missiondc.org). I must get situated, centered, and build relationships with those who will hold sway over my new freedom, as well as those I will be working with, and for, in the mission itself, and as I prepare to reenter the workforce.

Exciting times lie ahead, filled with God’s promise of a future and a hope, but first I have to get there, and to do that, I have to get to Lafayette in the morning so I can get on the Grey Dog.

To be continued…………

“LETTERS TO HEAVEN – THE LAST PRISON LETTER, MOM!” by Tony Casson

“LETTERS TO HEAVEN –

THE LAST PRISON LETTER, MOM!”

Dear Mom,

It has been some time since I last wrote you. For this I apologize, but letters to you are not simple things. Bringing you to the forefront of my thoughts like this always carries with it a certain amount of personal discomfort that must be dealt with. Even though I do think of you often, the more focused effort of putting pen to paper always causes me to reflect in greater detail on your life, and it is impossible for me to do that without also considering the pain and suffering I contributed TO that life.

I am certain you are overjoyed to see the person God has shown me I am capable of being begin to emerge. My knowledge of the depth of love you had for your children and your capacity for kindness to every single person you ever met easily overcomes any misguided fear I might have that you would harbor any ill-will or resentment toward me for the way I lived my life or for the sleepless nights, heartache, and tears I caused you to suffer. Still, I am uncomfortable writing letters to you on a small metal desk in a cold, unfriendly cell, located in a prison where I was placed for a crime that should never have occurred in the first place.

Had I thought about you in the past as much as I do now, and in the same manner, I would never have allowed myself to stop caring about the condition of my soul to the degree I did. Had I thought of you more, I would have seen that your ability to love and to smile came from your relationship with God. I would have been able to reason that your unselfish, kind and compassionate attitude also came from Him, and perhaps I would have looked to God long ago and avoided that final turn onto the road which almost led me to self-destruction.

Be that as it may, I know these things now, Mom, and I just want to say, “Thank you.” You see, I have also come to understand that God did exactly as you had prayed for Him to do for so many years, although perhaps not in the time-frame you might have preferred. His reasons for waiting until I was almost drained of life before He opened my eyes and allowed me to see what I needed to do in order to receive His help are very clear to me now. God wanted me to arrive at the point where I completely and totally hated the evil I had allowed to control my life. He waited for me to become that which I needed to learn to despise. When I struck out at myself in rage, He allowed me to come very close to achieving my objective of killing the one person who was causing me so much pain before He let me see those precious words that brought Him to my rescue: “God, please forgive me.” In His infinite wisdom, He knew I needed to see for myself how quickly He comes to those who call Him in order that I would know it was HE who saved me. Once I gave up on myself and put my Hope in Him, He knew I would then change the course of my life and decide to live to show others that THEIR Hope lies in Him as well.

So again, I say, “Thank you. Thank you for your prayers on my behalf, and for never giving up Hope.”

The One who gave you the ability to give ME my life, stood by and suffered great pain watching me struggle with myself. How it must have hurt Him as He watched me try desperately to kill the evil within myself. I believe you stood with Him at that lowest point in my life here on earth, tearfully crying to Him, “Father, save my son! Please, save my son!”

In spite of His own great personal pain, He would have placed His arms around you and quietly said, “Be patient, my child, his suffering is almost over.” Despite that reassurance from God Himself, I can only imagine the panic you must have felt as you watched me slipping closer and closer to death. You knew we would never see each other again unless I gave up and finally opened my mouth to ask God for His help. You knew that unless I asked for His forgiveness, I would be lost for all of eternity to the evil I had allowed to consume me, and which I was trying to eliminate by killing myself.

They say the pain of childbirth is indescribably, excruciatingly, blindingly intense, but how much more so the pain must be to watch a child who is about to pass through the gates of Hell. I cannot help but think of Ryan Loskarn’s parents and the pain they must live with on a daily basis following his suicide.* Those of us who attempt it or who succeed at ending our lives are not selfish, contrary to what many people think and despite the fact we are definitely not thinking of others at that moment. Those who would disagree fail to grasp the obvious: We are not thinking of ourselves either. We are simply trying to kill the pain that we have allowed to consume us by not turning to God for the comfort and strength we need to overcome that pain.

Having been fortunate enough to have been saved from myself by God, Ryan’s death brought home to me the truth of the devastating blow that would have been dealt to those I would have left behind. Even though we can grow to hate something we have allowed to grow within us, there are those who love us in spite of those things who deserve the opportunity to help us: Our Mothers and Fathers; our children; our siblings and our friends. Foremost among those who love us and wants to help us is God. I shudder to think of how my own story almost ended. I am so very, very grateful to God for saving me, and I pray that He provides some form of comfort to those who witnessed the tragic ending to Ryan’s story and will live the rest of their lives with those things they loved about him absent from their lives.

