John Forte for The Huffington Post: I Am Not a Victim

October 27th, 2011

The Huffington Post
October 27, 2011
by, John Forte

I am not a victim. At least, that is what I told myself during the seven years that I sat in federal prison. When my 14-year sentence (for a first-time, non-violent drug offense) was commuted by President George W. Bush in 2008, my new life began. After enduring forced separation from my loved ones, suffering the doldrums of solitude, and witnessing abject abuses of power, I returned home with a new perspective. I saw things differently, strove to acknowledge and respect the details in the moment, and aimed to shed light where the darkness pervaded. I wanted to create something beautiful… every day!

These goals were not easy to attain. I quickly learned that discipline is required to remember the motives that inspire the desire for a better quality of living.

“Do not forget where you have been,” I reminded myself. “Do not forget what you have seen. And, most important, do not forget the good people you met along the way — good people who made poor choices and learned from those missteps; good people who are not as fortunate to see the other side of captivity.”

Upon my return to the “free world,” there were calls for me to represent my prison time as if it were a badge of honor, or worse, some sort of rite of passage. My friends (my brothers) and I, who were sentenced to decades or more, never felt cool. Not one day. We writhed over the music that glorified our demises — the messages that infected the ears of the babies (our little brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters) who looked up to us, the occupiers of the belly of a dysfunctional system.

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