Dear readers veteran and new.

For a variety of reasons, the readership of this blog has jumped exponentially in recent weeks, with yesterday seeing a literal 20 fold increase. Some have come from The Hairpin, some from The Atlantic, some from Skepchick, some from BlogHer, some via Twitter, and some from other corners and other relationships, not least the Facebook walls of friends and loved ones.

I want to welcome you all, but confess that as I write this morning, I do so through a haze. My eyes and head ache from tears shed, my throat is tightening as I type, and my fingers feel suddenly, inexplicably, heavy. I spent all of last night glued to Democracy Now’s live stream from the vigil outside the death row prison in Jackson, Georgia, toggling between it and Twitter, and at some points, doing both on my husband’s laptop while also watching Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. A very large piece of me simply could not believe that Troy Davis would be killed in spite of the enormous doubts about his conviction, and even now, having been immersed in it for hours last night, I feel a bit as if I must have dreamed it. How can such a thing be real?

I have never in my life been so involved in the life and death of a person I didn’t know, and for me, that involvement only goes back about four weeks. I have certainly never spent much time thinking about the death penalty before, other than being notionally opposed, signing occasional petitions, and being a Democrat in large part for reasons that also led me to oppose to the death penalty. I never so much as considered writing about state executions before my first post about Mr. Davis, on August 29th.

I wake up this morning to a different world — a world in which Troy Davis is dead, and I have seen up close both the horror of state intransigence in the face of human blood and bone, and the awesome power of hundreds of thousands of people coming together in support of a man they had never met.

Typically, I write about a wide range of things. This has included Winnie the Pooh, and signs that you might be middle-aged, and loud music, and women’s rights, and Islam (particularly in America), and a lot of Israel/Palestine. Sometimes I’m pretty funny, though I’m probably more often earnest. I write about stuff that is tiny, and stuff that is huge, and I try to find the human moment in the spine of all of it.

I can only imagine that I will get back to that kind of range in the coming days and weeks — that I will no longer be posting daily, and sometimes several times a day, about a man scheduled to die. But today I’m not ready.

I will spend today sorting out what my relationship needs to be with the anti-death penalty movement. I’m very clear on the fact that no one person can be equally active on all the issues to which they feel an attachment, and I have spent the better part of 25 years advocating for peace and reconciliation between Israel and Palestine. There are only so many hours in the day, and I have children to read to and a husband to laugh with, not to mention the other joys and drudgeries of a blessed life.

But I cannot simply walk away from last night. Mr. Davis’s final statement to supporters, the day before his execution, read:

The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me. I’m in good spirits and I’m prayerful and at peace. But I will not stop fighting until I’ve taken my last breath.

The only way his spirit can move forward now is if we carry it for him. We are now Troy Davis.

To those who may be feeling lost and horrified, ashamed and grief-stricken, I want to say that I share all of those emotions. I am deeply, deeply ashamed of the country — my country – that allowed this travesty of justice to go forward. I am horrified at the vision of an innocent man strapped to a gurney and injected with poison, grief-stricken over the loss, and at a loss as to what to do with all the emotions.

But I am also proud — so, so proud — of all of the Americans who came together to fight for the life of this complete stranger. Most of us don’t know each other, most of us wouldn’t recognize each other on the street. And yet we reached out and sent letters and signed petitions and asked friends and family to do the same and we held hands across miles and wires and jointly created something new, something in which I know Mr. Davis himself had faith. This, too, is American: Not shrugging our shoulders, not giving in, not allowing injustice to go unremarked, but moving out and moving forward on the basis of the Idea and the ideals on which this country was founded. I am grateful to our international brothers and sisters (of whom there are many), but I am proud to share a country with those Americans who fought until the very last minute last night.

If you want to take that energy and that love and start to move forward in Mr. Davis’s name, here’s something you can do right now: Educate yourself about the death penalty and seek ways that you can become active in your area. That’s what I’m going to do. You can start by going to Amnesty International, or Campaign to End the Death Penalty (about which I know very little, having focused on Amnesty), or the ACLU, or the Southern Center for Human Rights (the organization behind the astonishing sign-on letter of former corrections officials calling for clemency for Troy Davis), or the NAACP, or Democracy Now.

If you have some money to spare, please make a donation to any of those organizations, all of which are fighting so hard on what is clearly a rocky battlefield. I gave some money to Amnesty this week, and yesterday threw some more to Democracy Now, out of sheer admiration for the astonishing job they did in producing a two-hour live event that became a six-hour-long broadcast — reporter Amy Goodman is my new hero, and I really don’t have words to describe my regard for the remarkable work she and her whole crew did last night (and please note that Democracy Now also takes donations of equipment).

Finally: It was my birthday yesterday. I will now forever share that day with Troy Davis. It’s my hope that I will find a way to honor the coincidence, and use my remaining years to aid in achieving Mr. Davis’s goal of ending the death penalty forever.

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13 Comments

  1. Tracey

     /  September 22, 2011

    Beautifully written. Feels like you were reading my heart and mind. Thank you for putting words to what I’m feeling today — disillusioned, disheartened and so ashamed of my country. But you’re right, we actually have a bright spot to hold onto… and that is hundreds of thousands of people… strangers to each other and to Troy Davis…. stood up and tried to make a difference. We need to cling to that and carry it forward. Some good must come out of this.

