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.