by Marc Emery - Saturday, July 30 2011
Dearest Miss: Well, now my cellmate has contracted MRSA. He has an infection on his wrist that will not heal for over 30 days now. It is irritated because threads used in surgery on his wrist last year when he was on the outside to repair tendons in his wrist have come a bit undone, and now irritate an area near the surface of his skin. Wally and I both used the same soap, which the BOP statement of April 2011 on MRSA (that you mailed to me) indicates is a leading source of spread of staph bacteria. When I was diagnosed with MRSA, or even when Wally was, the nurse did not give any advice about not sharing soap, which I always assumed was safe.
Marc in Yazoo Prison, May 2011So Wally is understandably depressed about this compromise on his health. And they are not offering to send him to a hospital to correct this loose surgery thread that is the source of the refusal to heal. I've been getting sores from the MRSA too; currently there is a large pus-filled red mark on my left leg, which is thankfully starting to heal after a few weeks. I'm concerned about a small lump growing bigger on my neck, so I will make a cop-out request to see medical about that soon. It could just be an ingrown hair. But you and I are both concerned about my health so I'll do what I can.
Currently, the 7' x 12' cell we are in houses just Wally and me, but there are rumors that by December each cell will be retrofitted to house 3 inmates per cell, a very close and disturbing prospect. The population here of 1,500 inmates has the place full already, but the insatiable US prison-punishment gulag wants more inmates in here and crowding us 3 to a cell is coming soon, so it seems. This will create tension, danger and a further erosion of morale here. As I have 35 months to go before my release date of July 9, 2014, it’s something I am not looking forward to.
I continue to stay busy with bass guitar practice 3-4 hours a day, I read my magazines that people have been good enough to subscribe me to, I read one book a week, and have started writing letters to correspondents each day again. I get the New York Times 5 to 20 days after its release date, but the Times is still a pretty good read even that late. In Seattle I would get the Times the same day it was released, and at D. Ray James in Georgia I got it 3 to 5 days later; here it’s usually 10-15 days later, though a few issues have arrived after 5 days.
Yazoo City is truly the middle of nowhere. I was told by one correspondent it was the poorest city in America, and no doubt this is the future of America, an apocalyptic one at any rate, whereby no local economy exists at all other than dollar stores, McDonald's, and a giant prison complex with inmates crammed in to accommodate this cannibalizing war on drugs America wages against itself. As you have told me, there isn't even a taxi service in Yazoo city, and the downtown is completely abandoned. There is nothing but desolation here.
I enjoyed thinking often about my love for you and our 5th wedding anniversary that passed on Saturday, July 23. I hope you enjoyed the 5 red roses I had sent, and the hand-made card that I thought was extremely delicate and beautiful (see it in this "Jodie Emery Show" video), and the custom-made leather purse I had sent for you with “Marc (heart) Jodie”, “5 Years - 7/23/11” on it, with a matching billfold and inside were 10 photographs, really exceptional ones, of you and I from your last visit here on July 4th.
I write this note with some degree of sadness though, because although I passed the under-3-years-to-go mark on July 9, it still seems like an eternity away, especially with my health constantly in jeopardy in the US penal system, and the triple bunking that is expected to occur soon.
As of today, I have 1,080 days to go to my release. Every day I wake up, I know how many days remain. On August 8, for example I will be at 5/12ths (25 months, with good time credit) of my 60-month sentence, with 7/12ths to go (35 months). I have the various mathematics in my head and though I was told it’s too early to be counting the days, I have been doing so since I was imprisoned. I know when my sentence remaining hits three digits (999 days to go on October 19th), and I know when it is halfway done (the downhill slide, as it’s called, when you pass the halfway mark), on January 9, 2012.
Yesterday, I received a notice from the Associate Warden informing me that my copy of the August National Geographic was being withheld for review to determine if the alleged nudity and sexually explicit material in this issue will prevent me from receiving it. BOP policy specifically exempts National Geographic from being banned for nudity, so I have politely forwarded this information to the Warden. You emailed me the table of contents, and I wonder if it’s the article about our Neanderthal heritage in fossils, and there are drawings of an unclothed primitive man or woman.
I recall when I was at D Ray James in Folkston, Georgia, the privately-run prison for foreigners, that the librarian there refused to subscribe to National Geographic because it was “way too sexually explicit”. When one of my correspondents had a subscription mailed to the prison library address, the librarian made a point of putting the issue in the garbage container as it arrived, right in front of my eyes, while saying to me, "That's what happens to National Geographic when I get it. Understand, Mr. Emery?" In that gesture, everything that's wrong with America and its current predicament with ignorance, economic decline, end of empire, and colossal betrayal of the values of the founding fathers is clearly epitomized.
At least though, at D Ray James, my personal subscription copy was never interfered with. I hope the Warden here sees clear to release the August issue of National Geographic to me and other inmates with subscription copies. It is perhaps the most esteemed magazine in the world, as copies are in all public schools, high schools, and libraries everywhere on Earth.
In a bit of irony, what forbids the facility from distributing the magazine to inmates is something called the “Ensign Amendment”, Section 7, which states that no federal money may be spent on the procurement and distribution of material which contains nudity and sexually explicit material. Now, I don't see how any federal money is being spent on my subscription to National Geographic, it was mailed to me with your funds, not US federal government funds, but what's ironic is that Senator John Ensign, who the amendment is named after, had to resign from Congress last year for sexual misdeeds done while in office!