Are children worth all the trouble they cause, Mom?  Are we really worth the tears, the pain, the frustration, and the worry? Can we ever make up for the sleepless nights we have caused? For the anger our actions give rise to? Can we possibly make up for the things we have said and done in the thoughtlessness of our youth? Are we worth the pain we inflict on those around us when we act in self-destructive ways, foolishly thinking our lives are the only ones affected by our actions?

God thinks so, and I know you always did too, Mom. You would never even consider giving up on one of your children; not for a moment would you withdraw what you could always give to each one in equal measure: Your love, and your prayers. And that love and those prayers paid off, don’t you think? After all, hasn’t our great God done some pretty amazing work within the heart and mind of THIS child? For four years**, He has patiently directed, guided, corrected, counseled, consoled, taught, loved, and inspired me. For four years, He has helped me to find self-forgiveness for allowing myself to become someone I did not know and could not love. For four years He has shown me I can help myself by reaching out to others to try to help THEM. For four years He has pointed me in the direction He has wanted me to go, and for four years He has said to me, “THIS is who I want you to be!”

And now, after those four years, I am prepared to leave this place. After those four years, I am eager to show the world what God will lovingly do for us when we give Him our lives: He gives them back to us. He makes us NEW.

God HAS given me my life back, Mom. In gratefully accepting it from Him, I have looked to Him and said, “I want to live it for you, but I need you to show me how.” In response, He has shown me He has a plan for me. It is a plan for a future full of Hope. It is a plan of service to Him by doing something I was never capable of doing before: Looking out for other people. I am eager to leave this place and continue to work for the future God has planned for me. I say ‘continue’ to work on the plan, because I have been working on God’s plan for the future since the day I walked through the doors that locked behind me 4 years ago.

Soon I will be rejoining the society I was removed from as a result of my actions. Soon I will walk amongst ‘decent’ people, many of whom will shy away from me when they learn of my past. While trying to move forward, there will always be those who will want to point behind me and ask, “How could you?”

How could I? A fair question, indeed.

Recently, I was asked that question by someone you know, Mom, and since there are others who seek to make sense of the senseless, I have decided to respond to that request here.

There are two parts to the answer. The first is quite complex and is one I addressed in an article posted in these pages on April 18, 2013. That article was titled ‘unspoken‘, and it contained a ‘speech’ that I would give to young people of high school age, if I were allowed to do so. In that ‘speech’, I did my best to retrace the footsteps which brought me to this prison. The first of those footsteps was taken when I was quite young. After reading the rest of this article, I urge those who have not done so to go back and take the time to read ‘unspoken’.

I will offer the second part of my answer knowing ahead of time that there will be many who will not be satisfied with the answer’s simplicity. I will pray people will consider what I say not only in the context of the possession of child pornography charge which brought me to this place I am about to leave, but in the much larger context of the problems which exist in all of our lives, and in the world as a whole.

I have learned, Mom, that we become capable of behavior that is beneath us as children of God when we fail to follow the lessons taught by Jesus Christ. These lessons are quite simple and can be found in the Holy Bible, of course. Granted, the Bible itself appears to be a very complex book. Indeed, there is a tremendous amount of complexity available to keep thousands upon thousands of theologians and biblical scholars busy, but for the rest of us, the Bible can be viewed in a very simple manner: It is a journey taking us from the perfect beginning of the world, to the perfection of its end. Along the way, we are made privy to those places where mankind has failed. We are shown how we have failed God; how we have failed each other; and we are shown how God offered us salvation by sending His only begotten Son to die on the cross for us and wash away our sins with His blood. The death of Jesus gave us all Hope for a perfect ending to our lives here on earth, but it was Christ’s LIFE that demonstrated how we are to act while we are alive.

The Pharisees were one of two major religious groups during the time of Christ. While they did believe in the resurrection of the body and eternal life, they disregarded God’s message of grace and mercy while believing that salvation came through observance to the law and NOT through the forgiveness of sin. The message Christ brought with Him contradicted the Pharisees, so they set out to discredit Him in any way they could because they did not believe – or did not WANT to believe – He was the long-awaited Messiah.  Obedience to God IS important, as Jesus teaches us time and time again. One such time was when the Pharisees tried to trap Him by asking what the most important commandment was in the Law of Moses. Christ’s answer to the Pharisees forms the basis for my answer to the question, “How could you?”

“Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all of the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.'” (Matthew 22:37-40 NLT)

So here is the answer:

When we love God in the manner described by Jesus Christ, we discover the ability to love ourselves, thereby allowing us to love those around us. When we love God, ourselves, and those around us, we are too busy thinking about others in positive ways to ever consider hurting them, or ourselves, in any of the many ways we do when that love is absent.

See, Mom? I told you it was simple.

But how many will actually allow themselves to see the truth residing in that simplicity? Obviously, there is more to the stories of our lives than that, but the reason those stories develop in the complex manner they do begins when God is absent from our lives in the first place. Those who need the whole complicated, detailed story can read the article I mentioned earlier. Actually, I wish everyone WOULD read it, because it demonstrates what happens when we fail to do what Jesus instructed us to do.

The short version is this: I failed to love God, and accept HIS love. Instead, I worshipped the gods of alcohol, drugs, sex, and pornography. Certainly millions of others do the same thing daily, but I offer that fact merely as a very sad commentary on the condition of the world in which we live today. I do not use the behavior of others to make excuses for mine. My own particular failure went an unfortunate and despicable final step beyond what is ‘normal’ and for that I am profoundly sorry. However, had I not taken that FIRST step, I never would have taken the LAST one, and the first step was taken because I didn’t heed the simple instructions of the One who died a horrible death hanging on a cross so I could have free access to God: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind.”

All I can say, Mom, is that something has gone seriously wrong in a society where bad behavior, inappropriateness, immaturity, immorality, self-indulgence and selfishness are proudly displayed in public while the belief in, and love of, God has become something most seem only willing to acknowledge on Sunday, and more out of obligation than any real love FOR God. The one thing we should all hold up for others as the only way to live our lives seems to have become a source of embarrassment for many. We ‘kinda sorta’ want to be seen as believing in God, but not really. We don’t actually want to LIVE the way God wants us to live. Doing that requires too much of a commitment and life today offers too many choices we would NOT be able to make if we made such a commitment to God.

Our government doesn’t help because God is constantly being shoved to the back of the bus in a new twist on segregation in America today. Additionally, the American public seems quite adept at criticizing this nation’s leaders for everything they do except when they provide us with more ways, and more rights, with which to live immoral and indecent lives; lives where our own instant gratification is the goal and easing the pain of those around us is something we are only motivated to do when we can conveniently text a donation after a devastating natural disaster. Indeed, our government actually has become one of the biggest enemies Jesus Christ has ever faced, which is odd for a country founded with religious freedom as one of its cornerstones. For those who are opening their mouths to object, kid yourselves not: the religious freedoms guaranteed in this nation’s Constitution were based more on the way we expressed our belief in Jesus Christ than in our freedom to believe in other gods or nothing at all. This being America, we are all free to believe in what we want to believe, of course, but following the words of Jesus Christ can certainly NOT cause anyone any harm and CAN heal, protect, and propel us to heights of care and concern for others which help to prevent the stories of peoples’ lives from ending in disaster.

It really is just that simple. I’m not sure why we have difficulty accepting simplicity unless it is in the plot lines of the latest reality show. One of the books I read during my time here was written by a professor from Baylor University named Byron Johnson and was titled “More God, Less Crime”. Duh. How much simpler do you want it?

Well, Mom, I think I am about finished here. I have answered the question “How could you?” to the best of my ability. If what has been offered isn’t sufficient, there is little I can do. I have accepted the forgiveness of God, and I have forgiven myself. Additionally, I have paid the price imposed by the justice system of this country. From this point forward, all I can do is try to heed the words of Jesus Christ when he told the woman who had been caught committing adultery, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11 NLT)

Jesus refused to condemn her, and He refuses to condemn me as well. If others choose to condemn me, well, they can explain themselves to God later on. For myself, all I know is God has given me a NEW life, and He shows me daily what to do with it and how to live it. I am proceeding with my eyes on Jesus Christ, and I am very, very grateful.

I love you and I apologize again for not writing sooner. I have some packing to do so I can be ready to leave***. I’ll catch you on the other side, Mom!

No, silly, not in Heaven (at least, not just yet); I meant, on the other side of the prison fence!

May God bless all who have put up with me for these 4 years. The years have meant a lot to me, and I can honestly say I tried to do something positive with them. My prayer is that they meant something to all of you as well. This is NOT the end of these “Chronicles”, by the way. You can’t get rid of me that easily!

