Uncle Sam's Addiction
Ironically, I am supposed to be writing a shooting script for a music video called "Two Kings" about Martin Luther King and Elvis and the revolutions they both inspired. Instead, I cannot stop thinking about Troy Davis' state sponsored killing last evening: death by lethal injection compliments of the State Of Georgia. Although I promised myself I wouldn't become ensnared in the insanity (and it is lunacy on steroids in which we are mired) like millions of others, I am physically sickened and devastated by last night's execution and craving an outlet to dump the frustration, anger and sadness.
When I finally remember to breathe, I realize that for the past several hours, I have been conscious of nothing except rage. I barely noticed that today is a stunning 80 degree day in Nashville or that I have completely ignored a dear friend's birthday. I did not know Troy Davis nor do I know his family but I am consumed with the idea of their sadness.
Intermittently blinded and paralyzed by the headlines, I manage to take another breath. And instead of rifling off a series of posts and emails on Facebook--that I hope will release the emotions--I count to five and wait for the next breath. This time I inhale a little deeper and my head stops throbbing and, although I still feel a dull ache in my chest, it is clear that underneath the anger is grief.
Several breaths later, I notice the feeling is familiar and possibly centuries old. And then I wonder if this grief is not my own and if somehow it is intertwined with a familiar, collective grief. Perhaps it is the same grief black folks (and some whites) felt when Amadou Diallo was gunned down or Emmett Till was beaten beyond recognition or when Martin Luther King was assassinated or the countless of black people lynched during Jim Crowe? Could it be the same grief that emerged after the government sponsored extermination of millions of Native peoples or the legalized enslavement of millions of Africans--all while we espoused liberty and freedom for all?
Troy Davis' execution is a mirror reflecting back America's addiction to violence. And like most addictions, denial only further entrenches us into our disease. We have been exposed and we can no longer hide behind who we claim to be. And hopefully, we have 'bottomed out.'
Hundreds of thousands of people signed petitions, and millions protested and rallied in support of Troy Davis. Many black people (and white) carried signs declaring "I am Troy Davis" to underscore the shameful truth that any black person in America could very easily meet the fate of Mr. Davis just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And in the midst of hysteria, even those who were on the same side became divided. The dirty secret of white supremacy has always been the successful division of people and as the grief engulfed us, we became impatient and indignant with one another over who had the right to identify with Mr. Davis' plight.
Outside of politics, race and the insanity induced by white supremacy, we are all Troy Davis. Of course I do not feel the intense grief his loved ones experience over his death or the threat my brothers and sisters of color live with everyday--knowing how easily what happened to Troy Davis could happen to them. But it is our insanity that allows us to behave as though we are not connected. In truth, we are Troy Davis as much as we are the system that executed him.
May we gaze unflinchingly in the mirror and count to ten before we react. And rather than allowing our collective hearts to splinter and divide, may they open bravely to embrace an ugly truth. We have trapped ourselves in an addictive cycle of violence and the enemy is us. But the good news is, we are no longer in denial.