A Call to Arms
In a country founded upon the principle of equality for all, no longer do I have the feeling of being an equal. My name is Christopher Jones, and I am a person. I am not an eloquent speaker; therefore I convey my message in writing. I call upon the people of the world to do what they know is right, to look beyond the past and towards future possibilities. If you would lend me your ears and open your minds, I would like to share my story with you.
Growing up I was a fun loving child without a care in the world. I had a decent upbringing with great parents who looked after me in every way possible. My needs were attended to so that I would never go without the necessities of life. Indeed I had more than I even needed. In the early parts of high school I excelled in my classes, always achieving honor roll grades. I participated in extracurricular activities with the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. I became the co-commander of the drill team, president of our Kitty Hawk Air Society chapter, and a member the model rocketry club.
Today, I enjoy doing much the same things as any other person would do in their spare time: surfing, snowboarding, listening to music, watching movies, playing video games, and browsing the net. I get a great feeling of joy from being able to help people around the world with their problems, be they technological or just life in general. I like to share my experiences with others in hopes to make a difference in their lives. All in all, I am a well-rounded person, but I can’t get a job.
“Why is that?” you may ask yourself. I certainly seem to be a well educated, decent human being, completely competent of fulfilling the duties necessary in any job. What you don’t know yet is that I have a criminal record. My crimes were all a result of a huge problem with drugs and alcohol, a part of my life which has been left in the past. Those were dark times in my life to which I have no desire to return. I cannot describe the pain and suffering that I endured during those years. I admit that what I did was morally and legally wrong, and for that I am truly sorry. I have spent two years of my life within the confines of a room with no knob. I have reformed my life, my thinking and my behavior. No longer do I drink or do drugs; I have been clean for almost three and a half years now. As a result of leaving the high life behind, there is no longer a reason for me break the law. Even though my debt to society had been paid and my life has turned around, my past still haunts me today.
Since my release from prison on Independence Day, 2006, I have been making huge strides towards a better life for myself. I have been through three semesters in community college, concentrating on getting an associates degree in computer networking. I paid for my education, rent, power, internet and phone bills with very minimal contributions from my parents. I struggled like many people to make ends meet with a low paying temporary job, working over forty hours a week at times.
Rarely did I miss a day of work while I was with Future Foam. Since I had lost my drivers license for a DUI, I needed a way to get around legally. My parents were kind enough to buy me a 50cc scooter, and for that I am grateful. That bike became my form of transportation everywhere, regardless of the weather. If it was raining in sheets and the drops hit my face like a thousand needles… still I rode. If the ground was freshly laden with snow and ice … still I rode. If it was a hundred degrees and the sweat dripped off my skin… still I rode. There was a job to be done and bills to be paid, so I did what it took to make those ends meet. When it was over a hundred degrees in the back of a trailer, I continued to work. I worked to the point of heat exhaustion, and I continued to work. I was constantly praised by my team leader, Monty, and my supervisor, John, as being a great and dependable worker they knew they could count on. But things did not work out with
I had been working with Future Foam for nearly a year, and saw other employees with lesser longevity getting hired full time. I asked John why that was, and expressed my interest to become a full time employee with the company. He agreed to discuss the issue with the general plant manager. I was excited at the prospect of having a full time job. Finally after months of waiting, the bad news had arrived. I was told I was not eligible to be hired as a full time employee because of my criminal record. It was against company policy they told me, regardless of how good a worker I was.
Off then I set – in search of a company that would hire me on, despite what I have done in the past. I thought I had it made when the college I was attending posted a part time job opening for a computer savvy person. I had my interview with Mrs. Kirby-Smith and agreed to start the next day. A week later I heard the news that my background check had bounced. It was just no good they said, there was nothing they could do. It was simply against company policy. Even though Mrs. Kirby-Smith knew how good a worker I was, she simply could not help me. How irritating it was that the very school which I put faith in to educate me, did not see fit to have faith in their student! My search began anew, and I just knew that there had to be someone out there who was willing to give me a chance.
Nonetheless, any time that I apply for a job –and am lucky to get an interview– I am immediately turned down for the job when the hiring manger learns of my past transgressions. I get the overwhelming sensation that people view me as a plague upon this planet. I sense that they want nothing to do with me. For an entire year now I have endured this type of existence, hoping that somebody, anybody out there would have even a shred of decency within them, to show compassion for another human being, and allow them a chance to live as an equal. Yet time and time again, I am practically shoved out of the door with the phrase “sorry, we don’t have any positions available to satisfy your needs.” I become sick to my stomach at the thought that my past transgressions have somehow placed me in a different class of people, whose needs are different than everyone else. How can my needs as a person be any different than theirs?
It is during these times of feeling oppressed that I am reminded of “Kids and Heroes” by the Bouncing Souls. The two verses that always stick out in my mind go as follows: “There are only a few things that really belong to me; Who I am, who I was, and who I want to be”. These lyrics speak volumes and show that a person is not always the same as they once were. I started life out as decent person with direction in my life, only to fall short into a world of turmoil. I lived life for a few years without regard for others. I was a selfish person and took every thing for granted. I overcame a great many obstacles already and have turned my life around. I now live life with a purpose and never take things for granted any more. It pains me greatly to see others go through the same situations as me. I currently work with other alcoholics and addicts in attempts to help them find a joyful life in recovery such as I have. I want to become a more positive member in society, to be a part of something bigger than myself. But in a world that seems so quick to turn its back on others because of a few bad decisions, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so.
Any time a person sees there is a flaw in the system, one must endeavor to do something about it. This is my call to arms against fear and oppression. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior once said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I invoke the memory of a great man who helped paved the way for multi racial equality in hopes that you will see where we have failed to carry out equality in its fullest. Does the fact that I have a criminal record make me any less of a person, or less worthy than the next? People make bad decisions every day, some bigger than others. But we learn and we grow from them. We become better, stronger people than we started out. I call upon people to cast away this phobia of “once a criminal always a criminal” and to do what you know is right. Look beyond that piece of paper. Get to know the person behind it and you may be surprised at what you learn. I and others like me may be the best thing to happen in your life, if you would simply give us the chance.