What would it feel like to go to jail for more than 20 years? How would the world change around you? Would you yearn to go back "inside" to regain a sense of "normalcy?"
I had an acquaintance who "went away" for some time. When he got back to the "real world" my acquaintance continued to wash his clothes in either the sink or the bathtub. For several months, he would sleep on the floor, as opposed to the bed, because it felt more "comfortable." He never mentioned anything about conservative talk radio and Fox News. My acquaintance was more fascinated by computers and changes in music editing technology.
But then again, this was back in the late 1990s before Right-wing epistemic closure had a not insignificant choke hold on a good percentage of the American people.
The American electorate is highly polarized. We are not talking to each other across lines of party and ideology. The inability of Congress to function properly reflects this fact; the Tea Party GOP's efforts to rig the electoral college in order to subvert the people's will is a symptom of both a disconnect between the General Will, as well as a highly partisan and dysfunctional party system.
Is the American political system so broken that an ex-convict is the truth-teller, a Rip Van Winkle of sorts, who is best able to call out what ills American politics? Apparently, Michael Santos escaped the metaphorical cave: during his 25 year bid, the rest of us in the "free world" actually became the troglodytes.
From Slate's interview with Michael Santos, as featured in the piece, "How Is Life Outside After Being in Prison for Over 20 Years?":
Do you consider the world has gone mad?
Politically, there seems to be a lot more divisiveness in the country. We did not have the “fair-and-balanced” services of Fox news when I began serving my sentence, and back then, the invective of AM hate radio had not yet begun. The political fights in the media sound somewhat crazy. Even though I realize those fights cater to fanatics and they’re in the business of selling advertising, it surprises me that citizens don’t see how a reluctance to work together tears our country apart. From that perspective, aspects of the world do indeed seem a bit out of sorts.
But even though the world is different from the time before my troubles with the criminal justice system, I wouldn’t characterize the world as having gone mad. It’s just different. I was born in 1964, and I grew up during a time when we were in a Cold War but celebrating peace, for the most part.
Soon after my imprisonment began, the Cold War ended and a hot war began in the Middle East. That violence brought a lot of change. Suddenly the military was very active, and now our country pays a new price for that activity. Thousands of young men and women have gone off to fight, and when they returned, many veterans found that they didn’t have as much support as it would seem that they needed. That’s kind of sad, but an inevitable result of so much divisiveness that presides over our country.
The political divisiveness doesn’t make much sense to me. I am biased of course, because I served so much time in prison. But I see the criminal justice system as a national disgrace. It costs citizens billions to support, but it perpetuates cycles of failure. Even though scientific evidence shows that investment in education does far more to lower recidivism rates than warehousing human beings, the system keeps growing, locking more people in cages under harsher conditions. No one seems to care that prison budgets grow at unprecedented rates while funds for social services like education, social services, and health care suffer. So yes, from that perspective, that does seem as if the world has gone mad.