Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Last Barbarians

As I was writing this I learned that Troy Davis was executed at 11:08 Eastern Standard Time, irrefutable proof of our outrageous Barbarism. I tend to believe he may well have been innocent, but even if not his execution was at best immoral and at worst a genuine tragedy. The Supreme Court of the United States turned down his plea for a stay with one sentence, the apparent reason being “there was nothing new for them to consider,” another example of our American tradition of shoot first and ask questions later, but in this case there is no later for Troy Davis.

Note: I am going away for three days for our annual experience with the “Gently Mad” (book people), the Seattle Library book sale. I will take this opportunity to refuse to watch television, listen to the radio, or read newspapers, in short, to take a much-needed break from the appalling and seemingly never ending lie fest, otherwise known as politics. You have no idea how refreshing such a break can be, it almost allows one to begin to recover from the insanity that is part of our everyday lives these days. I will probably not blog again until Sunday, the 25th.

I think there is little doubt, at least in the eyes of most of the world, that we are the last barbarians. First, we are, as far as I know, the only so-called Christian, industrialized nation that still clings to the death penalty. You are no doubt aware that some other countries refuse to extradite prisoners here because of the existence of our death penalty. This has been at least part of the reason that Julian Assange has not been extradited to the United States, but there are many other instances as well.

Our barbarism is being exposed to all the world at the moment in the case of Troy Davis. Not only was he sentenced to death in the first place, he was sentenced some 18 or more years ago. During that time he has been living on Death Row. Four times now, including at the moment, he was sentenced to be executed only to be spared at the last minute. As I write this he was supposed to have executed some three hours ago and, again, it has been delayed pending a decision from the Supreme Court of the United States, The Georgia Board of Pardons and the Georgia Supreme Court having turned down requests for a stay of execution. It is bad enough he was sentenced to death in the first place, but surely the 18 years he has spent on death row, along with the four last minute delays, is barbaric in and of itself.

I have no idea if Troy Davis is innocent of the crime he has been found guilty of or not. At the moment, however, the question of innocence is not even the issue. The issue is whether or not there is sufficient doubt to question his conviction, and it seems there is more than enough doubt. If anything that is being said on television about his case is true, even if any single part of it is true, there is sufficient doubt. No physical evidence, improper ballistic information, seven of nine eyewitnesses recanting their testimony, several of the jurors now saying if they had known what they know now they would not have convicted him, and so on. If any of this is true I would think there is plenty of doubt, but this apparently did not convince the Georgia Board of Pardons or the Georgia Supreme Court (as far as I know they have not told us why). Troy Davis has been supported by no less that ex-President Jimmy Carter, the Pope, one of the ex heads of the Justice Department (I think), as well as by the ex Warden of the Georgia Prison where he is presently incarcerated, the ex Wardens of several other Prisons, and apparently hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world. In spite of this outpouring of doubt and support the barbarians remain unmoved. Some actually cheered when Rick Perry’s 234 executions were mentioned, others cheered at the thought that a 30 year-old might well die from lack of medical insurance. Need I remind you these were all Republicans.

Our barbarism extends far beyond just the issue of the death penalty. For example, with our unemployment rate above nine percent (actually probably closer to twenty percent) Republicans actually sent a letter to the head of the Federal Reserve asking it to do nothing to help improve things. Aside from the fact this is a virtually unprecedented attempt to politicize the Fed, ordinarily considered a definite no-no, it is a deliberate attempt to insure that no help for the unemployed or the disenfranchised should be allowed, an act that in my opinion is ultimately just as barbaric as the death penalty. Indeed, the entire Republican program for our country is about as barbaric as one could imagine: no Social Security, no Medicare or Medicaid, no unemployment insurance, no taxes on the wealthy or the corporations, no Planned Parenthood, no abortions, no food stamps or welfare, no help for anyone other than the wealthiest among us, no jobs; I can’t think of a better description of their program than barbaric. It certainly does not resemble anything that one might expect in a so-called “civilized” society. There was an idea that societies had evolved from a period of “savagery,” through a period of “barbarism,” to ultimately “civilization.” I suspect this idea is still with many and I also suspect this is precisely where most Europeans think our fledgling country still belongs.

We should face up to the fact we are an unusually violent and bloodthirsty society. This is apparent in the movies we make and watch, the sports we favor, the television shows we follow, the comic books we read, the widespread pornography that exists, the not uncommon child and spousal abuse, and our attitudes towards the death penalty and lack of health care. The execution of Troy Davis, surely not guilty “beyond a shadow of a doubt,” is another shameful confirmation of the barbarism that survives in our culture.

I believe that people would be alive today if there were a death penalty.

Nancy Reagan

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