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Martin Sobell’s On Doing Time

Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years, 2 months ago

Martin Sobell’s On Doing Time

Blog from February 5th, 2007 - www.JoshWolf.net


A few weeks back I received a letter from Alex Clemens at Barbary Coast Consulting. He wrote to express his support, but also to share the story of his step-grandfather, Martin Sobell, who stood trial with Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, for conspiracy to commit espionage. Sobell was found guilty but was spared the state-sanctioned murder that befell the Rosenbergs. He was sentenced to 30 years and was freed in 1964 after spending more than 18 years in prison.


After his release, Bobell wrote On Doing Time, which Alex Clemens recently sent to me. The book documents his entire experience from beginning to end with stunning clarity, and he details the ordeal with raw emotions that deliver a visceral impact. Although my plight is insignificant in comparison, I empathized with a number of passages in the book. One passage stood out in particular.


Sometime during the last period on the Rock, I began to play a little game with myself (one of many). I would ask myself, did I have to be different? Why couldn’t I be like everyone else? And save myself a lot of headaches and heartaches. I would allow myself the luxury of yearning to have been born a conformist of conformist parents, and not to be burdened with all these nuisance problems. I would have such an overwhelming desire to be like every other middle-class American that I figuratively bathed myself in the desire.


Then I would begin at the beginning and explain to myself how it was that was how I was, how I became what I am, and how meaningless life would be for me if I had chosen any other path but the one I did. I, Martin Sobell, was doomed by whatever gods there were to go on playing the part as long as I lived, or until I saw a different light.


Then I began to feel weary of playing this role, and I wanted so much for the play to end., so I could start all over again. And yet, I knew that even if I had the opportunity, I would probably play the same role, even if I knew what the consequences would be. This was me, this was the only role in which I felt comfortable inside myself. Oh yes, here and there I might have acted more cleverly, as hindsight indicated, but my fundamental moves would have remained essentially the same. I was content that I had not soiled myself at any time throughout the ordeal. This would have indeed made life unlivable for me. But I could yearn for that other life, a little. It didn’t cost me anything, and I knew that there was no danger that I might go astray.

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