In researching this story, The Kitchen Sisters read all the
available works on the Angola rodeo, including Daniel Bergner’s
chilling book God
of the Rodeo. In the afterword, Bergner recounts his
experience at the penitentiary:
It is a place I think back on with
despair, a place I left with no soothing affirmation of
God’s presence. But I did see men struggling to rise,
men whose efforts made me wonder constantly: What do we
owe them? A thousand times I repeated all the reasons one
could answer: Nothing. We owe them nothing. They have destroyed
other lives; what obligates us to help in reconstructing
theirs? What is our duty beyond protecting ourselves, our
society, by putting them away?
Yet we are their keepers.
They may need or deserve to be kept, but it is precisely
in making this decision that we take on responsibility.
We take control of their lives. And so, unavoidably, we
are obligated. We owe them something more than a perverse
radio rodeo as a vehicle for self-improvement and a way
to make themselves known. We cannot both claim and forget