the state killed two men, we only cared for one

Two men were executed last night by the state.

And no one said a word about one of them.

Because it wasn’t about Troy Davis. Because witnesses didn’t recant. Because the evidence was clear. Because hundreds of thousands worldwide didn’t sign a petition for him.

Because it was about a white supremacist.

There is tragic irony to last night’s events. Even as the throngs of activists wept, celebrated, sang and prayed when word came that the execution of Troy Davis in a Georgia prison was delayed, though only for only a few hours, by no less than the U.S. Supreme Court, the state of Texas was busy plunging a poisoned needle into the body of Lawrence Russell Brewer.

There were no last minute heroics, desperate filings or social media frenzy.

There were no hashtags, blocked or otherwise.

No one wearing “I Am Lawrence Brewer” T-shirts.

While Davis was surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, Brewer died alone, his parents and his victim’s relatives watching from a nearby room.

He had no final words in death, only a single tear.

Outside his prison, there were no massive vigils, no sea of placards and no throngs chanting slogans about the injustice of the death penalty in the case of a racist who so brutally killed a man because of skin color.

And let’s be honest: a great many of the people who want Troy Davis’ life spared might very well believe the state was right to kill Lawrence Brewer. Many of those people who were appalled that the audience cheered at the number of executions committed by the state of Texas might deep down harbor suspicions that of the 234 executions, Texas might have gotten this one as right. As right as Georgia got the Davis case wrong.

After all, Davis’ case, unlike Brewer’s, seems riddled with ambiguities, despite what the prosecutor might say. After all, Davis might very well have been innocent. And it is easy to defend a potentially innocent man against the death penalty. It is far more difficult to defend a clearly guilty man who dragged a man’s body from the bumper of a truck.

In Jackson, Ga. at the Troy Davis vigil, well-known activists like Rev. Al Sharpton showed up to add their voices to the already strong stream of notables who have pleaded with the state to stay the execution, voices that have included pope, former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former prison officials and many, many more.

And we should all be thankful that Davis’ case revealed, to some extent, the charade of the death penalty. We should be thankful that, after Troy Davis’ case, there should be no way for the state to wield this sword with such hypocritical savagery again. The truth is out. The Empire has no clothes. The death penalty is revealed for what it is: barbaric bloodlust riddled with mistakes. The death penalty serves only the god of vengeance and idol that may make us feel safer but, in reality, turns us into enemies of God.

For those involved in the long fight against the death penalty, there should be mourning at the loss, but as Christians, we serve a God whose business it is to redeem executions. No, Troy Davis will not be resurrected. Most certainly not. But if we believe the resurrection to only be about bringing a body back from the grave, then we have missed the point of resurrection. Resurrection is about the momentum of tragedy and injustice and flinging it back into the bloody hands of the powerful.

It is about turning a scar, a cross, an electrified chair, a poisoned needle and making it into a public spectacle that shames the powerful.

But. But. I am doubtful because while we — myself included — rushed to defend Troy Davis, to cry out for him, to give voice to his voicelessness, we all of us ignored the voice of a dogged white supremacist who met the same fate, on the same night as Troy Davis, who became a black man’s brother in circumstance.

We thumped our pious chests in front of cameras. In public. On social media.

Ours, though, was not the prophetic voice today.

Rather, the true prophetic voice on Wednesday came not from Georgia, but from Texas where aging African American Civil Rights activist Dick Gregory fasted for half a day to protest the killing of an avowed white supremacist who murdered a black man solely because he was black.

 “When do the State qualify to kill somebody and the government qualify to kill somebody and it’s all right”? said Gregrory. “It’s never all right to kill somebody intentionally. There are people who kill people. They are not the State. They are not the government. I don’t pay taxes to them.”

The vigils outside the prison in Jackson, Ga., are good news in this world. But it should be known, lest we pat ourselves on the back for our altruism, that until those same protests are seen outside a prison when the state is preparing to kill a white supremacist, abolishing the death penalty is a long, long way away.

That there are many hands needed still to bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice.

Last night the state killed two men.

But we only cared about Troy Davis.

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5 thoughts on “the state killed two men, we only cared for one

  1. #prolife #prochoice #TroyDavis The truth of the matter is the liberals want to turn the execution of Troy Davis into a racial issue. His lawyer already mentioned race today as his  thinking for why the court refused to give him clemency.The truth is the liberals don’t care about all human life unless it is to further their agenda,they will fight to the death to keep abortion legal, yet defend the rights of a convicted killer, despite a justice system with an appeals process&jury who found Troy Davis guilty. It is obvious Brewer did the heinous crime he committed,however ballistic evidence did lead investigators to Troy Davis’s gun. No new evidence was given in appeals nor to the SCOTUS so they had to keep the verdict given by the jury.  Many were upset with the Casey Anthony verdict, yet she walks free while her daughter’s ‘killer’ is unknown. Our judicial system allowed her to go free&we must accept the verdict just as we must accept the verdict in the case of Troy Davis and Lawrence Brewer.

    Would I be willing to do away with the death penalty?Yes, life without parole could be the option,but is that really better for someone who may/may not be guilty? Where do we draw the line on doubt? I do believe the obvious cases such as Brewer could&should be given the death penalty,but in those less obvious perhaps a choice could be given to choose the death penalty or life in prison. Personally, I think spending life in prison might be worse because you have no freedom&rights and you must live with the guilt of knowing you committed a heinous crime. Yet the victims, like the unborn, don’t get a choice&their families live each day w/o their father, brother, son, friend,etc. I believe until we become a culture of life and all life is respected from womb to tomb abortion, murder, suicide,euthanasia and the death penalty will continue to exist.
    Wow, I didn’t mean to carry on so long,but feel strongly about this case&this issue. I guess I should just do a blog post 🙂 Thanks for your insight&well written perspective&linking both cases together.

  2. False, we do not have to accept the verdict of any court case. Such an attitude reinforces the status quo and allows injustices to continue. It is questioning, pushing, dialoguing which allows us to improve the standards of justice, to improve the justice system. To say that we “have to accept the verdict” says that our system is good enough. That there were questions means that he should have not been executed. That there were questions means that “beyond a reasonable doubt” had not been met.

    Also, I think you missed the point. It was not because Try Davis was black and that Brewer is white. Its because Brewer was 1) obviously guilty and 2) he was a white supremacist. This means that the logic (implicitly or explicitly) being used is that he deserved to die. However, David is taking issue with that logic. David is reflecting on the need for a consistent life ethic, for valuing all life no matter if it is a person “deserves death” or not. Again, the purpose of the blog was to reflect on an (in)consistent life ethic. 

    You blast liberals for having an agenda. What about conservatives? Are you going to say that they dont have an ax to grind? You will fight to death to abolish abortion, but have no problem with war or capital punishment. The fact of the matter is that neither conservatives nor liberals have a truly consistent life ethic.

    The fact of the matter is we all have an ax to grind, an agenda to push. The question is to what end is that agenda? Ending racism, addressing short coming in our justice system? Or is it reinforcing the status quo, favoring the wealthy, the powerful, as if nothing is wrong?

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