Voices from the Inside

Suffering a thousand deaths nightly

By: Herminio Serna

I’ve always wondered how much of life’s burdens I’ll be able to carry before stumbling under their weight. I can still remember the first weight being placed upon my shoulders at a young age in my life -- young, poor, new immigrant, new language, school, work, clothes... you know, regular life burdens of a 7 year old.

At heart, I’m sensitive to the hardships of others. Even more so due to my own experiences and trials. Tears come easily to my eyes at the suffering of others, children, women, elderly and the defenseless innocents. And it’s late at night when my mind comes to grip the full weight of my plight -- worries and circumstances I find myself under.

I clench my fists, grind my teeth and fight to control the sudden panic and anxiety attack that rises up unprovoked...alone.

Cold, in darkness. The story of my life, nothing has changed. It’s a burden I can carry, I say to myself with a calm resolve. It’s a battle that I’m having to fight more constantly as of late. Having to fight myself for control more frequently. I’m going crazy, I think. Because all around me, I’m watching men slowly losing their battles under the weight of the accumulated burdens of their own life, forced on them or created by their own actions; it is not for me to judge.

I only worry that witnessing this reality doesn’t have an effect on my own state of mind. I’m not sure if I should feel empathy or hide behind indifference. Man, that is crazy. Indifference is a sociopath behavior.  How can a human being fight against a state with unlimited amount of resources sanctioned to kill him? A man, a human being held in an environment geared and keyed to kill his humanity, or what is left of it? Held in chains, degraded on a daily basis, under the threat of assault by goon squads specifically trained to do so.

I’m stumbling hard, and my mind is suffering a thousand deaths nightly. The battles of self are becoming more arduous and that much harder and difficult to return unscathed.

I’m losing a little part of self after every battle, and what is left as a result scares me.  At heart, being sensitive to the hardships and suffering of others connect me to humanity -- how can I not identify?  It’s this that gives me the needed strength to catch myself when I stumble under these burdens, and weight of this penalty of death.

Plant my two feet solidly, brace and lock my legs straight, uncurve the strain of my bended back, lift my head, clench my teeth and continue forward.

Battle forward.

In solidarity, Herminio

Herminio Serna is on death row in California. You can contact him at www.deathrowrights.org or you can send a message c/o

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