Pragmatic Brutality

     Let me tell you, when the US Marshals transport prisoners, it’s like some sort of surreal dystopian nightmare. From the private prison in Pahrump, Nevada, they bussed me out to Victorville, California. That’s where I got on a 737 and flew to the BoP prison in Oklahoma City.

     Victorville was unbelievable. It still feels like a dream. We left Pahrump, Nevada in the middle of the night, then drove a long flat straight road all night until the sunrise painted the desert red and orange. But it was like I was waking up to another dream.

     The whole place literally looked like an atomic bomb had gone off. Seriously! There was not one single blade of grass, not one single bush, or tree, or cactus. It was an empty Mars-scape. There was just one black road, cutting through the red, empty, lifeless dirt. The sun wasn’t its usual color. The sky wasn’t even blue, it was sort of a hazy chemical yellow.

     At first I thought maybe it was just an odd weather day. But that would not explain the absence of plant life. Then we pulled up to the Victorville prison. It stood there like a moon-base, three stories tall, made entirely of cold stone-grey concrete that contrasted with it’s dusty red surroundings so much so that it made you blink and look again. It looked like it could probably survive an atomic blast. But at the same time it made you wonder if you wouldn’t be better off to be nuked than to be entombed in that gray monolithic shrine of a prison.

      As I was pondering this strange sight, the bus came up over the top of a bluff, and there, sprawled out as far as I could see was a sea of house shells. They looked like rows of dead, dry, parched corn. The doors and windows were all gone. They were just empty husks. The weaker walls were inexplicably missing too. Only a few structural walls, chimneys, and other solid pieces were still standing. It looked like something had eaten these former homes down to the bone. The sagging roofs, with their tattered shingles, reminded me of when I, as child, found a dry husk of a dead cow in a field. Half sunken into the earth, it’s dry harry hide stretched over its bleached white ribs, as if to provide shelter for the airy emptiness that now filled its chest cavity. That’s how this place felt — empty, totally empty. There was nothing but searing-hot apocalyptic silence.

      We pulled up to an enormous runway where a camouflaged jet fighter was parked. Its stone-faced pilot wore a white helmet with a gold visor as he sat in the caustic sun, canopy up, waiting motionless, for who-knows-what. The US Marshals landed in their grungy old unmarked 737, and pulled right up to our bus. These are the slave ships of our day. It came slowly to a halt, the steps lowered down with a clunky thud, and the Marshals poured out of it like angry ants pour out of an anthill. They fanned out in all directions with assault rifles and bullet-proof plate carriers. In chains, I stepped off the bus and stood still and tall, looking into the hot blast of the wind. There was no blowing sand in it. There was no moisture or scent in it. It was nothing at all. It was just the hot breath of a dead planet.

      Under the gun, us prisoners were loaded on the plane like nameless cargo. We were raw humanity being bought, sold, and moved in bulk. Despite the cruelty of the whole scene, the Marshals didn’t exude hate. They didn’t exude anything at all. They were Romans, and this was Roam, reborn. Like all good Romans, the Feds have built their empire on the pragmatic brutality that is the most highly prized virtue of The City On Seven Hills. It is not the brutality that is found in the heat of passionate rage. That would be far too human. Their’s is the brutality that will line 200 miles of road with crucified people every 10 paces, because the cost of the wood, nails and man-hours to crucify that many people is cheaper than the extra work of administering a city where the people are not shell shocked into compliance. It’s the cold, calculated brutality that goes by the numbers alone. It’s the brutality that can not understand leaving ninety nine sheep to rescue one. It’s the brutality born of believing that God is dead, and man is heir to His throne. It’s the brutality that results when the only standard of right and wrong is the standard the government writes for itself. There is no room for love, or compassion, or meaning in a mind like that.

But their brutal dream world is a dream indeed. Because in reality, the King is NOT dead. He is alive and well. And he is the author of all events, both bitter and sweet. He is weaving the strands together into cords of deeply poetic meaning. This is why it is right to leave ninety nine sheep to rescue one. Because this life is not a random ball of chance, terrorized by the odds; it’s an epic saga written and directed by a poetic King who attends to every detail. But until we trust the director, we can not enjoy or appreciate or even understand the theatrical nature of this life.

— Schaeffer Cox 12-25-19

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One Comment

  1. Lesley
    January 12, 2020
    Reply

    You are a wordsmith sir. I am so deeply moved by Life at this moment. I sit in a horror so grand, I am only just now able to see the beauty in this elaborate dance. Thank you.
    Lesley

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