So say it, already

I admit to being a rubbernecker.  Not where there are lights and sirens, not when the fire department goes out, but when a public figure’s political implosion is in the making, oh, yes.  It’s such a nicely predictable event.  Stupid, offensive, sexist, racist comment.  Internet KABOOM.  Shards everywhere.  Countdown to apology in five … four … three….

“Sorry.”

Which no one, least of all me, believes, but hey, he said it.  That counts, right?

We have this thing with apology.  Be a murderer, be a rapist, be whatever vile thing human beings have ever invented, but for Pete’s sake apologize, and we’ll think just a little better of you.  We might even let you have another chance.  Just SAY IT.

I’m not actually that impressed with the way we reward the manipulative, the groveling and the insincere.  But parole boards go on doing it.  Whether in terms of pardons, commutations or paroles, remorse is a factor in the offender’s case.  You have to say it.

Which, if you didn’t do it, means you can lie to God, yourself, your fellow man and the State that sentenced you–or you can go on rotting out your sentence.  There is no other alternative.  Parole boards are not allowed to consider the possibility of innocence.  Legally, you were ruled guilty and they must consider you guilty.  Therefore, you must have remorse.

The murderer who can admit what he did has a better chance at freedom than you do.

Point two: we have this thing with believing convicted people must be guilty.  Even though we know innocent men go to prison, we can’t quite believe it until years after overwhelming evidence exonerates them.  This is the other societal cramp that binds the first one into law.  Both need to change.  Because they are so socially and legally engrained, they won’t change without a great change in social understanding.  Let’s get on it, people.

Starting with, I want you to see this film.  It needs to be made, must be released and shared.  There are just over three weeks left of a fundraiser that badly needs to be rocketed off the ground.  Please reblog, tweet, Facebook, pass on.  Help.

And I thank you.

***

Natural Life: A Case Study.  “The question of parole and remorse for one juvenile lifer.”

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/natural-life-a-case-study

Update: I want to add this article from the New York Times, because it shows hope for more progressive thinking.  Time for Michigan’s parole boards to get on board.

Claims of Innocence No Longer a Roadblock  (in New York State)

 

Update: Middleton to die after stay overturned

After a federal judge granted a brief stay of execution to evaluate Middleton’s compentency to be executed, an appeals court has overturned it.  In essence, the court ruled, Middleton failed to pursue the compentency issue at state level, and it’s too late.

John Middleton will die whether he is competent or not, whether he is innocent or not.  He will lose his life to a due process that is concerned with process to the exclusion, too often, of real justice.

Evidence proving he could not have committed the crime has been thoroughly disregarded by State and courts.  In other words, by men who should be supremely interested in anything that would prevent the kind of tragedy that takes place tonight–that would not need to take place, if those who guarded the law would keep the open minds and ears they are meant to keep.  This is a fail for all of us.

Rest in peace, John.  May you go gently.

Missouri, we are not proud of you.

“Who’s Sorry Now”

One minute after midnight, Wednesday morning, July 16, 2014. That’s tomorrow.

Tomorrow, if the State of Missouri has its way, John Middleton will be wrongfully executed in the face of a clear legal doubt. While his lawyers pursue last minute appeals–to the federal courts, perhaps the Supreme Court–Missouri has washed its hands of Middleton’s blood.

In a system that routinely fails to punish bad faith in prosecution–and again, rewards witnesses who please their prosecutors–this shouldn’t surprise anyone. What should surprise us is our apathy in the face of damning evidence: the justice we depend upon can just as quickly, and wrongfully, convict any one of us. But like a flock of sparrows, we wait until the scattered feathers settle–the cat is satisfied–and return as if we are not one less than we were yesterday.

Perhaps–I say this questioningly–apathy is only the bastard child of inexperience. It’s true that most of us have never been wrongly convicted, never known someone who is or has been wrongly convicted. I was the latter, once.

I know better now. It’s a mind-opening experience that filters every waking moment. The sunsets I can only send through photographs. The birdsongs I can only (try to) describe on paper. The world wide web of information–he loves to know what’s going on outside–that I can only filter through the clunky machinery of prison email and my letters. Above all, the years of life stripped away from a man whose dream is to sit on his own porch; and maybe to go for a walk if he feels like it–just to go, with nothing to bar the road and a horizon that goes on opening its doors.

In only one respect, my friend is lucky. His state does not have a death penalty. There’s still time, still a chance for someone to right so much wrong.

I’ve said in the past that I support the death penalty when fairly applied. I no longer believe that’s possible. Until we change, until our system of law and prosecution and witnessing and evidence changes, I can no longer support executions, whatever the crime. Life in prison, without parole, is long enough.

Yes, it’s too long for an innocent man. But maybe it’s long enough for the rest of us to nod our heads in belated justice, and say to a living human being, “we’re sorry. We made a mistake.”

Because frankly, just between you and me and the cemetary, that headstone doesn’t care who’s sorry now.

For the children’s sake

There are times when a journalist leaves a blogger without much more to add, and this is one of them. Except to ask–read this, please. And then contact your congressman. For the children’s sake.

A Refugee Crisis on the Border

Children Fleeing Gangs Look for Safety

We are human beings. We are not, I hope, without heart or compassion. To turn these little ones away, to deny them the care that belongs to refugees, is simply beyond heartless.

God bless the children.

Say it with me

Welcome home, Bowe Bergdahl.

I’m not talking about politics. I’m not talking about trades. I’m not talking about desertion, or treason, because you know what, there are plenty of people talking about every one of those things.

I’m talking about you, man and boy, an American, a soldier–friend and son and brother.

I’m talking about a boy who struggled with his deployment, wrote from the bitterness of his soul about the ugliness he saw, raged against colonial-style racism, walked away for a moment because … God knows why.

I’m talking about an American whose every known word has been thrown to judgment without a chance to speak any more words, who has been demonized and vilified by political bone-pickers; who doesn’t yet know that he’s hated, questioned and taunted before he even comes back to … God knows what.

I’m talking about a soldier who did everything he had to do to survive, until he almost forgot who he was–whose fragile life may still be undone by the cruelty of his own countrymen. God help him.

I’m talking about a friend who still has friends, a son who has parents, a brother to everyone who’s ever questioned injustice that he saw with his own eyes and heard with his own ears, even if he didn’t say it the way someone twenty years older might have said it.

I’m saying loud and clear, welcome home. With open arms, welcome home.

With one more word for the men and women with stones in their hands and stones for hearts:

“Go learn what this means: I will have mercy and not sacrifice.”

To those whom it may offend….

If you would possibly be offended by a sign that says “Whites Only” or “Blacks Use Rear Entrance” or “No Irish Need Apply,” please consider being offended likewise by the one that will read, “We Do Not Serve Gays.”

In Arizona, it’s already on the way, as this article from The New York Times explains.*

Let me add:  I am a straight, Christian, creationist writer who believes in six days to make the Earth, the Flood that destroyed it, and the Second Coming of Christ.  You might, if you cared to do it, call me a fundamentalist.  And this legislation offends me.  Believe me, it does.

A business open to the public is open to the public.  Period.  And civil rights are not to be violated either as a matter of religion or whim.

*Pending Governor Brewer’s signature.

“I have a dream” fifty years later

White Sororities Admit Black Students at the University of Alabama

And you know what?  It’ s about time.  I just wonder, how did it ever take this long?

Or maybe we’ve still got some growing up to do.