  2. Susan

     /  September 22, 2011

    From what I can tell, “the system” probably worked properly within the perimeters of the possible in this case. It is the unavoidable perimeters which make abolition of the death penalty imperative.

    The criminal justice system, for obvious reasons, like all our courts, aims at finality: that is, when it’s settled it’s settled, we can’t try every case 100 times. Or twice even. This rule was followed. And probably that was the right thing to do, EXCEPT WHEN DEATH IS THE RESULT.

    Death, you see, cannot be corrected. We do not and cannot have the degree of certainty which alone would make the death penalty justifiable.

  3. corkingiron

     /  September 22, 2011

    You chose to take a battering, knowing that the cause was just. You have much to be proud of and nought to be ashamed of. If you are sometimes earnest – well, there is much to be earnest about. Rest, mend, laugh when you can. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to hearing your next childlike “squeeee”!

  4. This struck me so hard – the first time I felt that I’m powerless w/r/t my government that does not listen or respond to me for something so significant.

    There is nothing I can say to make it better for what happened. A man was executed, IMO unjustly.

    But I’m motivated to become a more involved and responsible citizen.

  5. (I just tweeted at you w/a couple brief bits, but to reiterate some and add some…)

    I can’t even begin to imagine how yesterday must have felt for you, being your birthday and watching this horrible situation unfold. But as I said on Twitter, I think spending the day of your birth fighting so hard on behalf of another’s life, showing so much love and support and human kindness toward someone on the last day of his life, is truly pure goodness and a light on this dark dark time. You marked another year of your life by doing everything you could to try to help Troy mark another day of his, and that is powerful and important.

    This whole thing has definitely galvanized my opposition to the death penalty as well, reinvigorated my dedication to abolition. I’ve signed up to receive info on volunteering with an ACLU-related group in support of the SAFE California Act (can read about it here: http://taxpayersforjustice.org/ – seeks to get rid of DP in California, where I live), and hope to do some phone-banking, signature-gathering, etc. I’m on SDI and don’t have much money to spare (though I did give to Amnesty a few weeks ago) so I feel like this is another, and for me more tangible way, to do my part.

    Thank you for this post and all of your tireless work, Emily.

    RIP, Troy.

    • Tracey

       /  September 22, 2011

      What a wonderful way to frame Emily’s birthday! I love it.

  6. I feel like a major schmuck for not remembering your birthday, Emily. You did yeoman’s work yesterday, and while those of us who toiled to spread the word are to be commended, you led the charge, and for that, you deserve a medal. One could only wish that all our efforts had amounted to more yesterday, but now, having lit the fire, we have a chance to stoke it, and hopefully find a way to prevent such a needless loss of life from ever happening again. Shalom.

  7. I have followed your work on this case with awed respect, and I look forward to hearing you write on more cheerful topics from now on, as will I, most of the time. I have blogged about you extensively at:

    http://wellthisiswhatithink.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/details-emerge-of-the-legal-nonsense-that-allowed-the-judicial-murder-of-troy-davis/

    Best of luck, let’s keep in touch.

  8. Ms Hauser –

    In Metro Atlanta a Black person is murdered at least every 2 days.

    Can you detail for me why it is highly unlikely that you will achieve the same type of attachment for these victims of injustice that you feel for Troy Davis?

    On that violent night in Savannah GA:
    * A man was shot in the jaw
    * A man was pistol whipped which triggered a stream of blood from his head
    * An officer of the law was murdered in cold blood – before he was able to pull his service weapon out to defend himself
    * Several people who witnessed what had happened felt so disconnected to this man who lay bleeding that they ran away, allowing him to bleed out
    * As the witnesses at the scene were squeezed by the police – according to the account that you support – they were compelled to perjure themselves to avoid having the police lean on them because of their past criminal record

    If you want to place your radiant emotional waves to good use – Why not lend some support to correcting the conditions WITHIN this violent community among those who are living.

    When the Jim Crow South was shown to be producing the “Strange Fruit” of DEAD BLACK PEOPLE the outsiders compelled CHANGE within these boundaries. Now that communities all over America that function just like this deadly community in Savannah – WHY is your response so seemingly different?

    • I think these are very important questions, and I think it’s important to remember that because a person dedicates him- or herself to one problem doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of involvement in other problems.

      There are limits to time and resources. There is the fact that Mr. Davis was a friend of a friend of mine. There is the fact that while Georgia has many problems, so does Illinois (where I live). There’s also the fact that I firmly believe that the Troy Davis case was a national issue, and his execution redounds on the justice system of the entire country.

      In being an active member of the Democratic Party, I hope to be an active part of the solution to many such problems. I believe that in fighting for an end to the injustices that led to Mr. Davis’s execution, I can, in fact, be a very small part in helping heal the community in which he lived. His story is much larger than “possibly innocent man killed” — every single step that led to that death chamber has to be examined and made right.

      We do what we can. I will never be able to do all that I wish I could do, but I will continue to do all that I can.

  1. Details emerge of the legal nonsense that allowed the judicial murder of Troy Davis « Well, This Is What I Think
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