I Met Nice Guys Like Brian Williams When I Was In Prison

Brian Williams and his brush with war.

In prison you’d look up one day and see a prisoner at your cell door dressed like a professional plumber or electrician. This guy kept his nose clean. Stayed out of trouble. Went to bed early. Then the next day you’d see him around the prison with his tool belt on.

You’d learn he was a real plumber or electrician on the streets. Had once had a nice home. A good job. Security. His family still visited him every weekend. You’d wonder, why the fuck is this guy here? So out of place.

Then you’d later hear the whole story. He worked hard but dabbled with weed on the weekends, then got a girlfriend on the side, bored with his wife, then he tried cocaine, which led to more cocaine, and then the bell rang and he was off on a wild binge. He lost his job, his home, his family. Desperation drove him to rob banks. Then voila! Prison. Where he cleaned up and became again who he’d always been. A nice guy who sometimes stepped in shit. He was chastened and never committed a crime again, in prison or out, because he hadn’t ever been a dedicated criminal. He actually believed in niceties.

This is how I look at Brian Williams. A nice guy who fucked up. Easy to offer him compassion. I don’t froth at the thought of his public humiliation. I will not dog pile. He betrayed himself more than me. I’ll let him dance with his own conscience. That will be punishment enough.

But I will admit that the thought of some public humiliations do give me satisfaction. I’m not perfect. I’m embarrassed that my imagination houses ill toward some people, like George Zimmerman types. I do periodically delight in the notion that he will one day get to where men like him think highly of their hyper-maleness. I’m talking about prison. And he will confront his depth. And he will be chastened. Zimmerman will never pen an eloquent De Profundis like Oscar Wilde did while he served time behind bars. (One of the greatest human documents ever written.) But men like Zimmerman and OJ do have to meet their appointments in their public Samarras, if for no other reason than that they are tempters of Fate.

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