Submitted for publication consideration in APWA
Modus Confitendi: Past Perspectives
During the Covid-19 pandemic, inmates all around the country are locked down; as for myself, I managed to be put in quarantine. As September 2020 is fast approaching, I remember September marks the third year anniversary of my son contacting me via email. When I came to prison, my son was only eight years old. As one can imagine, he has questions on why or how I ended up in prison; by all accounts I was educated, successful, and strong-willed in body, mind, and spirit. However, in looking back, I can identify three points to the cause of my fall: Limited contact with my children, mind on combat rather than family, and going to war for rank. My psychology training forces me to analyze my behavior, and moderate as much as possible, the pain and strife I've caused my family, children, and community; thus, this essay is my modus confitendi, Latin for "Way of Confession."
When my son contacted me in 2017, he was in line for Valedictorian of his school. He related to me all his scores and how the scores ranked nationally. My son constantly receives compliments on his intelligence, and the intelligence of his father; however, the compliment is couched in the fact his father is in prison. Upon initial contact, my son would relate what he could remember of our time together: training in 8-bit page 1 computer technology (e.g., disc drives and floppy-sided discs), giving him machines to disassemble, and Starcraft battles. I, in turn, related to him his zealous addictions to Lego blocks and Transformer robots at age five! Comments such from my son at age six included, "This robot's transforming design is bad," or "The design is poor." It is of no surprise he now goes to the University for Engineering; no one in our family is at the level of an engineer! In order to "see" dad, he had to tag along during my obsession to martial arts; following along with the other kids as I taught was the majority of time we spent together. Other outings were planned, but due to my chaotic schedule I missed many; as such, I earned the title of "Liar" more often than "best dad." Now in 2017, I try to rekindle some sort of relationship. Here, scholarship became our bridge of communication. In other words, I bought him books on my limited income. One, in particular concerning money management, my son enjoyed as he was struggling to find a way to earn college money, apply for scholarships, and still maintain a high GPA. Additionally, books on chess my son liked, however, chess by email was simply too tedious for us both. If he needed books on math, I tried my best to acquire them. Every time I email my son, I tell him I love him, proud of him, and "here" if ever he needs me. I continually apologize to him, but it never seems enough. For those folks who are not in prison and have kids, know this: they are precious, fragile, spend time with them. My modus confitendi concerning my son. page 2
One perspective from the past, which I believe caused my fall, was an obsession with martial arts, not on the family. Growing up, I was the victim of much bullying; this bullying, I would surmise, fuelled my passion for the martial arts in order to defend myself. In the summer of 1989 I began my training in a freestyle form of Karate; in 2000, I earned the status of Soke (inheritor) of the system. Only the year prior, I was blessed with twin daughters, and like my son, occupied the playpen at the dojo (training hall) at the ages of one. Struggling with twins and another child of my then-wife from a previous relation, I made a decision to return to college and finish my B.A. in Philosophy. The move demanded the school be transferred to a Karate student, but the university town was ripe as well for further studies in the martial arts. Like a scientist in laboratory, the martial artist uses the dojo to conduct experiments as well; we are scholars of physical motion. In 2002, I applied and was awarded entry into the McNairs Scholars Program. This program helped marginalized students to obtain their Ph.D; my mentor was the Philosophy Department Chair, Dr. Chenyang Li, noted Chinese Feminist scholar. It was at this time Dr. Li recognized me as a Ph.D in Martial Arts, citing my then twelve years in the arts. He also supervised a martial art demonstration sponsored by the philosophy club; it was there I presented my knowledge of the arts. Later that year, sponsored by the McNair Program, I attended an all-Ph.D conference in San Antonio, TX concerning Asian Philosophy with Dr. Ames as keynote speaker, and Dr. Richmond Rorty as special speaker. I was the only undergraduate, but, page 3
Dr. Li advised me to wear the nametag with "Dr. Corey Minatani." As I mingled with the Ph.Ds, and received one offer of a tenured position in Maryland; this was my defense of my Ph.D. No one had Asian combat philosophy which filled gaps in the academics knowledge. As a student, I was honored to have received such recognition; philosopher Wittgenstein and American Father Benjamin Franklin also received recognition in similar manner. During the 2003 year, I finished the requirements for my B.A. in philosophy by completing my thesis on Aiki-ju-jutsu, an esoteric Japanese art. But the call to the obsession reared up in 2004 when I received a tentative offer to inherit another martial art; this would require moving the family across the country with no family ties, no support, no idea how expensive living in New England can be compared to Eastern Washington! Needless to say, this venture failed, and upon return to Washington, I filed for bankruptcy. Any extra money was spent, oddly, on a non-profitable art that consumed much time; this left little time for family and created much stress, anxiety, and impotent frustration in myself. While in 2006, I was awarded the Shihan (Master) title and recognition of my own family art as legitimate, the family suffered; bickering and fighting between the kids, wife, and me ensued. The family was broke, depressed, and without hope. I searched for a quick-fix to salvage something of my dignity, without a clue, I returned to scholarship which never made good on a return of investment. I applied to a Master of Science program. My modus confitendi concerning my martial art obsession. page 4
