My grandfather used to say to my mother, “There is no ‘fair’.”
It wasn’t an old adage or a philosophy to live by, but rather a sign of exasperation at the state of the world. I laughed when my mother told me this. “Where’s the other half?” I asked her more than once. I couldn’t fathom a phrase like that working without at least a glimmer of hope at the end. I didn’t believe her when she said that that was it; at least, not until last Wednesday anyway.
That was the day Troy Davis died by lethal injection.
Davis was a black man convicted in 1989 of murdering a police officer, in a case which is often described as being mired by racial tension and unreliable circumstantial evidence. No murder weapon was ever found. Witnesses recanted statements under cross-examination, one even stating in court that he had been coerced into testimony with threats of prison if he did not do as police said.
This single person, with a groundswell of protesting supporters, was denied for the last time the request to be retried when the Supreme Court of the United States of America set out their statement this June. Without a flicker of consideration, a human being who had maintained his innocence in the midst of formerly damning witnesses recanting their statements, was suddenly told that there would be no further interest in his situation legally.
So he died or, rather, he was killed. Whether innocent or guilty, we don’t really know, but it’s certainly clear that justice wasn’t done. This is a case where every possible bias came into play. Furthermore, when select members of the country cried out for a correction, nothing changed – this is possibly the most disheartening fact of all.
For the supporters who have been protesting his arrest for years, attending rallies and pickets, it must burn like crazy. One writer for The Nation, Dave Zirin, asks pointedly, “Why does this hurt so much?” He wonders tragically how he’s going to tell his young daughter, whose been fighting this battle with him since she was in a stroller, about the death. For those people it must feel like losing a piece of themselves.
And so that old phrase again pops into my head; “there is no fair.” It rings true now, but we can all feel in our guts that it isn’t. Just because Davis may not have gotten justice and may not have been treated fairly, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t recognize the way he was treated as wrong. We must sing it aloud along with the chorus of voices out there decrying this abomination and every other abomination we see.
So then, it is left up to us to write the second half to the phrase my grandfather so sadly stated. It must be understood that, although life isn’t fair, we have a responsibility to work damn hard to make things better in the future, because giving up isn’t an option.