A brief description of poems, stories, essays and God knows what else that I've admired and thought worth mentioning.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I Am Troy Davis
There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. The Talmud tells us that by saving a single human being, man can save the world. We may be powerless to open all the jails and free all the prisoners, but by declaring our solidarity with one prisoner, we indict all jailers.--Elie Wiesel, Nobel Lecture, 1986
I must admit that, initially, I failed to understand the reasoning behind the Amnesty International T-Shirt that bears the words that head this post until I read this quote from the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech by Elie Wiesel the other day. I had previously thought it presumptuous to express an identity between myself and a man who has spent decades in prison, under the shadow of death, most probably for a crime he did not commit.I am not Troy Davis, I thought. I have never had to live through what he has and it is naive to think I could simply 'empathize' my way into his situation.
All true, of course. But what the shirt is really saying, at least if I understand Wiesel correctly, is that in expressing solidarity with another human being, we are showing ourselves willing to share an identity with them, and even to stand in for that human being in situations where he or she can not themselves stand.
I have posted here about Troy Davis's case before. It is not my general intent to make this blog a soapbox for issues of the day. But the plight of this one particular human being moves me deeply, and his fate hangs heavily on me. As Wiesel says, there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time we fail to protest. In Troy Davis's case, there are a great many people in the world who have protested a great many times, and after such a long drawn out issue, where one is handed defeat time and again, the spirit languishes and there is a temptation to step back and not raise your own tiresome voice yet one more time. But by Wiesel's lights, this is exactly the time when you must lift it, and shout loudly.
Martha Silano has a thoughtful meditation on her blog about a poem by Emily Dickinson and Abu Ghraib here. It seems appropriate in this context as well.
Apparently with no surprise To any happy flower, The frost beheads it at its play In accidental power.
The blond assassin passes on, The sun proceeds unmoved To measure off another day For an approving God.
Troy Davis may be innocent. He deserves a new trial in the aftermath of witness recantations. All channels of justice may now have been closed to him. But that fact in itself doesn't make him any less deserving of it.
If you would like to check out the Amnesty International position on Troy Davis, and see what you can do, please go here.