(Author’s Note: Sources in this series confidential to protect their safety and privacy, and are each identified by a randomly chosen letter.)
(1) “G” — How America “forgot about” itself.
An American President, “Man, he can only do so much,” says “G,” an inmate in Ventress Prison.
“He’s voted in, too. You know. So, you know, he … goes about what they tell him to do,” he continues, adding, “A lot of the stuff that goes down in this world, nowadays — you know — the President already knows about, and he’s just letting it happen, because it’s out of his control.”
In the first weeks of June, 2020, Alabama prisoners discuss crises in America, President Trump, Democrats and Republicans, police brutality, protest, faith, the future of the country and world, and other relevant subjects. G has been in prison in Alabama for around four decades.
After a pause, G reflects, “You see, everybody thinks the President runs the world. But he don’t run the world — see — there’s people over him.”
He adds: “God owns the universe, but — you know — there’s people over all of us.”
G turns to the COVID/19 pandemic under the Trump Administration, a subject he’s raised in other interviews as well.
President Trump “knew … about this here [coronavirus] stuff — you know — but when Obama [left] Office, Trump got voted in, and fired all the people that Obama had in place to handle coronavirus.” (See here, and here)
Since Trump took Office, G observes about the Administration’s lack of staffing and funding to handle potential crises generally, “As far as that goes, there’s just no people [working on it], and that just messes everything up.”
G discusses how the country is doing in general, alongside the pandemic.
“Well, we’re going through a lot right now,” he says. “You know? We’re so busy trying to worry about other folks’ countries [that] now — you know — we’re going through something in our own country.”
In G’s view, “Ain’t nothing going to happen” in the future “that haven’t already happened, that God ain’t allow [to] happen. You know. We’ve just got to move straight forward, try to help one another out, man, and just be here for each other — you know.”
He reiterates: “Like I said, we’ve been so busy worrying about other things in the world, till we forgot about our own country.”
And “Now, it’s hitting us,” he adds. “So, we’ve got to be strong, and help each other.”
Asked if there’s anything about America that those incarcerated in its prisons understand, which those who haven’t been incarcerated may not, G explains, “Number one: Like, if you’ve never been to prison, there’s nothing — no way to describe anything like it [to someone who’s] never been there. You know?”
Secondly, he points out, there are “so many Blacks around the world that’s locked up, man, and just been railroaded through the courts, man. And some’re going to get help, and some ain’t. But all over the United States of America, man, they are locked up. For nothing.”
Asked the cause of this country’s treatment of its Black citizens, G again reiterates that the US “has been so worried about other countries, trying to tend to their business, we left our own back door open to — you know — something sickening.”
G believes “it took this here [pandemic] to bring the world together. See? God’s trying to bring everybody together.”
He adds: “God is trying to show us: ‘Hey, man, this ain’t our world.’ But he’s getting ready to destroy it, because he’s not going to let man destroy it. You know?”
He elaborates: “Basically — you know — we are trying to destroy the world. We are trying to destroy something that is not ours.”
Asked to say more, G explains that, “Number one: we wasn’t born in the world, was born of the world.”
“So,” he continues, “everything that’s going on now’s already been written in the Book of Revelations, everything that’s going to take place — you know: mommas going to be killing daughters; daddies going to be killing sons; nation going to turn against nation; countries going to be against countries.”
G concludes: “That’s all that’s going on… It all just repeats itself, and that’s all. God is on His way back to get the world, man.”
Zooming in on the nearer future, G comments on the next one or so years facing America:
“In the next year,” he says, “if we ain’t careful — you know — we can’t even think of it, of what tomorrow may bring. Only thing we can do is just live it one day at a time. You know. We might not be here to see…next year, which I sure hope I do.”
He adds: “But right now, man, we’re in a great depression. If we don’t slow down, man, and try to help the kids get different things, and try to help the state of the word out, man, then we are in a great depression.”
Asked his thoughts on Democrats, Republicans, and the political leadership of America in addition to President Trump, G begins, “Well, we need more younger people in leadership.”
G, middle aged, believes “younger people will have a better feel of what’s going on in the world than a lot of these older people that have been in leadership 15, 20, 30 years,” because “the world changes every day — you know — and we’ve got to change with the world, man.”
He adds that “what’s going on out there now, the protests [against racism and police brutality], we really needed that, man. And the thing I like about it the most is that the youngsters is getting involved. They are really, really learning what life is all about …They’re learning how to deal with life itself.”
G recently heard of “a 16 year old girl who spoke about the protests,” he recalls. “Man, she said: Why are we killing each other? You know? And she said: Why are the police killing us? I’m saying: Because that’s all they know.”
He adds that “a lot of people that join the police force — they’re not educated. You know? They don’t know how … to be a peaceful person.”
G believes that “to be anything in life, or in any type of leadership, you’ve got to be a people person.” By that, he says, “I mean you’ve got to be able to deal with all people, all nationalities, all cultures.”
Further, he comments on the role of big money in politics.
“Well,” G explains, “money rules the world. You know? Money’s the root of all evil. The rich want to get richer, but the rich are going to make the poor poorer.”
He pauses, then notes, “Man, everybody that’s got money, has power.”
G remembers a song by the 1980’s group, The O’Jays:
“They made a song a long time ago — I don’t know whether you know anything about the O’Jays or not — but, anyway, they made a song … called, ‘For the Love of Money’ — Don’t let money change you. But shiiit, man, if only we’d get a lil’ money, the first thing we’d do is change, just forget all about where we come from, who we is, all that shit.”
G says the movies Scarface and American Gangster also illustrate how money causes Americans to forget who they are and where they came from.
“Money Money Money,” the O’Jays song famously begins:
Some people got to have it
Some people really need it
Listen to me, why y’all, do things, do things, do bad things with it
You want to do things, do things, do things, good things with it
I know money is the root of all evil
Do funny things to some people
Give me a nickel, brother can you spare a dime
Money can drive some people out of their minds
Got to have it, I really need it
How many things have I heard you say
Some people really need it
How many things have I heard you say
The song ends:
People! Don’t let money, don’t let money change you.
It will keep on changing, changing up your mind.