MY BROTHER'S KEEPER

by Peter Herman

A religious outlook is not necessary to appreciate biblical wisdom. Irrespective of religious belief, we are indeed responsible for our brothers. To act otherwise diminishes our humanity. This is the reason I have chosen "My Brother's Keeper" as the title for a prison column appearing in The NAMBLA Bulletin. What follows is an amalgam of some recent articles.

These whimsical lyrics from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado express in jest what has always been a brutal fact. The weak and disenfranchised make convenient scapegoats when those in power need them. The question for us should be, do we remain weak and outcast? Do we allow ourselves to be missed by no one? It is only when the disenfranchised adopt a sense of community that they begin to gain credibility. It is only then that the grand inquisitors think twice about community members never being missed.

Imprisoned boy-lovers are an essential part of our community. For the most part, they are incarcerated under laws that are inhumane and that defy common sense. To ignore our imprisoned brothers is to give credence to attacks on our identity as boy lovers.

Pen Pals

NAMBLA has had a prison program since its beginning. An essential part of the program has been the fostering of pen pals. Communications between those incarcerated and those who are free is an essential element in building community. The need for additional pen pals is great. Please volunteer to be one. You will be rewarded with an experience likely to be very enriching. To volunteer, address your letters to:

or e-mail to        arnoldschoen@yahoo.com   .

As badly as we need pen pal volunteers, we do require that as a minimum commitment you be or become a member of NAMBLA. If you are determined to become a pen pal and there are overriding reasons preventing you from becoming a member, let us know your reasons.

It is possible that some reading this column may have already expressed their intentions to volunteer. Because administering the program is so overwhelming, it is not always possible to answer people quickly. Some letters can fall through the cracks. For this reason, you are urged to write again if you do not get an answer in a reasonable time. The struggle is hard, so be persistent.

Greeting Cards

This past Christmas, with the help of volunteers, every prisoner in our program received a number of holiday cards. The moral uplift that these greetings provided cannot be overestimated. The enormous effect of these small gestures is a measure of how little imprisoned boy-lovers have. The following note from an Alabama prisoner is typical of the appreciation expressed. "I was ecstatic to receive your letter today. Also, I am most appreciative of the Xmas cards. Because of you, I am indeed going to have a merry X-mas after all. Now I know that there are people out there who care."

When holiday seasons pass, the bleak reality of prison life for our incarcerated brothers returns with a vengeance. While some will have had a bit of turkey and cranberry sauce doled out to them in their institution's perfunctory gesture of seasonal good will, most will not have received so much as a kind word from unforgiving family members. There is something you can do to ease the pain.

If you missed the opportunity to send holiday greeting cards and do not feel that you are ready to make a commitment beyond sending such cards, there is still a way you can participate. Let me know if you are willing to send birthday or special event cards to participating prisoners. Supportive communications with imprisoned comrades tell the world that jailing people for loving, consensual acts is barbaric and unacceptable.

Talents

The job has barely begun. We are just tipping our toes in the water. There is a rich vein of untapped intellectual resources among imprisoned boy-lovers. Among them are artists, writers, philosophers, technicians. We who are free are best positioned to mine their talents for the good of our community. Writing to a prisoner can enrich the lives of both participants and create a synergy that will advance our cause. To this end our need for more volunteers to be pen pals is insatiable.

Contributions

Financial contributions to the prison program are always welcome. Some prisoners can hardly afford the cost of mailing a letter. A number of others who are in slightly better circumstances have themselves sent in stamps to help out the less fortunate. We must value these gestures of generosity for the commitment and strength of will they represent. Many in prison are potentially our greatest activists. Let's help them realize their potentials.

Stay in Touch

Suggestions for improving our prison information are always welcome. If you wish to be contacted about prison issues, send me your e-mail address.

Contact me at  arnoldschoen@yahoo.com .

If you prefer regular mail, write me at    Arnold Schoen, 537 Jones St. No. 8418, San Francisco, CA 94102.

If a response is not immediately forthcoming, don't take no for an answer. Remember that things can fall through the cracks. After a reasonable time, write again. The prison program is an overwhelming job, and mail tends to get backed up. So friendly reminders are always useful.

Most of all, get involved. The journey which we undertake may not reach its destination within our lifetimes. Let us nevertheless make the endeavor one of heroic proportions that enriches all of our lives.

Things You Can Do:

Copyright © NAMBLA, 2010. All rights reserved.