Completing my M.S. in Psychology in the summer of 2008, allowed me on paper, for more rank and earning potential; I was awarded entry into the Ph.D program of psychology and looked to the military to maximize the utility of my degree. A local unit, the 1161st Transportation Company in the National Guard was slotted to go to Iraq in 2009. The unit had several slots open for the rank of lieutenant as a line officer. A strategy to apply for direct commission to lieutenant was conceived by the unit commander; the normal process was to attend Officer Candidate School, but having an M.S. degree and time to deployment short, the decision was to work for the direct commission. Drawing from my long-time experience in teaching the martial arts and previously having served in active-duty as an infantryman, I taught the unit my family martial art. The State General was to attend to ascertain my qualifications as a potential officer; I was duly awarded a General's Coin and an Army Commendation Medal for my efforts. The rank of lieutenant was to be conferred upon my return from Iraq; officer pay compared to enlisted pay was substantially better. In addition, I would earn valuable experience in a combat zone as an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. This hopefully, would provide a government job with greater pay and better hours; I convinced myself this would provide more time to spend with the family. During my tour, I was able to teach before the 205th training regiment, work 12-15+ hours as a training sergeant, teach the officers of the unit martial arts, and teach classes in my "spare" time for the University of Maryland-University College. I was over page 5 loaded and over-worked; many times, I would hazard a call only to hear of problems at the homefront. Making sure the family had enough money was the primary reason I took on extra work, especially at the University in Iraq during the holiday season. Oftentimes, the ATM in Iraq would announce "Non-Sufficient Funds." Compared to the money I made in the States, in Iraq was really bringing in the cash; our family needs were very little, especially with the wife taking on a job. While I cannot truly understand what my family went through, please understand coming back from Iraq to a broken family is devastating. All for what? Lieutenant rank? The Epilogue of our unit from Iraq, we as a unit had three casualties. One Soldier committed suicide upon return; may Specialist Mandeville rest in peace. Two went to jail, of which I was one. One of the two going to jail translated into prison; that was me. During the altercation with the police, I too considered suicide. Again, coming home to a broken family from Iraq is devastating. In hindsight, being off-balance in body, mind, and spirit because of overwork which wears down one's mind; coupled with tragedy, debt, loss of job, and divorce is a recipe for disaster. The odd thing, ironic really, was the University course I taught in Iraq: Managing Interpersonal Stress and Conflict. Thus, my modus confitendi concerning choosing war for rank. page 6
In this essay, my modus confitendi or way of confession, I have tried to explain and analyze my behavior which led me to prison; my hope is one day for my son and daughters to understand I had the best of intentions. The martial arts creates a strive for perfection; my first instructor drilled into us, "You seek perfection knowing you will never get there." Similar in vein to Zeno's Paradox. Another instructor taught the concept of Kaizen: constant, never-ending improvement. Alas, this ideology taken too far, at least for family man, may prove too much to handle. I recall all of the things my son accomplished when he was young; I thank God my son is off to the University to become an engineer. A great achievement for a child of Japanese descent. As I wrote this essay, I struggled to understand my own mind seeking out techniques and esoterica of the martial arts; possibly an addiction of some sort affecting me. In desperate times, I take on more debt to obtain a Ph.D and gamble my life and family to go to war for a lieutenant rank. The insanity of it all! There is an old saying in the Bible, "When a Soldier asks you to carry his pack a mile, carry it for two" (paraphrased). God broke me down and has been building me up again. So, in a way I'm free from all the craziness of my past life. I am set to be released in a year's time. Hopefully, this essay will release my children from their prison of hurt, frustration, depression, and hopelessness. I thank you, dear reader, for taking my confession; although I'm no Catholic and you're not a priest, my modus confitendi: way of confession.
God Bless. page 7
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