4 – Scout’s guide to house arrest: Gnarly, Reckless, Stupid, and Fun

By Curveball

Scout was looking at 14 years of prison time for injuring a white supremacist who was beating the shit out of people at the time while armed with a Smith & Wesson. Their intent was merely to get him to stop causing harm to others, but unsurprisingly it was only Scout who wound up with charges as a result of this altercation. While they were awaiting trial in Portland, Oregon I headed across the country to spend time with them, terrified to lose one of my most beloved friends to the carceral system. The fear and uncertainty we both had at the time was visceral, but neither of us could have predicted what would happen in the subsequent months and years. 

At the time, Scout had a total of $8 to their name, so we drove over to the Dollar Store to get some batteries for their GPS ankle monitor. I saw someone talk to Scout as they entered, and when leaving the store I saw them hand that person something. I asked what the exchange was about and found that Scout had given their last two dollars to the guy outside the store. “Well, that guy needed two dollars and I had it”, they said. Scout has long served as a striking example of an individual acting from an intrinsic sense of love and care for others. For decades, State pressures and interventions have not been able to dissuade Scout from their relentless pursuit of liberation and generosity. They’re the kind of person who will use the entirety of their food stamps to ensure that others have enough to eat while being satisfied eating from the trash or letting themself go hungry.

I had been following Scout’s trials and extradition process every day since the night they called at 3am from a county jail. Throughout the months that they were in jail we kept in touch daily and I revolved my schedule around making sure they could have contact with the outside world. Our network of friends were finally able to get Scout out of jail on bail after four months of incarceration. At the time of my visit, Scout was attached to the aforementioned GPS ankle monitor, a device psychologically tormenting them with the illusion of almost-freedom that buzzes and blinks with a red light if they leave the county or if its charge is low. Scout was required to pay for and regularly charge it themself, manipulating Scout into being an active participant in their own confinement. The ankle monitor felt like a microcosm of a broader reality. The more it seems we try to deviate from or push back against destructive, extractive, oppressive forces such as those central to our unjust systems of power, the more resistant, violent, and encroaching their stranglehold seems to become. Since the beginning of civilization, food and other basic necessities have been used as primary weapons for the consolidation of power and manipulation of populations and their survival to serve the interests of those who hold power. Today these forces exist at a daunting, seemingly all-consuming global level. In Scout’s case, and in the case of our contemporary systems, there are numerous normalized forces intentionally serving as barriers to autonomy, with outcomes that most of us have no control over whatsoever.

My intention in coming back to Portland, Oregon was to create some space for a friend who has protected me from injury and arrest on countless occasions, to feel some sense of joy and freedom while their own future is so uncertain, so Scout and I went on a deeply therapeutic and beautiful journey together. We slept in an empty construction area while feasting on a variety of snacks from around the world. We laughed and howled at the full moon and the following day found countless waterfalls and pathways full of wild growth within Scout’s confined geographic region. We excitedly marveled at all of the moss and fungi and trees, cheering on the growth of the natural world. We discussed the inevitable cheer we give whenever a dandelion busts through the city concrete or when a blanket of moss and roots and vines take over some hunk of metal junk in the woods. 

We also did things that were, as Scout said, “gnarly, stupid, reckless, and fun” and found moments of true freedom even amidst the repeated reminders from their ankle monitor of the omniscient force of the State. It occurred to me that we have very little sway in changing systems of power and the idea of taking back control of them seems laughable and even unhelpful, but maybe there is some hope to be found in facilitating rupture through building meaningful connections to places and to others across species. Scout has a remarkable connection to and knowledge of the Pacific Northwest bioregion and has spent time living on sidewalks, under bridges, on hilltops and in trees out there. They know which truck stops are most hostile to hitchhikers and which wooded areas are best for mushroom foraging. A strong connection to place and to people that transcends social scripts seems to me to be a good foundation for transformative rupture.

The tents dotting the city sidewalks are dandelions erupting from the concrete as well. Maligned indicators of wildness and rupture. These symbols of unapologetic defiance make those who perpetuate inequities deeply uncomfortable. People should have access to necessities and comfort of course, but a place where the rebellion of the dispossessed explodes in such a manner means that agents of so-called civility can no longer make poverty invisible, so that those who own property can be comfortable. Housing in our civilization is designed for isolation, and this is something that desperately needs to be remedied. Although it was in many ways harsh and severely uncomfortable, I have never felt a stronger sense of interconnectedness than I did when I was living on those sidewalks as well. In some ways, the countless tents juxtaposed with a boarded up City Hall and Justice Center made me more hopeful than any march or any form of performative activism. I imagine the actualization of processes for the decolonization of various institutions and systems to look much like rupture as well. Maybe if we can build strong relationships with others and with the land we are on, we can nurture and cultivate synergetic and vibrant multi-species ecosystems that can emerge from and overtake our gridded, regimented, concretized civilizations.

Sometimes power dynamics in imposed systems and institutions are obvious, but they are often instead embedded and normalized so much that they become invisible. Are there normative power struggles or injustices that were at one point invisible to you that you have come to recognize? Are there ways we can use joyful rupture in everyday life to create some space for freedoms that recognize and counteract imposed, oppressive forces, or that make normalized forces visible to others? 

Connection is key. Life has a way of throwing curveballs sometimes, and as it turns out, solidarity and love are highly intertwined emotions. Scout thankfully got probation instead of prison time and wound up in an extremely strict, experimental court program. It was the biggest possible relief to me. To our surprise, Scout and I wound up getting married over a year ago, after first meeting at a political occupation and spending years as beloved friends and primary co-conspirators. Following my heart and my gut has been the most liberating way to live, consistently landing me with the most unexpected, strange and beautiful connections.