Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Stars In Georgia

Troy Davis died last night. He was killed by officials of the state of Georgia. Four hours after his originally scheduled time but dead is dead. I got out of the subway last night, plugged into my iPod, at 6pm thinking about Davis' death at 7. At the top of the stairs I suddenly realized that Georgia On My Mind was playing. "...Other arms reach out to me/Other eyes smile tenderly/Still in peaceful dreams I see..." I appreciated that. A block or two down the road and The Eels followed suit with The Stars Shine In The Sky Tonight. "...People cheat and people lie/While you just watch it all go by/Counting days until you die..." I listened to them both on a loop all the way home.

While I listened I had stuck in my head the vision of a college classmate. Well after we'd both graduated we were working on a show together and one evening she was simply wrecked. She couldn't function and finally dissolved into tears and sobs so overwhelming that rehearsal had to be called off. She had been active in a campaign to stop a state execution in Texas and it, too, had been unsuccessful. Since I began to learn about Troy Davis I have held her in the forefront of my mind. I feared I should have been more compassionate toward her suffering as well as the person she was trying to save. I felt I'd dismissed her too readily and wondered what gave me the right to be so invested in someone on death row if I hadn't been invested in her and her work back then.

After a lot of rounds of "moonlight through the pines" I came to the conclusion that any march toward justice is slow. It's draining. We must be invested strongly in it but we must also save our strength for a marathon, not sprint it all out at once. Perhaps we are touched by one person at a time and that fuels our commitment to the movement. One of my classmate's people was the man who died all those years ago, maybe she's had others since. Troy Davis is mine for now, though I feel certain he won't be my last. I chose to focus on him, to carry him in my heart, for this time. I've always been against the death penalty but I haven't been active. As with the pro-choice movement I suspect I will never feel I am being active enough in the fight but you can bet that you'll be hearing a lot more from me on the subject.

This led me to thinking about the discussions here. I've chosen to disengage with some commenters who believe differently than I. I wonder about that sometimes. Is it wrong to walk away from difficult conversations? The only answer I've come to is, sometimes, yeah. In this case, though, I have disengaged from people from whom I have no reasonable expectation of change. Our discussions were less conversation and more parallel monologues. We'd heard everything the other person had to say on each subject and we were not convinced. I don't have the energy to run up against that wall every time. Nor should I. I can admit a battle is lost. It happens. It happened with Troy Davis last night. Now is the time to retreat, regroup and refocus efforts in directions where there is a reasonable expectation of change. Oh how I hope for change. Hoping, however, is not enough so work will follow.

"It's not where you're coming from/It's where you're going to."


  1. "Now is the time to retreat, regroup and refocus efforts in directions where there is a reasonable expectation of change. Oh how I hope for change. Hoping, however, is not enough so work will follow."

    This is exactly where I am, too. Thank you for our conversation this morning, and for helping me to further solidify that idea.

  2. Sorry Chick. Hope I wasn't one of those walls. You open doors for me... I so enjoy reading your work. I say things to you because you are one smart cookie and I know we are always going to agree... but I certainly know I am going to learn. I've gotten awfully narcissistic about news lately. You certainly help me up and over that.

  3. Anonymous8:07 PM

    More than 34 people testified that Troy Davis committed the crime....while it is true several recanted some of their original testimony the fact is that the defense did not call them to the stand during any appeals because they did not totally exonerate Troy Davis...if one is against the Death Penalty then this is a good case to fight but Troy Davis was probably far from not guilty...great topic for conversation though.