Most of us have at least heard of fractals: a special type of mathematical formula that creates an endlessly repeating pattern. I am no mathematician, but I can grasp the amazing graphics that can result – graphics that have allowed the creation of incredibly realistic computer-generated flora and fauna for use in movies and games. You can look at the larger pattern on the graphic, then zoom in and discover the same pattern on a smaller part. Zoom in again, and see another repetition… and so on.
What does this have to do with our Cause? Well, a federal prisoner I know (I’ll call him “Nathan”) has been working hard on the inside helping to build up a continuing education program there. He’s a math geek, and has been applying this knowledge to some business classes he’s begun to teach. A natural teacher, he gets a real thrill when some bit of knowledge sinks in, the proverbial “light bulb” clicks on, and somebody really gets what he is saying.
Nathan and I were talking about his eventual release – still almost three years away – and how important it was to be moving toward not only that longed-for moment, but day-to-day survival and success thereafter. He has been taking classes himself, some for credit, many a part of the continuing education efforts there, with a special focus on business and economics.
Nathan can tell which inmates have set a goal for themselves and are making plans, and which are just marking time. He tells me those with goals are doing far better inside… Not that prison is ever FUN, Nathan points out, but there are infinite possibilities within that confined space. “Like a compound fractal,” he quipped, referring to living on the compound, and fractals’ endless patterns.
I laughed at the geekiness of it, but the term stuck with me long after our conversation was over.
RSOL struggles to get registered citizens involved in activism on their own behalf. I think one reason for this is their sense of limited possibilities – limited hope. Registration is for life for many. They constantly hear – and believe – “your life is over.”
Your life will never be the same. Many things will be hard. But there ARE possibilities, limited only by your willingness to stand up and take charge of making them happen. Registered Citizens across this country are finding and KEEPING jobs, launching businesses, and some have even begun hiring other registrants! They are stepping forward and speaking out about unconstitutional, expensive, ineffective and harmful laws, and (with the help of a qualified attorney) filing civil rights challenges that will benefit scores of other registrants.
Our Nebraska group posted “A Registered Citizen’s Manifesto” this past year, which I love. Our Maryland support groups have taken it up and repeat it at each meeting. It says in part,
- I refuse to believe there is nothing I can do. I refuse to whine.
- I refuse to be silent in the face of state-sanctioned hatred, in the face of laws designed to destroy me and my family….
- If no one will hire me, I will create my own work….
- If no one will rent to me, then I will learn how to create my own shelter.
- If no one will help me, then I will learn to be independent…
RSOL is only the beginning of that magical “fractal” for change. We attempt to set goals in motion that will create change all the way down the line. But building that pattern requires each one of us at least in some small way to take part in the formula.
The result will be something of beauty, something that will last and repeat and change the future for us and for those who come after us.
Brenda Jones, Executive Director