*******

(* Ryan Loskarn’s story can be found in earlier articles titled “The Something I Didn’t Do“, and “An Open Letter To The Parents Of Ryan Loskarn“)

(**I self-surrendered on April 1, 2010)

(***I will be released on May 20, 2014)

Please check out the print version of my book, “TODAY IS… A Gift From God” at (https://www.createspace.com/4718409 ). The writing of it helped me, and I pray the reading of it can do the same for you. If you have a loved one in prison, please send them a copy. It just might make a difference.

Man Imprisoned, Man Freed.

We are steadily approaching what will hopefully be my dad’s release from Oakdale, and many days I consider the journey. I admit, I smile.

Many years ago there was a man who did what he could. He had a house, some work, a son and a growing relationship with a long-lost daughter. He had dreams of creating. He had many things that, when stacked against the idea of imprisonment, were considered highly favorable. But because of delusions, these conditions were contaminated.

Several years ago there was the same man. Still with a son, and a rocky but existent relationship with his daughter. He barely had a home, and he had recently lost his parents. He fixed and cleaned filthy objects and was once attacked by someone while working, but he had a job. He lived in a sunny environment, albeit amidst financial poverty. He had dreams of improvement and then of creating. And still, when stacked against the idea of longterm imprisonment, he had some favorable conditions. But because of delusions, these conditions were contaminated.

A few years ago there was the same man. But imprisoned. Cut in many ways from the world outside an institution built for punishment; a place that, when stacked against the outer world, had terrible conditions. But because of a release from delusions, these conditions were purified.

For those of you wonderful readers who have followed this story over the weeks, months, years, you see it too. For those of you new ones, you will see it soon. You will feel, “Which of the men were imprisoned, and which of the men were freed?”

When I consider my father, I am not disturbed by his situation as others may think I am — have thought I am. Ordinary appearance reveals a human being who had freedom and was then locked away; ordinary appearance reveals ugliness and sadness. And yet there is neither ugliness nor sadness.

There remains only beauty and joy and hope and inspiration. And internal freedom for a very worthy individual.

“DAVID’S LETTER – FINAL ARGUMENTS” by Tony Casson

“Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”
Proverbs 31:9 NLT

“There is no such thing as justice – in or out of court.”  Clarence Darrow, 1936

My little “Webster’s Pocket Dictionary” defines ‘justice’ as 1) moral rightness; 2) fairness; 3) the administration and procedure of the law. It is normal with any dictionary to list the most commonly used, and most important definition first, followed by any others in descending order.

For a criminal justice system to truly fulfill its obligation to all members of the society it serves, it must first, and foremost, exhibit a moral rightness. Criminal justice should be about what is best for the people it serves and ALL of those involved, including those accused of a crime, must be the recipients of that consideration.

Clarence Darrow’s statement is likely not true in every instance, but I cannot think otherwise when I consider the case of David Hayden and his family. David himself did not receive justice IN court, and the list of those who did not receive justice OUT of court is long: His wife Leigh, and their children, Tyler, Sam, and Henry; David’s employees and their families; David’s customers; the banks that held David’s mortgage and business loans; the businesses which supplied David’s company with the materials it required to operate; those companies that provided health insurance for David, his employees, and their families; the tax collecting agencies, local, state, and federal. There are probably more but that is quite a list as it stands and I believe I have made that particular point.

There will be those who will not, do not, care what explanation David offers. The fact that he received a twenty year sentence and his business and family were devastated as a result, provide testimony to that fact. Some who have followed his ‘letter’ in these ‘Chronicles’ will agree with all that has been done. There will be others who feel that David’s guilty verdict is justified, but that the sentence was too harsh. Still others (and I say this because this scenario was suggested to me by a friend of mine) might think that David’s real crime was in the use of Peer To Peer software (P2P) to ‘pirate’ copyrighted material and he should have been found guilty of that charge instead, still receiving jail time. There might be a few who agree with me and have taken the position that they are ALL wrong. I am praying for that last group to greatly outnumber all others.

David Hayden broke the law. He did, in fact, break several laws. Or did he? If our government had been acting in a responsible manner and doing its job of serving and protecting its citizens, David would have not been able to break ANY law. If David did, in fact, break any laws, then he did it with the knowing cooperation of the same government that then arrested him and caused all of the devastation mentioned earlier to occur.

