Dear Mr. Fountain, I am ‘on lock’
By JOHN W. FOUNTAIN October 10, 2013 8:02AM
Updated: November 11, 2013 12:19PM
A letter from a thirtysomething incarcerated brother reads: “Dear Mr. Fountain, Greetings of peace and blessings! This message is being forwarded to you by my sister as I’m currently ‘on lock’ and have no email access. In a way, she is responsible for this letter as she purchased the Sun-Times subscription for me that led to me reading your article entitled, ‘Dear Incarcerated Brother: Hang on.’
“…I wanted to contact you personally to express my appreciation wholeheartedly for taking the time out of your busy schedule to send an open letter and reach out to those of us who more often than not are lost and forgotten behind these walls.
“I’ve been incarcerated since the age of 21 for first-degree murder. Your article spoke volumes to me and resonated far beyond just some ink in a newspaper column. You spoke about the cycle of ghetto madness and growing up in a hopeless environment, fatherless and in poverty like many of us in the ’hood.
“You also mentioned perhaps suffering from survivor’s guilt. With all due respect, I must disagree. I believe you know the struggle firsthand and so you used your platform to reach back and speak to those without a voice. You delivered a message of hope to the hopeless. That is not survivor’s guilt. That is you not forgetting where you came from and that’s just real.
“You wrote that if your letter reaches just one of us then it was well worth the ink... Well, I am one of many who appreciate your thoughts and prayers. We commend you and salute you and truly thank you!
“I’ll keep you and yours in my prayers.”
And I will keep you in mine, my brother. Keep the faith.
Another reader writes, “Mr. Fountain, I have enjoyed reading your column in the Sun-Times, but in today’s column you used the sentence, ‘their dead body hurled into the back of a paddy wagon like road kill.’
“I assume that you are not aware that the term ‘paddy wagon’ is an ethnic slur directed at the Irish. The police squadrol was nicknamed paddy wagon in the early 20th century because it was used to haul the Irish to jail, hence it was always filled with ‘Paddys.’
“I would hope in the future that a writer with your expansive vocabulary would refrain from using slurs in your column. Thank you for letting me vent.”
You assume correctly. I was not aware of the meaning or origin of that term beyond it being the name merely used to refer to that particular police vehicle. I certainly meant no offense.
Never too late to learn. So noted.
Another reader writes in response to last week’s column encouraging young people to choose honest hard work over drug dealing and violence, “My heart aches every time I learn of another life ending too soon.
“I am a 75-year-old great-grandmother who grew up in a South Side housing project. My parents had seven daughters who learned that you must: attend school; get a job; attend church (and we did)!
“I grew up in a society where people cared for one another. We shared each other’s pain and celebrated others’ success. …Thank you for reaching out. It’s not in vain. Somebody’s listening.”
It’s good to know that somebody out there’s listening. Just know that I am, too. Thank you.