Business as Usual


If you were on Twitter at all yesterday, you no doubt followed and possibly took part in the endless tweets about the execution of Troy Davis. The righteous indignation was flying fast and furious, retweeted with phone numbers of judges to call to protest, everyone voicing their opinion of how unjust and disgusting it was, how ashamed they were to be Americans, and listing off the countries that still resort to capital punishment such as China, Yemen, and Syria. “Murder.” “State-sanctioned murder.”  “It’s not a crime deterrent and it doesn’t save money.”

There did seem to be a great deal of doubt about Davis’s guilt with numerous witnesses recanting their testimony, and that to my mind was enough to make carrying out the execution an unconscionable act. But here we are. We are still here, and Troy Davis is not. He claimed to be at peace with his fate, despite protesting his innocence to the end. I hope he is at peace.

What drove me over the edge last night was a tweet from someone I do not follow, but was retweeted by someone I do, which said, “Was it good for you, America?” I don’t remember the person’s name now, and it’s too far back in the timeline to dig it up, but I did take a quick look at the sender’s profile. He’s in Chicago. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s the same America I’m in. I wonder if he got a boner from it. Seems like a reasonable question since he seemed to feel his countrymen were enjoying themselves over the whole thing. It could be he’s not an American citizen, I don’t know. Everyone hates us. We know the drill.

This was the last of it I could take, so I made my little diva exit from Twitter. I checked back in today, wondering if the outrage and horror and indignation over the killing of this man was still boiling over. And what do you know? We’re back to talking about Sesame Street, and romance books, and jewelry, and surf reports, and birthdays and cake and cookie recipes and… you get the idea. For all the angst and horror people were displaying last night, I’ve seen three tweets all day related to the execution of Troy Davis. People sure get over stuff quickly.

I had nightmares.

It baffles me how someone can tweet for hours of their disgust for capital punishment one day, only to show up bright and shiny the next day as if nothing happened. The people who were last night the most vocal in their objections and overarching zeal to condemn and speak against the death penalty are today tweeting about designer shoes. Like some kind of empty-headed evil twin.

I don’t even want to get into the death penalty debate, or the racial bias that made the Troy Davis case possible. Others have done those topics far better than I could. I’m simply astounded that no one seems to be giving it a thought. That was yesterday’s cause, I guess. I’m not sure what I expected to see today. Revolution? Marches? National day of mourning? Hardly. But maybe a little less frippery and frivolity, a more subdued atmosphere. No such.

The United Nations, headquartered on U.S. soil, condemns capital punishment. For those who are interested, Christopher Hitchens, the well-known atheist, has an eloquent essay on the death penalty at Lapham’s Quarterly.

The United Nations condemns capital punishment—especially for those who have not yet reached adulthood—and the Vatican has come close to forbidding if not actually anathematizing the business. This leaves the United States of America as the only nation in what one might call the West, that does not just continue with the infliction of the death penalty but has in the recent past expanded its reach.

“The first horror is that there’s horror. The second horror is that you accept it.” – Glen Duncan, “The Last Werewolf.”

I guess that’s why we’re back to posting pretty pictures on Twitter.

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19 thoughts on “Business as Usual

  1. So many people see so many disturbing things as just reasons to hear themselves talk. 9/11 was no different – I heard so many asshats going on and on about how they knew somebody who knew somebody who dated somebody who went to New York once – mentioning it, not out of empathy, but rather some stupid desire to snitch some of the sympathy for themselves. It creeped me out then and now. Did anybody see that Clown Convention known as the Republican Debate a week or two ago, when the biggest applause of the night went to Rick Perry when he announced how many people the state of Texas had executed on his watch? Chilling….

