Friday, March 28, 2008

"We call it capital punishment, rather than what it is. State killing. Legal homicide."

The first leg of the VHAC tour is done. I'm at home relaxing, thinking more about family, laundry, and my grad school tasks than about work. But here are a few final thoughts after this first week.

Day VI of the tour took the Mystery Machine (that would be our rented mini van with the bad windshield wiper, which is never a good thing when traveling through western PA at this time of year) to Pittsburgh. We absorbed a full day in my college town (Pitt, 1995) with a press conference, a visit to a local Catholic high school, and an event with the Pitt chapter of the ACLU.

Day VI was capped by the annual meeting of the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of ACLU-PA. More than 150 civil libertarians came out to hear Harold's story and to hear keynote speaker Mike Farrell, actor and activist and president of Death Penalty Focus, California's abolition group. Mike told us:
I am not a person who hates. But I have come to hate the death system. I hate what it is. I hate what it does. I hate the way it corrupts those who touch it...

We call it capital punishment rather than what it is. State killing. Legal homicide...

By supporting state killing, we are stooping to the level of the least among us at their worst moments.

Mike connected America's continued use of the death penalty with torture at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and noted the death penalty's "ruinous impact on our standards as a society," calling America's use of torture "the poisonous legacy of mindless authoritarians."

As he closed, Mike gave us our charge:
We have work to do, ladies and gentlemen. It is good work. It is necessary work. Some say it is holy work. I believe it is all of those things.

Andy in Harrisburg

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