Saturday, 24 September 2011

Despair at American Injustice.

The Time for Rage.

As one of the people who lit candles for Troy Davis outside the US embassy on Thursday night, I feel obligated to write of the sheer obscenity of the case and others like it. Above us the Old Glory rippled in the wind as an armed guard was poised across from us, this is what marked the building apart from the others in Grosvenor Square. The statues of Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan stand at the opposite ends of the embassy, perhaps to signify the beginning and end of the Cold War. Of course, the statues were not there to celebrate the savagery of the Korean War and the depraved crimes in which the US government indulged throughout the 1980s. The Old Glory had not been raised up above the embassy to take pride in the bloodied foundations of the United States, where the remains of millions of Native Americans and Africans rest in unsettled and unmarked graves. The statues no doubt commemorate "truth, justice and the American way" not to mention America as the "Land of the Free" and "Home of the Brave".

How many Americans will think of Troy Davis when they next pledge allegiance? The details of the Troy Davis case are almost as hideous as Justice Scalia's scrotum. As The Guardian rightly notes: Out of the nine witnesses, seven have since recanted their testimony and some have cited police intimidation. One of the witnesses was illiterate and could not read the statement which they signed at a police station. No murder weapon was ever recovered. There was no DNA evidence at all and the case against Troy Davis was based on the testimony of witnesses. Out of the remaining two witnesses it is possible that one of them is Sylvester Coles, who has been implicated by nine people as a serious suspect in the murder. When he was drunk Coles confessed to a friend that he was the real killer. He has admitted that he owned the same model weapon as that was used to kill Mark MacPhail, supposedly Coles gave away the gun earlier on the day of the shooting. The only reaction of a real human being to all of this is despair.

Bare in mind Rick Perry has signed around 235 death warrants in the last 10 years and it was his predecessor George the Anointed who signed 152 in 4 years as Texan Governor. This is out of 475 executions since 1976 and 413 currently stew on death row in Huntsville. But let's not shirk from criticism of the Democrats and remember it was Bill Clinton who saw to it that Ricky Ray Rector was executed in 1992. Rector had survived shooting himself in the head after he had shot a police officer in the back. He was left "seriously mentally impaired", to say the least, on death row in an Arkansas prison cell for over 10 years. The court had rejected the claim of "grave mental impairment" and gave him the death penalty. Rather than pardon the man Clinton exploited the situation to wipe the press clean of the latest sex scandal - with Gennifer Flowers - to blight his precious campaign. On the night of his execution, Rector saved a slice of pecan pie for later, not understanding his death would come first. It took them 45 minutes to find a vein to shoot full of sodium thiopental and Clinton had dinner with Mary Steenburgen.

The 40th anniversary of the Attica Prison riot passed a week or so ago, it was September 9th 1971 when the hostage situation was crushed at the behest of Governor Nelson Rockefeller with the support of Richard Nixon. Over 2,200 prisoners seized control of the jail and held 39 guards hostage for four days in reaction to the death of activist George Jackson at the hands of prison guards in an escape attempt at San Quentin. The troopers were sent in to the jail and let loose over 2,000 rounds indiscriminately, killing 29 prisoners and 10 guards before going onto beat and torture even more prisoners. Cornel West has a word for the process whereby people become deferential subjects to the Establishment to the extent that they consent to domination and control. West calls this process "niggerization", not just of blacks but of whites as well, and he holds that Attica was a counter-move against this process. For the Establishment the riot had to be brought down in case it spread to other prisons, as was the case with riots which swept across America in the 60s.

In the 1940s there was an opening for black people to enter the workforce as labourers and escape a system of de facto slavery which continued after the American Civil War. The rise of radical sentiments and civil disobedience in the 60s made way for greater progress. But the opening was closed in the 1970s as the economy became finance-based and the role of African-Americans became increasingly superfluous once more. So the need for a huge system of incarceration emerged, which might explain why there are currently over 7 million Americans in some phase of the penal system. Of course, the root problem is the neoliberal model which appears to have finally collapsed into stagnancy. It is clear that the American political system has long been broken, with the opposition as rudderless as the powerful themselves. In the words of Thomas Jefferson "God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion." For Jefferson rebellion is not a constant condition, though it does eternally return and the US is long overdue.

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