jeudi, septembre 22, 2011

I am not Troy Davis

They hoped, hoped against hope, that a miracle would happen, and that the Supreme Court of the United States would stay the execution of Georgia's Troy Davis.

Some of them had worked on the Davis case for years -- they are a mix of human rights advocates, idealistic young women and men, people of faith who opposed the death penalty, and others who simply believe that it makes no sense to execute someone when there is, at the least, a ghost of a chance that he might not have been the killer.

Sitting, crying, praying, his supporters protested across a highway from the prison where Davis, 42, prepared himself for death -- or reprieve.

The miracle did not happen. At 11:08 last night, Troy Davis was killed -- twenty years after he was tried and convicted of killing police officer Mark MacPhail, who had intervened to help a homeless man in a parking lot when he was shot.

Some of those on vigil last night wore t-shirts that read "We are Troy Davis."

While I sympathize, deeply, I am aware that I am NOT Troy Davis.

And that's the point -- or part of it.

I'm not a young black man, caught up in a net of witnesses whose testimony was contradictory at best. I don't know what it felt like to grow in a country in which to be a man of color can easily put you at the front of the line-up.

That's not to say that Davis was innocent. And, God help me, it's not to say that I condone the murder of Mark MacPhail.

Someone killed him, and left a gaping hole in his family that will continue to leave a gap in the lives of generations before and after him.

There are all sorts of legitimate secular objections to the death penalty, based in a fundamental morality -- and in logic.

To this we add the logic of the "consistent life ethic."

Our family doesn't believe that taking one life redeems that one that was lost. We believe that life is sacred, from before birth to a person's last breath. Deciding when life begins, and when it should end, except in rare circumstances (which we will not get into here) is to play God.

Last night I took my son to Wegman's, where he gets together with his (much older) Amnesty International colleagues once a month. When I saw them after the meeting, they looked weary.

I grieved for them -- they had worked so hard. I sorrowed for my son-- his Facebook posts showed me that, up until the end, he had hoped Davis would receive clemency.

I never really did believe that would be the case. We are a country intoxicated with violence, and many, if not most of us still advocate more violence as the solution.

Last night we gathered around the television to watch the analysis as the Supreme Court refused to step in. I asked the children if they would like to pray.

Muting the sound, I asked that God be present with Troy Davis, the Davis family, and the MacPhails. Then, struggling to keep my voice under control, I prayed for our country, and for a system that cannot seem to abide complexity, or redemption, or forgiveness.

Exhausted, the children went to bed. I stayed up to know that he breathed no more.

Today, I wonder -- has anything changed? I still believe that change can, and perhaps will come -- there are (except in Texas) fewer executions and more debate about whether, on a purely secular level, the death penalty does anything to deter crime.

I am not Troy Davis.

But I am sister to those who are.

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