Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Mixed Hurrah, A Dutch Injustice, and a Legal Murder

if i do these in 3 separate posts, i'll go on forever.  and i really haven't much to say about any of them--just lots of emotion.

it's still sept. 20, so i've made this on the Historical Day.  and it really is that.  that wimpy and ill-conceived  attempt at liberalizing homophobia,'' don't ask don't tell, ''is over.  finally, it is legal and presumably honorable to be gay and be in the military.  i am truly glad for the end of institutional discrimination against gays and lesbians who want to be in the military.

i just wish they didn't want to.  i remember the young men who burned their draft cards rather than go into the war business in the 1960s.  i see nothing fairer in the wars, declared and undeclared, america is in today than in the vietnam war.  there  are economical reasons to enlist, especially in a country with 9% unemployment and a right wing that doesn't want non-millionaires to have living wages.  but the irony is strong: a big part of why the economy is such a mess is that so much of our tax money goes into these wars.  watching those joyful young people dancing their celebrations over the new opportunities now open to them, i wonder how many of them will be dead in the next year or 2, and how many will become killers, and how many will come back physically and emotionally traumatized and ignored by their governments, this time not for being gay but for needing expensive medical care. i want to yell at them, stay home!  have sex, have a lot of sex, have safe sex!  and by safe i mean you're not in a situation where your activities can at any moment be ended by a surprise attack from the enemy.
  so, congratulations for your victory....and  '2 cheers for democracy.'
no congratulations to the dutch government, which grows ever more repressive.  they've always been much more tolerant than the US over sexuality.  but they are growing much worse over ethnic and religiious cultures.  they are in the midst of passing a bill banning the wearing of the burqa.

i understand the revulsion many have toward that literal self -effacing garb. frankly, it creeps me out too. i have come to like the hijab, which allows the woman to show her face, and which i've seen in various colors and styles.  maybe it's just that i've grown used to it and have had the good luck to have had several hijab-wearing students in the last few years--and they don't seem to have any less self-confidence or less classroom engagement than other students.  maybe if i had a few burqa-wearing students i'd get used to that too.  i'd certainly try to.
but the point is, it's fine for me not to like the burqa: no one is forcing me to wear one. the whole idea of freedom of expression means, specifically, that no one should be forced to live by anyone else's standards.  there are a lot of dress styles i dislike, and i would imagine there are people who dislike mine.  they're entitled to. i'm entitled to. i would imagine that some of the women in burqa's find common western dress digusting.  they too are entitled.
 but what harm can these women do wearing their own preferred clothing?  there may actually be some danger --though i'm not sure of this--that the face covering can provide disguises for terrorist, even male terrorists, in largely muslim countries.  in western countries, however, where burka's are rare, they are totally conspicuous.  they disguise an individual face but highlight the person wearing them.  what kind of 'tolerance,' or even freedom, does it take to allow people to wear what manu or even most other people find appropriate?
i have perhaps an overly romanticized view of the netherlands, a country whose culture has become very dear to me.  they have been so morally ahead of most of the other western countries.  but lately the government seems hell-bent on changing all that.


but the real horror that i'm trying not to think about is that, as i sit here writing this at midnight, i know that by this time tomorrow it is almost certain that a man, convicted of murder years ago, will be dead--executed by the state of georgia, and may god have mercy on its soul.  the trial took place in the context of 9 eyewitnesses,  and a jury who believed from what they heard that troy davis was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  since then, 7 of the eyewitnesses have recanted.  jurors from the trial have said they would never have found davis guilty had they known then what they know now. but his appeal yesterday was turned down, and he is scheduled to die.
apparently 'reasonable doubt' ends with the jury's verdict.  there appears to be very reasonable doubt now, and the man deserves another trial, with the new information made explicit. he has already lost 20 years of his life, but at least he's had that life.  further investigation, a further trial, might give him his freedom.  maybe it wouldn't; maybe in all the evidence they'll find something 'beyond reasonable doubt.'  but you can't un-execute someone. if, as seems all too likely, he's innocent, the state of georgia will have committed a crime no less hideous than the one troy davis was charged with.
oh yes, i forgot to mention--troy davis is black.  maybe that had nothing to do with his conviction; maybe it has nothing to do with the state's determination to kill him.  then again, maybe it has a lot to do with it. it wouldn't be the first time.
i do not approve of capital punishment under any circumstances.  but those who do believe in it, and especially those who have the power to enforce it, have a heavy responsibility to make sure it is used only when they have as much certainty of guilt as is humanly possible. 7 of 9 witnesses recanting is hardly certainty.
it's past midnight, time for me to go to bed. i'll take a sleeping pill so i don't lie awake haunted by troy davis's face, by the knowledge that he is unlikely to be sleeping well tonight.  i fear his murderers will have no trouble at all.  they have to rest up for their big day ahead.


Pelvis Costello said...

Wow. The things that happen that give us reason to stay up at night. Thank you for this post, Karen!

Baysage said...

On anybody joining the military: they simply volunteer to be professional victims of the state's foreign policy, which is as malleable as the next president.

On Dutch and the burqa: I fear they are no more intolerant of the Muslim immigration wave into Western Europe than, say, France or the UK. It's the way things are over there. Who is welcoming the Muslims with open arms? Anybody?

On the execution: Nothing more perfectly exhibits the American character than our embrace of the death penalty. We are killers to our bones.