I also find unfathomable that a total lunatic like Michelle Bachmann supersedes Ron Paul in popularity for the Republican Party nomination, with an equally stupid and inept Sarah Palin breathing down her neck waiting to launch her Presidential vanity campaign. Ron Paul should really be the GOP candidate against Obama next year. He can explain everything that’s wrong with the United States and how Obama has failed the American people in so many ways.
Citizen Marc: Prepare to Meet his HIGHnessRoger Larry, the film director who is currently putting together a documentary feature film about me called Citizen Marc, is in my hometown of London, Ontario to interview my first two great loves Judith (from 1976-1980) and Sandra (1981-1988), a teacher of mine who went on the school trip to the middle east with me and 40 other students from March 2nd to 18th, 1975 (a pivotal trip, appearing online shortly as an excerpt from my forthcoming autobiography), and perhaps others.
I also advised him while he was in London to speak to the mother of Chris Doty, the author (along with Jason Rip) of the great play about my years in London at City Lights Bookshop — also called Citizen Marc. The play is particularly prescient in that the narrator of the play, in many ways an homage to Citizen Kane, is speaking as though I am in a US federal prison at the time, even though the play was written and performed in 2006. The play, except for the narrator who speaks to the audience in the present tense, takes place in a series of flashbacks 20 to 35 years earlier in my politically formative years as the 'enfant terrible' rebel bookseller of London, Ontario. Citizen Marc won four Brickenden awards that year, including for Best Actor and Best Direction.
At the premiere in January 2006, Chris Doty escorted you and me back to the hotel after I watched what I regarded as an outstanding play, and asked me, "What did you think, Marc?" I said, "It's perfect Chris. I like everything about it. Even the Bernard Herrmann score that was sampled and played at key times. It needs no improvement at all." (Bernard Herrmann wrote the score for Citizen Kane and the Twilight Zones.)
Chris responded, "That's great, Marc. If I died today, I could die knowing that you were happy with this play. That means a lot to me." Five nights later, Chris hanged himself in his mother's home. The only tip-off to a state of mind was at the dinner he had with us, hours before the play's premiere, when he spoke up close to me when we were alone, "No one cares about the values of history, of morality, of the old traditions, like you and I, Marc. I do my documentaries and plays and television programs about the past, but no one cares anymore. The people have no sense of history any more. They don't know what's valuable. I am frightened they will give you up to the Americans. I worry about you, Marc."
That night he also asked me if I had any suggestions. I said, "Yes, get professional cameras and film it. It will be important one day. You can use a video to show theatre companies in other cities how it should look, how it should be done." He said that was an excellent idea. And then on the final performance, when Chris had arranged for Citizen Marc to be filmed, he didn’t show up. Jason Rip went to Chris’ mother’s house and found him dead. It was said he was despondent about Wednesday and Thursday night not being sold out, and this seemed to substantiate his cynicism that people just didn't care, but he also lost his girlfriend to someone else, and who knows what other demons he struggled with. The play was filmed only hours after the macabre discovery of Chris' taking his own life, under considerable emotional difficulty for all the actors and crew, and then performed live — to a sold out audience — that evening.
Chris Doty got his first full time job in television after submitting his first documentary, "Marc Emery: Messing Up the System" (Click here to watch) to the Rogers Cable system network in 1993, and ended his career with the play Citizen Marc. Among the documentaries Chris had made in the years previous was "Famous hangings of London" and "Famous Ghosts of London". His play “The Donnelly Massacre” was a big critical and commercial success, and the money he received from that play he sank into the production of Citizen Marc.
Chris' mom has held on to that videotape of the final performance, and I urged Roger to ask if she would release it for inclusion in the DVD release of the upcoming documentary film of the same name, Citizen Marc. The doc and the play will make outstanding companion pieces. And the play might constitute the ultimate interview with someone who had known me since he was 12 years old and would come into my City Lights Bookshop to listen to me speak about the world and what it all meant, until his very untimely and tragic suicide during the run of the play he left as his penultimate tribute to me.
I also recommended Roger interview John McKay, the District Attorney for Western Washington who was my original prosecutor, who now speaks publicly against the drug war and believes marijuana should be legalized. McKay, in fact, has had a hand in writing the text of legislation for the Washington State Assembly to consider this fall, that legalizes marijuana at the state level. McKay believes prohibition creates violence and harms for all of society, so I urged Roger to interview McKay and see how he reflects on his putting away the leader of a peaceful movement whose goal was to achieve what McKay now seeks to achieve.
The famous and brilliant critic of the US federal government Noam Chomsky has agreed to give an interview for inclusion in Citizen Marc on my imprisonment, and I am very, very honored to have a man I admire more than perhaps anyone else in the world participate in a documentary about me. Citizen Marc is slated to be released in late 2012 in cinemas, and on television and DVD in early 2013.
Thank you, my dear wife, for coming to visit me and take care of me through this very challenging time. I so look forward to spending every day with you when I get home. Let people know how much I appreciate their letters, and I hope I can write back to them all eventually.
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MARC EMERY #40252-086
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