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  2. I don’t know why I’m so angry over this, but I haven’t been able to shake it all day. After all the displays of moral outrage over this, it was just kind of obscene to see these same people nattering on about the usual nonsense. You just know not one of them will do anything to change the system beyond a few indignant messages on Twitter. They’re not going to march or lobby their congressperson, or get arrested at a protest or sit a candlelight vigil or anything that would inconvenience them. Not saying I have, but I wasn’t carrying on a superficial display yesterday either. I am against the death penalty, precisely because of cases like Troy Davis where this is lingering doubt. I can’t even imagine the horror of being convicted and sentenced to death for something I didn’t do.

    But there was another execution scheduled in Alabama today, and I only saw one person mention it. No one was up in arms over that one. It was like a mob mentality. Once one person started everyone joined in, wanting to be in on the party I guess.

    I understand there was a great deal of cheering over uninsured people dying because they couldn’t afford medical care, too. Why is it the ‘pro-lifers’ are always the first to vote for death?

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  3. Mary, I didn’t see that, but did hear about it. Frigging creepy.

    I’m okay with the death penalty in extreme cases. I don’t shed any tears over monsters like Ted Bundy who freely admit to raping and butchering untold numbers of victims. But for the most part, I’m against, not for any moral reason, but for the, “.What if they *are* innocent?”

    If any new evidence comes up after someone has been convicted that could prove their innocence, how can any judge with any sort of conscious NOT look further into it?

    My deepest sympathies are always with the victims of crimes and their families. But sometimes I fear the public just wants *someone* to published.

    Good, thoughtful post, DD!

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    1. Thanks, Tasha. My comments, reading back over the last, are somewhat less coherent than I’d planned, but that’s what I get for writing in a hurry I guess. Of course my sympathies go to the victims and their families, but cases like this make me wonder if there is another victim here.

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  4. Gypsy: I share your feelings about freaks like Ted Bundy: I wouldn’t miss him, and I can’t say I don’t prefer a world without him in it, but still and all, I don’t believe that it is my right to make that call about another human being – that’s why I don’t believe in capital punishment. Besides, in the U.S. those prisoners are permitted SO MANY appeals, that it absolutely costs the state more than it would to sentence them to life without parole – the penny-pinching conservatives don’t like that fact so they never bring it up.

    DD – you’re a voice in the wilderness, living decently and thinking sensibly and articulating it for those of us who pay attention. I hope you know what a big damned deal that is. Twitter’s a hoot and we have fun with it, but it is also a forum for asshats who like the sound of their own voice. If you have to put yourself on a 24-hour moraTweetium once in a while to keep your head straight, we’d miss you but wouldn’t begrudge you!

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  5. Thanks, MJ. I agree, the world is no poorer for the loss of someone like Bundy, but as you said, who are we to decide to take someone else’s life? I think it’s time this country got beyond that kind of thinking, that it somehow squares things. And if we’re honest I think we need to admit it’s about vengeance, not justice. Life is not disposable, which it seems to me is how murderers view it. I don’t want to see the world the way they do. (Ok, I’ll admit during rush hour I’ve had my moments of fantasizing about mounting a grenade launcher on the hood of my car…) It’s a very primitive urge, to want to kill. I keep hoping we’ll outgrow it as a species but I think that’s far in the future.

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  6. Although he wasn’t speaking about Troy Davis specifically, Jon Stewart said recently that the 24 hour news cycle has made it virtually impossible to have any thoughtful analysis about anything. And in this case I think social media is doing the same thing. There are people like Barry Schecht and the Innocence Project who have been advocating on behalf of the wrongly imprisoned for years. Yet the public only becomes engaged on the most superficial level when the media elevates the level of chatter about it. I’m not saying that the exposure isn’t good for the cause — and folks like DD are instrumental in making it a meaningful dialogue — but there is a risk of this “superficial overexposure” from the twitterverse. And the anonymity of the internet makes it all too easy for the uncensored (or the most sensational) thoughts to be published next to those of the most thoughtful or most-researched. Thank you DD for keeping the humanity in the conversation, and I agree with MJB that sometimes we all just if need a “fast” from time to time.

