We Shall Overcome: My reaction to reading a poem by John Rohrer

Those of you who have been following my various activities may know that I put up a site called freejohnrohrer.org a while back. John has been stuck in a state hospital in Ohio for an unbelievable amount of time. I put up the site because the state hospital no longer allows John to do anything online. The state caught wind of his human rights activism and decided to put an end to it. Of course! We know all about how these institutions operate. Patients don’t have rights.

John’s mother, Katherine Hine, sent me an e-mail last night. In it was a poem John had written. She told me that John had asked her if I could put this poem up on the site. I picked up Katherine’s e-mail this morning. I wrote back, asking her if the poem had a title and for a date. While awaiting a response, I went back to my work on another project. I didn’t think about it much. My mind was in a zillion directions today.

After I heard back from Katherine, I put the poem up on the site. Then, I slowly read John’s words:

Cogs in the machine know purpose,
Stuck in their essential place.
Potential is subverted by the fit they can’t escape.

I read it again. Slowly. I imagined hearing John’s voice reading these words. Then, I imagined how it would feel to read these words aloud to an audience. I am a person who thrives on the open mic experience. I always loved reading aloud. Stage fright was never much of a problem for me. I always figured that this was due to my extensive musical past. Of course, that was all long ago.

Cogs in the machine. Listen to me. I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks. I wish I could shake every person and get the damned cotton out of their ears and take the blinders off their eyes. Do you know what is happening right now?

The world ain’t so safe anymore. You can hide behind those TV screens and commercialism, believe what their money is telling you, and do all the feelgood you want. You can stay a sheeple. If you continue to buy into staying satisfied, then you buy into slavery to the system. Are you going to stay silent any longer? Or are you going to dare to speak out?

Thing is, satisfaction may seem cozy, and you may like it well enough, but you’re satisfied at the expense of others who are being tortured as we speak. Those in state hospitals aren’t bad people. Anyone can end up there for random reasons.

Do you recall Gloria, who ended up in a state hospital in New Jersey for purely random reasons? This was bad luck, guys. This had nothing to do with morality. This had nothing to do with illness. Nothing. She was in a group home and one day, she refused to take a shower due to sanitation issues. They assumed “poor self care” and wouldn’t even listen to her side. She was put in a state hospital. She lost her bed in the group home. One day, another patient attacked and blinded her. She’s so traumatized that she’s been reduced to a childlike state. Folks, is this a person who is a criminal who “deserved” something like this?

Guess what? There are no criminals. There is only bad luck.

We all need to approach those we have assumed were bad people and ask, “What happened?” No, don’t demand, “What the hell is WRONG with you?” but “What happened?”

You may be surprised at the answer. There are no bad people.

It is my dream that we end imprisonment and labeling. There is no place for psych labeling. It only does people a disservice. If you go along with it, you are condoning what eventually ends up being imprisonment and torture of people who have done nothing wrong. Do you really want to support this? Or do you support change?

I get so frustrated and I often wish I could talk sense into people. I suppose I need to be patient. I used to believe “diagnosis,” too. I’d swear by it and fight for it. I often felt defensive over my position. But those days seem so long ago. Now, I am fighting the exact opposite, and will die for what I believe in.

Feedback and comments welcome!