Blue in a Red State: Are Death Penalty Foes Unwelcome in TN?
Written by Natalie Davis on September 30, 2015
Sitting and working in a Nashville Starbucks, I am completely distraught.
Yesterday, despite pleas from pacifists, justice seekers, Susan Sarandon, Sr. Helen Prejean, and even the freaking Pope, Georgia murdered Kelly Gissendaner, the first woman to experience state-sanctioned killing in the state in 70 years. Gissendaner was sentenced to die after her conviction for masterminding the 1997 murder of her spouse. That’s a heinous crime, yes, but no more so than killing her. The executioners are just as guilty as the woman they murdered. Punishment would be having her live the rest of her days behind bars thinking of her crime and working to become a better person. She wasn’t punished. She was murdered for nothing but inhuman revenge.
And word just came that Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin approved a 37-day stay in the state-approved murder of Richard Glossip. Great news on its face, but the stay came not because of new evidence that could prove him innocent, but because of the state’s plan to use the lethal-injection drug midazolam. Apparently Fallin doesn’t care whether Glossip, as many insist, is an innocent victim, only that she won’t catch heat for the drug used.
There is blood on the hands of Georgia and Oklahoma officials. And I can’t bear this.
There is a third execution case in the news too, the LA Times reports:
[In] Virginia, come Thursday night serial rapist and murderer Alfredo R. Prieto will likely die by injection despite compelling evidence that he suffers from significant intellectual disabilities that the Supreme Court has ruled in other cases should make him ineligible for the death penalty. Prieto was convicted of two murders in Virginia, and another one near Ontario, Calif., for which he was sentenced to death in 1992 (police believe he was responsible for several other murders, as well). Prieto’s California appeal is still pending, and the state’s death penalty is on hold while unrelated legal fights roll on over the constitutionality of the lethal-injection protocol.
My mood must be written all over my face. A barista here asked me what was wrong, and I explained the Gissendaner and Glossip cases and my deeply held belief that state-sanctioned murder is immoral, period. The young man frowned.
“Murder or execution?”
“They are the same thing, in my book,” I said.
“Well, if they killed someone, they deserve to die.” He shrugged and took a bite of an overpriced grilled-cheese sandwich.
I reiterated the particulars of Glossip’s story, how he was fingered for a crime for which he likely is innocent by a man laughing as he serves a life sentence in prison.
“He shouldn’t have put himself in that situation,” said the young man, now scowling . “Whatever, move on.”
“I can’t,” I replied. “I’m a pacifist.”
The conversation dropped. The barista sneered at me, then walked over to another customer to talk about the Tennessee Titans’ football playoff prospects.
My brain is a quagmire, stuck on the question that’s now cliche in progressive activist circles: How can society kill people who kill people (or haven’t killed anyone) to show that killing is wrong? How can anyone be okay with the status quo?
It’s so obvious to me that capital punishment is never justified. Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty lists 13 reasons — among them, it’s random, it’s often racist and classist, it’s expensive, it’s cruel and inhumane, and too many times, an innocent person ends up murdered by their government. And, again, it’s immoral.
People like the callow, callous barista don’t care. Who do the Titans play next week?
Granted, this disgusting attitude is held not only in red states, but I am sure those surrounding me in the Starbucks are more likely to line up with those who approve of state-sanctioned murder and have contempt for those who refuse to march in lockstep with them. Which leads to a question that fills my head every day I spend in Red Tennessee, but most definitely right now: Is there any safe place for my kind?
Glossip now is set to die on Nov. 6. Oct. 10 is World Day Against the Death Penalty. If I vocalize my disdain for the murderous justice system, I am sure to get nasty blowback from the right-wingers and Blue Dogs surrounding me. I’m sure to be shunned and entrench my everyday solitude here in Music City.
Oh well, a girl must do what she must. I cannot stay silent. And I won’t.