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  7. That’s a great thought, Rosie, about no thoughtful analysis. And exactly what you said, that “the public only becomes engaged on the most superficial level when the media elevates the level of chatter about it.”

    This whole incident has had the most curious effect. I have that horribly oppressive feeling that you get when you’ve had a huge fight with your best friend and aren’t speaking. I’m not sure my opinion of and interaction with Twitter will ever be quite the same. It’s tainted somehow. (am I being melodramatic about the whole thing?) I am slowly wading back into the fray on Twitter, and while I realize it’s mostly superficial bullshit that is the topic of conversation there, I have found enough value there to stay involved to some degree.

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  8. “Of course my sympathies go to the victims and their families, but cases like this make me wonder if there is another victim here.”

    Indeed. That’s why I always worry about the public’s seeming need to punish “someone”. There seems to be a need to get “someone” convicted of a crime so they can declare a case closed. Like everything should be tied up in a bow like at the end of a TV episode. I’d rather a case remain unsolved, then send just anyone to rot in jail. Of course, the system will never be perfect, but one way to improve it would be to be more willing to look at new evidence if it comes up.

    And excellently said, Rosie. Also, the media is becoming more and more horrid. The number of people being tried and convicted by the press before they even get to trial is appalling.

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  9. I haven’t been on Twitter very long, but it does strike me that its lowest common denominator of usage is to sell stuff by generating some buzz around it. This is not to say that Twitter is useless — but really, how deep can you get with only 140 characters? That’s slightly more than a headline. And these are topics that are far deeper in scope.

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  10. The pleasure I take in Twitter is basically the same I got from passing notes in class w/you guys back in junior high – mostly it’s with Rosie & Didge, but every once in a while you spot a kindred spirit you’ve never met (DD, where’d you’ve find that goofy guy in Brazil?). Trouble is, we’ve graduated junior high and occasionally think in more depth, whereas for some Twits it’s their sole form of self expression. And then there’s the weird marketing crap

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  11. LOL oh Fabio? He’s awesome, science fiction writer. I think I met him in one of the cyberpunk chats we used to have. He mostly tweets in Portuguese but lots in English, too.

    Twitter does get used a lot (A LOT) for marketing, whether books, your own blog, other stuff. It has, however, been a great way to meet people with similar interests and share things (writing advice, news, found art, etc.). For me I’m enjoying meeting other writers all over the world. The ones who ‘follow’ you just to get you to follow them back so they can expand their market I quickly unfollow. I think it’s really great for people in remote locations who may have no other way to connect with kindred spirits, have someone to talk to. You just have to pick and choose whom to interact with. I follow a lot of publishers and magazines that I hope to write for someday. There is good stuff there, if you just filter out the popular kids.

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  12. As usual, I’m always learning something at the Filling Spaces salon and all-night pancake house. Great tools abound, but like all tools, you can choose to use them well just as you can use them poorly.

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  13. I have never used Twitter but my thoughts on the death penalty I find in agreement with the judge below.

    “Imposition of the death penalty is arbitrary and capricious. Decision of who will live and who will die for his crime turns less on the nature of the offense and the incorrigibility of the offender and more on inappropriate and indefensible considerations: the political and personal inclinations of prosecutors; the defendant’s wealth, race and intellect; the race and economic status of the victim; the quality of the defendant’s counsel; and the resources allocated to defense lawyers.” -Gerald Heaney, former appellate judge

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  14. I hadn’t seen this. I love what you wrote. I’m against killing anything and Troy rests in my prayers.

    You truly are a wonderful writer and yes, we get over things much too quickly but as cold as it is, we seemed designed that way.

    I need to check your site more often. Very stirring prose indeed.

    Susannah

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  15. Thank you so much, Susannah! I guess there is a biological need to get past tragedy, or we’d all be sitting in the corner sucking our thumbs, unable to do anything. This was just such a quick change of topic it was like someone flipped a switch. I found it disconcerting.

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