Sometimes I Am a Walking Public Service Announcement

The author at University of the West, Rosemead, CA, January 14th, 2012. Please visit justicefortroy.org.

Last weekend, I had a lot of people on the street stop me to ask me what me shirt said. (See above.)

It occurs to me that I didn’t do anything about the late Troy Davis and his case at this blog, largely because I was so incredibly busy at the time of his execution by the state of Georgia. (My tweets about him got noticed by The Washington Post along with those of a variety of other religious Twitterers, though.)

Though I was, like many, particularly concerned about the specifics of Troy’s case, I’ve been an anti-death penalty advocate my whole adult life. I first got involved in the work during college: while I was a student at Denison University, the state of Ohio executed its first prisoner in over thirty years when it killed Wilford Berry on February 19, 1999. In advance of this, along with other members of our campus chapter of Amnesty International, I demonstrated at the home of then-Governor Bob Taft, participated in a statewide fast, wrote letters, and helped circulate petitions. (As I trip down memory lane here, it is worth noting that Ohio this week produced their 6th and the U.S.’s 140th death row exoneration.)

Anyway, long story short, I like to make sure to promote anti-death penalty work as often as I can, so, please…

Take a stand for Troy Davis.
Pledge to fight to abolish the death penalty.

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9 thoughts on “Sometimes I Am a Walking Public Service Announcement

  1. Danny…how any murderers have you actually interviewed/counseled one-on-one? it’s not as easy to make the various assumptions you do out of thin air.

    Let’s sit down some time and see just how Buddhism can help relieve you from the leftist media (and errant monks’) effects on those who don’t think (REALLY THINK) for themselves. I’ve even come across many who know zero about the case they are making pronouncements about. A good meditation/Buddhist/Taoist or other master can make a very big clarity soul hiding behind the phantom “self” that makes following the crowd so easy.

  2. I’m a bit puzzled why you would need to interview anyone before taking a stand against capital punishment. Are you saying that if you interviewed a confessed serial killer of little children, you would change your mind? Are you saying the first precept doesn’t actually mean ‘don’t kill’? Sorry, but I seem to have totally missed your point.

  3. I didn’t do anything about the late Troy Davis and his case at this blog…

    I too am (almost) as staunchly anti-death penalty as you say here – I tend to think there was a benefit to what the US government did to Osama bin Laden, for example.

    But Rev. Fisher…please…I’m trying to choose my words carefully here, but forgive me if you’re offended…but…there is a difference between being a cause junkie and being an agent of effective action.

    Your blog gets no more than a few thousand readers, and by and large on issues like this, you’re preaching to the choir.

    Even the shirt: people stopped you on the street and asked about the shirt’s message. How many of them immediately put you in a category and walked on?

    Of course, I too use the internet to propagate my own messages. But I also try to hold my elected officials accountable, with the understanding that political change is difficult and takes hard work, and that hard work and change aren’t even at the start of being addressed by symbolic actions.

  4. I have to agree with David: it’s pretty logical here: the state in general should not kill because it makes the action taken on behalf of the people, a killing with the justification that it is somehow “caused” by a “criminal’s” heinous acts.

    The only place where I could see it would be justified, would be in a situation where there is an ongoing violent conflict involving challenges to the existence the state itself, and acting on its mandate to serve the people. That is, the people would be in danger as a result of this threat. Hiroshima could not be justified, but the Nuremburg trials’ penalties could be justified on the basis of the extinguishing of Nazism once and for all, but Charles Manson (let alone Troy Davis)?

    Give me a break.

  5. Thanks for the assists in response to An Tzu’s comment, David and Mumon.

    Though, with regards to your second comment, Mumon, I have to call B.S. on a few things. First of all, *I* don’t really know that much about the ideas, beliefs, and opinions of my readership (and I have access to stats about activity here, search terms that bring folks here, and so forth that you don’t have), so you shouldn’t presume to know so much.

    Second, doesn’t An Tzu’s comment negate your point about preaching to the choir? Here’s at least one reader who clearly has a different opinion on the death penalty.

    Third, it’s just plain wrong to say that participating in actions encouraged by Amnesty International is purely “symbolic.” Amnesty International is an organization widely noted for its extraordinary effectiveness (take a look at pages on their websites like this one: http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/victories), and that’s done through their 3 million members doing things like signing pledges, blogging, writing letters, and even helping spread the word through things like T-shirts. If you want to be dismissive of activist work, you probably don’t want to target an organization with a long, proven track record of achievements, or else you risk sounding silly.

  6. Hi Danny,
    True, you have access to stats I don’t. But do you think if you did the research it’d be a significantly different demographic than one might from, oh, say, your Twitter followers? I dunno myself, just asking.

    Second, I’d thought about An Tzu’s comment but then realized that despite the rhetoric, there was a (somewhat inarticulately expressed) point to what An Tzu was saying besides the presumption that sometimes the death penalty’s appropriate. That point is, we may have other motives for our advocacy. Maybe not as blatantly self-serving as the “libertarian pot-head,” but the question should be explored. I try to do it myself to the extent I can.

    Finally, Amensty International’s stated goals are not in question. But without a grand strategy for the elimination of the death penalty (e.g., via borrowing a page from abortion legislators) these “victories” must, by nature, be accompanied by losses.

    I don’t like that very much.

  7. Thank you for making statements against the death penalty. It has always seemed so obvious to me that capital punishment is hypocritical and against the human ideals of compassion and forgiveness.

    Some of your readers seem hell-bent on finding fault with your actions that are clearly inline with your stated faith. Kind of unfortunate, so here’s one for the team.

  8. Methinks some folk didn’t read what I wrote. Never said what my standing on the subject was.

    I used to have an invitation from my state’s former governor to be an official witness to an execution. I kept it on my wall where I could see it every time I sat…until someone “liberated” and later sold it (I never let him know that I knew he had done it) on eBay. The simplicity and starkness of the few sentences asking me to be present on the other side of the glass in the death chamber on the Governor’s personal letterhead still fights with other thoughts during active meditation sessions to he point I sometimes spend hours contemplating all the thoughts that simple piece of paper continues to draw from deep within.

    Searching reasons for beliefs is not on many people’s agenda. Simple questions can lead too many people to draw conclusions, usually incorrect, I have found through the years.

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