(ABP) — Troy Davis has been denied clemency by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles. Our country witnesses, once again, a flawed system at work. From the pope to Jimmy Carter, leaders are calling for a stay in the execution, and rightfully so. How long must we continue to ask ourselves, “Whom shall we kill?”
Troy Davis’ case is about more than the death penalty — it is about our common humanity. Anybody that says we’re a humane country should read about Rick Perry and his thoughts on execution. The simple fact that a potential president holds a strong pro-death penalty stance should be cause for concern. Is that the person who we want representing us? I hope not.
Whom shall we kill? Should we kill rapists or murders? Should we kill would-be terrorists? Should we kill white-collar criminals? Whom shall we kill?
Taking one life for another perpetuates vengeance and in the end leaves us leaning on the everlasting arms of the death penalty. Vengeance grabs us and takes away our push for a just and verdant society. Instead of investigating the causes of violent crime and seeing that it is larger than one act, we send people to the gallows. Justice is never served, only delayed.
Our country believes that each person is innocent until proven guilty. Should we ever stop pushing to find innocence? If evidence arises that innocence is a possibility, then we, the American people and the government, have a responsibility to investigate to the fullest extent. The social contract that we have entered into is one that upholds innocence, and seeks that no people die unfairly.
John Adams, one of those founders the Tea Party loves, said, “We are to look upon it as more beneficial, that many guilty persons should escape unpunished, than one innocent person should suffer.…” Though an ideal, we would be well-served to reflect upon what John Adams is actually saying. Adams did not want to let free guilty persons, but he wanted to make sure that when a guilty verdict was handed down, every possibility of innocence had been exhausted.
We are the guilty ones. Through our societal veins we have plunged the needle deeper, infusing our bloodstream with ignorance and deprivation of reason. We willingly subject ourselves to the electric chair of malice and contempt and have placed our own souls on the gallows of history. Hegel was right, history is a slaughter bench — only we place our humanity and bludgeon it until it no longer breathes. We are guilty of the murder, of the blood upon our hands.
Now is the time a decision could have been made to change the future, to alter our mentality. Yet we forsake the lives that have been executed unjustly, and we allow the chance that death will visit an innocent person again. Will we let these opportunities, once again, slip by us? Will we, once again, choose to forsake the greater human possibilities?
In addition to calling for greater scrutiny of death-row cases, we must become more proactive in taking from the streets instruments of violence. We need to push for greater gun laws that make it more difficult to obtain one and increase the penalty for illegal sales of guns. We must increase educational measures in high-crime areas. Lack of education is an instrument of violence so easily preventable but so often ignored. Most of all, we need to understand that we are engaged in a web of humanity, and when we devalue one person, we devalue ourselves.
Troy Davis, I do not know you, and I did not sit on the jury that decided your fate. But, I know that there are more innocent inmates waiting for their execution date. We will tell your story, and we will not leave out the details of your unjust execution. We have asked, “Whom shall we kill?” one too many times.
Zachary Bailes is an M.Div. student at Wake Forest University Divinity School. He is editor of Those Crazy Liberals … and Conservatives and a contributor for Progressive Christian Alliance .
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