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MCSO Lessons in Charity

Here’s an interesting dichotomy: The sheriff, who is a purported proponent of charity, prohibits acts of charity among the inmates in his charge. It’s a rule—one I recently broke. I gave food to someone who was hungry. It wasn’t much, just a snack. Of course, this doesn’t make me a saint (not that there would be any confusion—many misguided souls believe I’m the devil incarnate). Who wouldn’t spare a little food for someone who was hungry? No-brainer there.

Yet true to the adage “No good deed goes unpunished,” my random act of kindness resulted in “restriction,” meaning no phone calls (except legal) and no canteen. The latter is where the crux of the irony lies. I chose to give food to someone who was hungry, and for that I was punished by being made to go hungry—on Thanksgiving, no less. For giving. Because my giving was in violation of a rule that at first blush seems absurd.

The rule was not created arbitrarily, however. Some inmates pass weapons or drugs. Others use canteen as currency, offering it as payment for pills, tattoos, and other unmentionables. Almost invariably, a fight breaks out on canteen day over someone failing to pay their debt. (You wouldn’t believe the drama that can escalate over a 75-cent bag of chips.) The rule was put in place to curtail, if only somewhat successfully, security risks such as these, not to keep hungry people hungry. But rather than split hairs and run the risk of showing bias, it’s a blanket rule that applies equally to everyone (in theory, not so much in practice).

Well, I can’t let someone go hungry if I’m in a position to help. I just can’t. I don’t like feeling hungry, do you? I love food. (I’m munching on a green apple as I write this.) Does this justify my breaking a rule? That would depend on whom you’re asking. Any officer with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), if going on the record, would tell you that breaking a rule, even one classified as “minor,” such as in this case, is never justified. Writer Martha Beck offers us a different perspective. In this quote, she very eloquently explains the state of my heart:

If everyone kept all the rules, we’d still be practicing cherished traditions like child marriage, slavery, and public hangings. The way humans become humane is by assessing from the heart, rather than the rule book, where the justice of a situation lies. Sometimes, you have to break the rules around you in order to keep the rules within you (my emphasis).

I’m not a rule-breaker by nature, but I sometimes go against the grain, even when it chafes. As the reality settled in that my giving in this instance would not lead to receiving, as karmic law says it should, but would lead to a loss, the seeming poetic injustice gave me pause. It was like anti-karma.

The Hearing Sergeant came to see me about the incident two days later, just as SRT (Special Response Team) was picking me up for court. Half-jokingly, one of the officers asked me, “What have you learned from this situation?” I’m sure this wasn’t the answer they were expecting, but the lesson was clear: “No charitable acts at Estrella.”

– Jodi Arias

Hate v. Jodi Arias

I’ve had many nicknames, but Travis was the first to make whore one of them. As exhibited in his G-chats and text messages to me, sometimes he even used modifiers such as “cheap whore” and “pure whore.” (I didn’t notice at the time I was pelted with it that the latter is an oxymoron.) When he would beat me down emotionally and spiritually with his verbal barbs, wounding in the way that only an aspiring motivational speaker could, the way that only a person who had my heart in his teeth could, he would use that word with such frequency that I began to believe him. He even called me that when he was being “nice” (also in one of his text messages).

His outbursts were always followed by an apology and a renewed determination to be better. I know he wouldn’t want to be remembered as someone who kept that word in his arsenal whenever the mood of misogyny struck. Apparently, this consideration is not important to those on social media who have christened me anew, combining “whore” and “Jodi” to make “Hodi.” This hybrid doesn’t bother me the way one might expect. Name-calling degrades and defines the person uttering the words more than it ever could the intended target.

What bothers—and really saddens—me isn’t being called a trashy name invented and used by trashy people, but that such people have now made this a part of Travis’ “legacy.” I know that if he knew how many people today perpetuate his worst self by sustaining this trend that he initiated, and that they do so in his “honor,” it would make him sad and ashamed. His dark side was only one aspect of himself, and closeted in the dark was where he wanted to keep it. (Sometimes, though it’s futile, I still wonder how different things would be if I had been allowed to go quietly off to prison for a long, long time rather than forced to trial, where the closet door was ripped off its hinges.)

