Whitman and George Jung

On his way out the door, transferred to the Federal Prison in El Paso, George Jung handed me a note, winked, and allowed himself to be escorted out by a phalanx of inmates now armed with a story for their grandchildren, i.e., ‘the day I carried George Jung’s bags’ – a fact George was well aware of, hence the wink.

The note was this:

NOTHING EXTERNAL TO ME,
HAS ANY
POWER OVER ME.

                                                                                            Walt Whitman

At this point George had been incarcerated for some fifteen (?) years, and faced another seven, yet he not only believed, fully, in Whitman’s wonderfully terse interpretation of Emerson, he embraced it. That he took the time to hand me this on his way to one of the most humiliating, degrading, physically painful, draining experiences one can endure in the Federal system (not to exclude life in general) says much about the man ….. and probably me as well, for I needed the reminder and George knew it.

Despite the fact I carry this slip of paper with me, I still read it a few times a week, strive to make it my reality, think of George and where I’ve been and ……………….. live.

I’ve needed this reminder more than once, as my next post, my visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles will attest.

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