First, let’s take a look at the laws that were broken, and examine HOW David was able to break them in the first place. David was arrested and charged with distribution of child pornography. On the surface, this sounds absolutely horrible. Indeed, intentional, purposeful, and knowledgeable distribution of child pornography is a HEINOUS crime and needs to be dealt with harshly, especially when it is done in a manner to profit from the sexual abuse of innocent children. But David is not guilty of that, and there was evidence to support that contention offered in court with the testimony of the lead investigator who arrested David in the first place. So how did he come to be charged with such a vile crime?  As everyone who uses P2P knows, and the number of American citizens who do this numbers in the TENS OF MILLIONS, when you set your computer to ‘search’ for certain movies or music, many times it is left to do its work and you go on about your life. As your folder fills up with search results, those files that you received are then available for someone else to receive. In other words, if you have searched for the first Harry Potter movie, anything that has turned up in your computer as a result is now available to anyone else looking for Harry Potter as well, so it is possible that subsequent searchers may ‘receive’ the material from YOUR computer. Only when David took the time to go through and clean out all of the ‘crap’ (as he so eloquently put it), or move what he was looking for to another folder, did it become unavailable for sharing. That is the nature of P2P. The unfortunate nature, I might add, because anyone using this software could be sharing illegal material without even knowing it was there in the first place. This is not rocket science. It is technology today, and it is technology our CHILDREN use. It is technology that is abused, and it is technology that enables the furtherance of illegal activity with the full knowledge of the United States Justice department, thereby making them culpable. At the least, they should have been indicted as co-conspirators with David, since his ability to commit the crime was absolutely impossible without the involvement of the federal government. There are laws on the books of every state in this country that hold an individual liable for criminal prosecution if they knowingly and willingly fail to stop and render aid to someone in need of emergency assistance. The federal government has failed to stop and render aid to its citizens by allowing these websites to continue to operate 1) Whose main purpose is to ‘pirate’ copyrighted material without paying for it and 2) In the process of providing one illegal service, allow the proliferation and transportation of unwanted, harmful, and illegal material to enter the homes, computers, and lives, of American citizens, with children included in the numbers of those receiving this material.

What about David’s attempts to download copyrighted materials without paying for them in the first place? Is that not a crime as well? Absolutely, but it was not something David was charged with. But was he really guilty of THAT? I say that he was not, and I will offer this by way of explanation: David followed the example of millions of other Americans. It was a poor example to follow, but that is another issue. The real issue is this: As evidenced by the numerous reports generated for Congress and different government agencies, it is a well-documented and undisputable fact that the United States government knew that this software was being used 1) For the illegal pirating of copyrighted material in the first place and, 2) that there was an extremely high degree of probability (not POSSIBILITY – PROBABILITY) that searches for the copyrighted material would turn up unwanted and illegal material in the form of pornography and, sadly, child pornography as well. The same arguments hold true for these second ‘charges’. The United States government is culpable in each and every case where a citizen of this country is charged with committing a crime such as this when the websites operate with the full knowledge, if not the tacit approval of, the United States, so if David WERE to be charged in this manner, the United States would have to be indicted as a co-conspirator.

Well, we cannot indict a country, so who is responsible? Whoever heads the FCC? FTC? The attorney general? Those are probably good places to start. Then proceed from there and include every member of Congress who has received any of the reports that have raised these issues and taken no action to shut down the offending sites. The sad, sad truth is that hundreds of fine, well-meaning, hardworking American men and women have somehow lost touch with what serving their country means. Providing these avenues of destruction for misguided, but ALSO well-meaning and hardworking American citizens to wander down should be something that happens in error, NOT with the full knowledge of the government. Pull the plug on sites that promote illegal activities or cannot properly screen ALL of their content. Prisons are full of people who can attest to the fact that the United States government can do pretty much whatever it wants, so ‘we can’t do that’ cannot be a defense. The citizens of this country (and yes, David, you ARE still a citizen of this country) have a right to demand protection from unwanted and illegal filth invading their homes, and those elected to serve the citizens of this country are charged with providing that protection. Standing idly by while lives are needlessly destroyed should NOT be an option open to members of Congress, or to the FCC, FTC, or the attorney general of the United States and his Department Of Justice. Remember, Mr. Holder, what the word “JUSTICE” should mean in the first place.

If we wish to operate in a strictly black and white world, then everyone should be happy with what has happened to David, Leigh, Henry, Tyler, Sam, and the many others. But is that the wise course to follow, and should that be the one we DO follow? Would it not be better for everyone concerned to apply moral rightness to matters where we are searching for justice? If the answer to that is “Yes”, and I believe it can be nothing else, then we must re-evaluate what has been done to David Hayden, his family, and the very long list of other people and businesses that have been impacted by this INJUSTICE and this moral OUTRAGE.

Maybe David was right. Maybe we ALL need to heed the words of Sheriff Andy Taylor when he tried to teach Barney Fife, “When dealing with people, sometimes it’s better to go less with the book and more with the heart.”

If there is anyone out there who can do anything at all to help David and his family, please contact David at the address provided at the end of Part 5 of his ‘letter’.