But haters don’t care about what Travis would want.   Haters are not concerned about the high-minded ideals he espoused. Nor would they let a cause to which they give lip service stand in the way of the gratification only a hater can reap from gleeful expressions of hatred. Rather, they bear their torches in two ways: that of primitive witch-hunters (of course) and in the symbolic passing of the torch that keeps alive the memory of his worst self. They’ve made hate the hallmark of their support.

– Jodi Arias


Hypocrisy Never Ceases to Amuse Me

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are cautioned against becoming disheartened or jaded toward the Church over the bad behavior, hypocrisy, or outright judgmentalism of other members.  Even non-members are urged not to form opinions about Mormonism as a whole by basing them on the poor examples of the few.

Take Wendy Grant, for instance, who claims to be the “great X5 grand-daughter of the 7th President of the LDS Church, Heber J. Grant” and who wrote to tell me, among other things, exactly that.

-Wendy Grant - LDS postcard-


Indeed, Wendy was grafted onto the Grant family tree via adoption.  In the words she chose in her card to me (In case you can’t read her scrawl, she writes, “Get ready to die, you lying, evil, murderous slut.”), the amusing irony lies not only in her identifying with the LDS Church then summarily passing harsh judgment, but in the spirit of self-righteousness and condemnation that she assumes while citing her pseudo-lineage to a man who himself professed, “I have given much advice to the Latter-day Saints in my time, and one of the principal items was never to criticize anyone but ourselves (my emphasis).  President Grant also noted that “there is nothing that will bring more condemnation to us than to harden our hearts and to be bitter and vindictive in our feelings. . . .”  He also humbly proclaimed at the wise age of 81, “I have no animosity against any living soul.”  And his biological daughter Lucy once noted of her dad, “He never seems to bear malice.  He is bitter in his denouncement of sin, but to the sinner he is most merciful” (my emphasis).

            So it shouldn’t matter then to President Grant that his great, great, great, great, great granddaughter has taken the opposite tack.  Based on the legacy he left his progeny, Wendy can rest assured that he would love her just the same.

Wendy, great-grandpa X5 would be proud.

Clearly, Wendy holds herself in a position far holier than I.  I don’t blame her.  But I will close with a verse from what President Heber J. Grant described as “a very splendid and wonderful song,” titled—appropriately—“Should You Feel Inclined to Censure”:

And in self-judgment if you find

                        Your deeds to others’ are superior

                        To you has Providence been kind

                        And you should be to those inferior.

– Jodi Arias

To My Friends

(For this to be effective, you really must take a second or two to imagine each of the following.)

Imagine this for a moment: Someone publishes a book about you titled, “Exposed: The Secret Life of [Your Name Here].” Go ahead, imagine it. Say the title out loud with your first and last name.

Feels gross, doesn’t it?

This book is filled with nasty lies about you and half-truths distorted to make you look as inhuman and unsalvageably evil as possible. Imagine that in writing this book, the author (or her ghostwriter) consulted with a woman you once briefly knew years ago, who stopped being your friend for reasons so esoteric she sounds like she was reared in the Dark Ages – oh, but at the time those weren’t the reasons she gave you, so she either was dishonest then with you or is now with everyone else, but either way, her mission is to trash you.

Then imagine, if you will, that this book, filled with degrading, embarrassing, spurious details about you, however untrue, is dedicated to someone who used to bully, beat, and abuse you so copiously that your body, mind – especially your mind – and soul still bear the scars of these horrific experiences. Imagine also that a portion of the book’s sales are donated to a so-called “Legacy” fund bearing your abuser’s name and founded by people whose burning, twisted desire is to watch you die.

Now, there isn’t much you can do about this book except to mourn it as a tragic and unnecessary waste of trees and keep stepping.

But wait.

Now imagine this: I am your self-professed friend and supporter. But I buy this very book, “Exposed: The Secret Life of [Your Name Here],” thereby instead supporting all of the above and throwing money into the fund named in honor of your abuser and enriching the very people who want you dead.

How would my purchase make you feel? Hurt? Betrayed? Disgusted? Would you still consider me a friend?

– Jodi Arias

-This entry was originally posted October 12th, 2013-
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