22 September 2011

Rest in Power

Today I woke up feeling nervous. It wasn’t because of anything that was physically or otherwise happening to me or anyone I personally know. It was because I knew that far from me in the state of Georgia in the United States of America a man called Troy Davis had been scheduled to be executed. I knew I was about to soon learn whether the authorities had gone ahead with their deadly mission despite of all the evidence that was indicating the innocence of Mr. Davis. Whether he was innocent or not is speculation from me, I am not that much of an expert on his case – I know quite a little about it, but the problem was, as the widely used Twitter hashtag suggested there was #TooMuchDoubt. The case simply was not clear and quite obviously needed more inspection not by me, but by the legal system in question. 

So I was nervous to start reading my Twitter timeline. All of my trusted sources are pretty much there and I find it to be the best place for trustworthy links. The up and down narrative of hope and despair went on for some time – hundreds of short messages were commenting, protesting and siding with the rights of the accused. There was little else actually on my time line and on and on it went. I am sure that on the other side of the Internet many were posting different – more hostile messages – but none of those were in front of my eyes. At some point the spirit of resistance and resilience of this online activism that was only a part of efforts to save a life of a man was so contagious that I became temporarily hopeful only to arrive to the messages of very early morning. Rest in Power Troy Davis. 

Troy Davis was just one man, but at the same time he was us all. He might have been in a country that you or at least I am not in, but his rights – or lack of them – are something that concerns us all. Because rights are rights. 

There’s not a lot that Europe can boast with as far as any kind of morality goes. You don’t even have to look at our past coloured with a broad spectrum of atrocities; the present is far from unproblematic, but perhaps the one thing that I am the most proud of with regards to the European Union is its absolute stance of death penalty. In order for you to become a member state in the EU, you cannot have a death penalty as part of your legislation. That means that putting aside the geographical truisms and probable unwillingness, the United States, even hypothetically could not be a member of the EU. And neither could many many other countries on many other continents. 

Of course death penalty is only one grain of sand in Sahara worth of unjust and inhumane circumstances, but it is nonetheless a very serious problem. In its finality, it allows the prejudiced systems to legally lynch people – like they did to Troy Davis last night – and like they do to many other undesirable characters who represent something that the power deems wrong. Police have shot many people full of holes to their brutal and immediate death for no reason in United States even in the recent years, but the ones facing execution are many times Black activists seemingly often, allegedly, for having killed a cop and in many of these cases, like for instance with Mumia Abu Jamal’s, the trial and the events that lead to it are heavily contested. Yet we allow this to happen. 

It is the time now for the European leaders to start pressurising their colleagues on the other coast of the Atlantic and beyond. These often racist systems where the package of the past continues to be the reality; the prison industrial complex that financially benefits from inmates and uses them as a damn-near slave labour needs to be revisited urgently. There is no moral high ground for any of our societies to say anything about any other country until we have our own yard in order, and now, disorder is the order of the day. This is inexcusable; a truly shameful display of disregard for human rights and freedom of communication when the authorities start to block the emails coming from, and via the Amnesty International as yesterday happened. 

It’s too late now for Troy Davis. He is dead and an increasing amount of evidence suggests that he was killed as an innocent man. The state of Georgia was again, like too numerous times before in the past, a venue for lynching another Black man. Having visited the place once I remember that the confederate flag was waving liberally in the sky; liberally in all of its conservativeness. There is nothing post-racial about this. It is the zeitgeist that never should have been, but still pests us – and them – that enabled this yet another state sponsored murder. Regardless of the global public outrage, the go ahead was given. There was no strike by the executioners as had been rumoured, there was just one more dead body. Even when the accused is undeniably guilty, which wasn’t the case with Troy Davis, the death penalty only achieves one more death. There are no militant pro-life people in sight to preach about the sanctity of human life. People are not the greatest assets; only some people and their assets.

These events may have taken place in the United States, but this is about more than one incident. It’s a question of us citizens of world being seen as customers or worthless. It is a question of arrogance of certain power structures and just like with the UK uprisings, who polices the people who police the people. This is about the past, the present and the future. Because inaction is a weapon of mass destruction, we, as a global community need to find ways forward and put pressure on our leaders. The other side is very good at it, so we have a task ahead of us.

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