An Open Letter From Sean Swain

The following is a letter Rachel Allshiny recently received from Sean Swain, an anarchist prisoner who is behind bars indefinitely, after she sent him a copy of her Suicide Girls blog post on prisoner support work.

11 SEP 13

Allshiny + Everyone –

I got your 28 AUG letter.

As you’ll note from my address, I’m now at Ohio’s super-duper-über-mega-ultra-max. It’s a program for scientifically disassembling human personalities.

I seem to be getting my mail. It seems to be timely too. Here, I’m getting zines and other reading materials. I’ve been here 2 weeks, however, and still do not have a large box of my legal documents + addresses + writings, etc.

Having read your article again just now, I see a pattern. The fascists fear ideas. Ideas on paper. Mark’s. Mine. That speaks to the poverty of their own dysfunctional ideology and the unsustainable system it creates.

Rehabilitation: They kick us in the head until we get dumber. 🙂

Another pattern I see. You mentioned that Mark looked skinnier. A year ago, I weighed 215 pounds. I now weigh 151. I’ve lost 14 pounds in the last 2 weeks here at the super-duper-über-mega-ultra-max. I’ve been hungry since August. 🙂

Something I really don’t understand about what’s going on with Mark (and also with my situation). An anarchist is one who rejects hierarchy. It is a belief. Really, it’s an acceptance of provable, demonstrable data that hierarchy doesn’t work.

Anarchist literature + symbols are expressions of those who accept the truth that hierarchy doesn’t work as advertised.

What interest do the fascists have in punishing a community of people for knowing something that’s true?

Mark and I do not like hierarchy. Do the hierarchs imagine we’ll like them better after they torture us??? And I imagine this again speaks to the poverty of hierarchy. Hierarchs only know how to punch, bomb, torture, kick, punish, tame, train, deprive, tear-gas, bludgeon, starve… “Act like you like us…OR ELSE…” 🙂 Like an all-powerful, petulant child.

You 23 AUG 13 article is a masterpiece. Really awesome. You feel the pain you witness, and you convey that pain + your sense of urgency very well. It’s really a moving piece. So I want to thank you for sending that, and for all that you’re doing for Mark.

I too hope Mark focuses on documenting his experiences. Something I’ve been thinking about for is a series of telephone interviews. That may be an option for Mark too. Audio files.

Not everyone writes. Not everyone reads.

Having read your article, there’s an observation I want to share with you. It takes a lot of courage to be so connected in the suffering of others. It takes a real fearlessness. The natural instinct is to close off oneself and erect barriers for self-protection. It is a real gift to feel as deeply as you do. But it is also a very difficult way to go. Don’t let it destroy you.

Some of what the fascists do, they create a situation as you aptly observed where every moment is a crisis. They create a situation of long-term intolerable trauma + keep changing the conditions, making it impossible for you to stay on top of it – every update is outdated, every effort addresses events already changed. They do this as much wear you down as to wear down Mark.

They don’t fear Mark or me or any prisoner. They fear us as members of a larger struggle. They fear us working with you. In my situation, when they found out about the website, they subjected me to torture + even now hold me hostage in an effort to get supporters to shut the site down. If I have anything to say about it, that will never happen.

There’s a line by Thoreau in Civil Disobedience where he describes the state as children who have a grudge against someone so, unable to reach him, they kick his dog. 🙂 That’s what the state does. The state has no grudge against my body. Its principle annoyance is my mind. But they can’t get to that, so they feebly attack what they can reach. It serves no good end for them. Even as they subject the body to more + more deprivations, my ideas follow out behind them and drift above the concertina wire + get posted on-line, and end up in the hands of others.

Even if we accept the state’s story, that it actually believes that I was a creator of the Army of the 12 Monkeys, their manuals are on-line + can be accessed thru Hundreds of people have printed off copies of their training manuals. How does it serve the state’s interests to lock me in a shoebox when I’ve never been on-line in the first place?

The state kicks the dog.

So, what I recognize is that we’re dealing with an enemy that is irrational, not very bright, and in control of Apache helicopters. 🙂 It’s like being locked in a room with a cannibal. You don’t really have a hell of a lot of options. 🙂

But that’s not to say that it’s hopeless. It’s not. We only live once, as far as we know, so we have to make that life count for something. We also only die once, so we also have to make that death count for something. If we can live with purpose and die with purpose, what more could we ask for?

The enemy loses. But the enemy is doomed to lose because the enemy can only kill the body. It can only defeat the carcass. And in every conflict, the enemy reveals its true character.

Do you know what a dent you kicked in the system by humanizing Mark? Or the value of my friends’ work in documenting what happened to me? The enemy loses control of the narrative. Others recognize who the real bad guy is. Then you have another dozen Mark Neiweems being inspired.

A great tide is turning.

Don’t lose hope.

We own the future.

Thank you for writing. I hope to hear back from you.

Stay dangerous.


Write to Sean:

Sean Swain 243-205
Ohio State Penitentiary
878 Coitsville-Hubbard Rd
Youngstown, OH 44505

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