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The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most catastrophic events of our time. Social distancing  became the norm and people took that and became anti-social. 

Masks cover up the emotion on our faces so that everywhere you look, you see angry eyes and not a smile in sight. Who exactly is to blame? Old president, new president or political warfare at its finest? I am inclined to go with the latter, but what is the opinion of a prisoner if not ill-informed? 

While the world has been scrambling to adhere to social distancing standards, we in prison are professionals. Go here, do that, stop there, yes ma’am, no sir and 23-hour lockdowns — all in a day’s work. 

We have no social media to get likes and little funding for college. We only have 15-inch TVs to keep us up to date on the madness unfolding in a world that is largely forgotten to us. Forced into this world by the distracted decisions of our own doing, the pandemic for us is just another day. 

For me it was a chance, an opportunity to take advantage of this time to get to know myself inside and out. Writing about my past, deciphering it through the lenses of transformation and sobriety, have helped me to find freedom at a time when most people were in great despair.

When and where did it all go wrong? 

Time spent alone without work, trips and appointments to distract us used to be considered peace of mind. Now it is this same silence that wages a war in the minds of Americans, revealing all of our flaws and deficiencies. The pandemic caused human “doings” to become human beings for the first time in so long that the change of pace shocked the world. 

This pandemic has us pointing the finger at each other. The red party is to blame, the blue party is to blame, he is to blame, they are to blame — all the while we have ceased to learn about one another, to do our part in ending the cycle once and for all.  

The vaccine and this pandemic are weapons of political warfare that served only one clear purpose: confusing uninformed American people into picking sides rather than saving lives.

Who truly is to blame for the circumstances of our own life? While it feels so much easier to pick a political figure or a viral infectious disease, this will not help us in our journey to pursue happiness. 

While I wish I could go back, save my father from his overdose death, stop myself from using drugs and committing inexcusable crimes, I can not. I can no more change my past than we can eradicate COVID-19. 

What we can do is take responsibility for our lives and learn about each other for a more harmonious future. 

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

C.R. Addleman is a writer incarcerated at Centinela State Prison in California.