A contemplative Buddhist monk wrote me about Saint Badass. He gave me permission to print his comments, but living in a monastery he asked to remain anonymous:
“I find Saint Badass particularly poignant as I grew up in Arkansas with the shadow of the Arkansas penitentiaries in the background. The worst thing that could happen to one (the ultimate threat for misbehavior) was to be sent down to Cummings or Tucker. In those days the two prisons were segregated; at this point in time I don’t remember which was black and which was white. There was a big scandal in the 60s in my formative years around the use of the electric chair and unmarked graves found behind one of the prisons. And I remember frequently driving through the delta south of Pine Bluff (my family home) and seeing inmates hoeing cotton in the hot summer sun. I also find your quote from Viktor Frankl ringing a familiar note, too. His Man’s Will to Meaning was the book which started me in college on my own spiritual search.
These men’s stories are almost incredible. What an inspiration and a good reminder when we who are so privileged begin to complain! Arkansas had/has many good people, but it is/was a rough place sometime lacking an abundance of compassion & kindness for those who fell outside the societal norms. So knowing some context confirms for me the ring of truth of their experience. We have a long way to go in this country in shifting from vengeance and despise to compassion and education in our treatment of those who cause harm and suffering. Seeing the changes these men made in their lives and of those around them shows that, regardless of how long it takes, evil is vanquished and good prevails. May your work continue to assist in this transformation.