There’s an issue that I feel needs to be urgently addressed in regards to the angles certain activists take in fighting the death penalty. With this comes a certain understanding and acceptance of reality. If one can’t face the reality of a situation, how can a proper solution be found? Stokely Carmichael pointed it out properly when he said:
« In order to get the right answers, one must pose the right questions. In order to find effective solutions, one must formulate the problem correctly. One must start from premises rooted in truth and reality rather than myth. »
The above is in reference to a conversation I had with an activist whom is part of a well-known anti-death penalty group here in Texas. As we discussed different tactics to fight the death penalty, he pointed out that we must make the death penalty a morality issue with these politicians. I was quite shocked at that reasoning and pointed out to him why. How can we make the death penalty an issue of morality to these politicians when their « morals » tell them that the death penalty is an appropriate and acceptable thing? Not only is the death penalty « morally » acceptable to many of these politicians, it’s a part of their religious beliefs as well. In a heartbeat, many of these pseudo-Christians will quote the Biblical scriptures of eye for an eye to you. That is truly something of a deeper decay that would have to be raised at another time though. I know that I don’t have to tell any of you how eye for an eye is contradictive to what Jesus taught. Plain and simple, any person believing in eye for eye shouldn’t even call themselves a Christ-ian. The point is, we’re dealing with a society that has completely warped and polluted a righteous ideology/religion. In the face of love and forgiveness, politicians still act out in just the opposite forms of this – hate and vengeance. Therefore, what we’re dealing with is a groups of people with a polluted and twisted mentality. So, trying to teach morals to these people would be like trying to teach sanity to a schizophrenic. The bottom line is we can’t abolish the death penalty thinking we’re going to do so by showing these politicians, through a verbal expression or morality, how wrong it is.
Steven Hawkins (Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty) said:
« The ONLY way the death penalty will be abolished within our lifetime is by an AGGRESSIVE, CONCERTED, broad based grassroots effort that DEMANDS death penalty repeal state by state, legislature by legislature. » (my emphasis added)
And I totally agree! This man didn’t say that we’ll be successful passing out flyers or lighting candles when people are being filled with poison. He said we have to be aggressive (this doesn’t mean violent) and be concerted (which means to plan). He also said that we must DEMAND the death penalty be repealed. This isn’t asking, it isn’t begging, it isn’t compromising. When you demand something that is an URGENT request. It’s a way of telling somebody to do something and accepting nothing less. As these « activist » continue to accept less the death row population becomes less and less.
We have to realize that we’re dealing with a country that only knows how to talk through force. They live by the power of the sword. You gain power over a person in one of two ways: by winning their heart or breaking their spirit. This country follows the latter. To be in tune with this reality is to understand that you cannot overcome an attack by being passive. Texas has no complexes about stating what they are- they are killers and they do it well. We can’t rightfully become killers of politicians in that sense, but we must learn how to « execute » political power.
Martin Luther King Jr. broke it down best and this needs to be a strategy that all anti-death penalty activist live by. He said:
« Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. The law may not change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless. It will take education and religion to change bad internal activities, but legislation and court orders can control the external effects of bad internal attitudes. »
Some people can’t understand spirituality, but they can understand that if you do this or that people will get on your ass! And that’s what we got to get back to. We’ve got to let people know what we’re willing to get all the way down for ours, to show that we’re tired of this wicked laws. When I write poems like « Let’s Start Organizing » and « We don’t need mourners, we need organizers, » I mean that! We as inmates have a responsibility to relay this to those that are in anti-death penalty activism. We have to be constant reminders that this cannot be a passive battle. Holding vigils at executions is like taking spit balls to a gun fight! We’re losing because these politicians aren’t taking this movement seriously. They don’t feel a threat. The threat has to be physically in the streets and economically (like with the Voters Initiative). That’s what they feel. These people don’t feel morality and spirituality. They’re heartless. Only when this soaks in will a difference be made in totality.
In the famous words of attorney Clarence Darrow:
« As long as the world shall last there will be wrong, and if no man objected and no man rebelled; those wrongs would last forever! »