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.


  1. beautifully said

  2. Thank you, Anonymous, although I suspect that any beauty in this post comes from Mr. Wiesel's and Ms. Dickinson's words, and not mine.

    But your comment inspires me to send the link to this post to my various friends, hoping that enough lifted voices will make a difference.

  3. I'm posting a letter I sent out today --

    "Some of you saw me wearing my I Am Troy Davis T-shirt today or saw my car with the same T-shirt flying as a flag out my passenger window with signs to Text Troy at 90999. Well the reason I did it is because today is " I Am Troy Davis Day" World Wide. Troy Davis is a prisoner who is on death row in Georgia for allegedly killing a police officer, and who has been there for almost 20 years. In that time the case against him has fallen apart with witnesses recanting their affidavits saying they were pressured by the Police and new DNA reports -- but the state won't hold a new hearing on the evidence that may prove his innocence. All he and his attorneys are asking for is a fair trial.

    I am personally involved in this case because my sister Seana has had ongoing correspondence with him and I've learned some of the details. I believe that Troy at the very least has a right to a fair evidentiary hearing (a hearing wherein the new evidence or proof of tainted evidence is brought forth) before the state of Georgia decides whether or not to put him to death. The new evidence may very well free an innocent man.

    Every man and woman in this country has a right to a fair trial. That's why I Am Troy Davis and so are you. Please sign the petition at Amnesty International website. This is not about releasing a suspected killer, this is about a Fair Trial and our broken syst em (of which I got a very close up view when dealing with the law and my friend's child who was abducted.)

    The system has great potential to reward the bad and victimize the good. Please sign the petition for Troy and for your own rights as a citizen. "

    Thanks Seana for starting this blog!

  4. Thanks, Julie. As usual, you make all the points very clearly. And in case anyone else checks in here, thank you for getting the word out in the 'real' world as well.