Rondal Snodgrass: Mindfulness And Arcata’s Noon Siren – November 8, 2011
The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. The struggle for justice is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones will come after me. I’m in good spirits and I’m prayerful and in peace.
Our government, on the Autumn Equinox, Sept. 21, in a Georgia prison, executed Troy Davis. He was strapped to a table and given lethal injection. This was after the Supreme Court took one last look at the case on that day, raising the hopes of tens of thousands world wide, and then denied the pleas to stay and he was murdered. I say murdered, as it was revenge for the death of an off-duty policeman, Mark MacPhail senselessly murdered by someone 20 years ago. There was never any physical evidence, five of seven people renounced their second hand testimony, and serious doubt of Troy’s forced confession was raised again and again and still he was killed.
His last words to his executioners, released by the Georgia State Department of Correction were: “Well, first of all I’d like to address the MacPhail family. I’d like to let you know that despite the situation—I know all of you still are convinced that I’m the person that killed your father, your son, and your brother, but I am innocent. The incidents that happened that night were not my fault. I did not have a gun that night. I did not shoot your family member. But, I am sorry for your loss. I really am — sincerely. All that I can ask is that each of you look deeper into this case, so that you really will finally see the truth. I ask to my family and friends that you all continue to pray, that you all continue to forgive. Continue to fight this fight. For those about to take my life, may God have mercy on all your souls. God bless you all.”
The whole world was watching the barbaric act. Amnesty International considered it a tortuous treatment based on racism, and people in many nations prayed, including the Pope at the Vatican and former President Jimmy Carter and thousands and thousands more had voiced their objections, month after month, and year after year. More than one million petition signatures, including 40,000 from Georgians, plus letters from 1,500 attorneys and 3,000 religious leaders and 300 demonstrations worldwide with crowds in the thousands called for the parole board to grant clemency. But the pleas of the people fell on deaf ears. They were shocked, even horrified to see the brutality displayed by the U.S. system of justice. Our own system forced this killing.
Troy was born in October 1968, as was my first son Dylan. Those boys, as all children, came into our world with nothing but wonder and awe and innocent trust and hope. My son graduates from a nursing program at University of San Francisco this year 2011, as Troy Davis had once graduated from college as well. Sadly, Troy then spent 20 years in prison and in death row for an alleged crime never witnessed nor corroborated by any tangible evidence. I feel a personal, family kinship to Troy as I do to our sons and daughters living out their lives.
Dick Gregory, the iconic Afro-American comedian and activist of the 1960s and ’70s, in his eulogy for Troy Davis, to honor Troy Davis, and to not forget Troy Davis, asked all of us to take a moment, each noon, to stop and think of who we are, what we are doing, and how we can proceed. Gregory in stopping this way himself, at noon, decided to begin a year long fast to bring attention to such societal brutality. Here in Arcata, we have the fire department siren sounded exactly at noon each day. This can be our mindfulness moment.
I learned from Thich Nhat Hanh, at a retreat for environmentalists several years ago, of the mindfulness moment signaled by the ringing of a bell. During our discussion, study, dharma talks, meditations, meals, and walking, on occasion a monk would ring a bell. We would stop doing what we were doing, be silent, breathe in and out and honor that peaceful moment, that present moment.
It was only minutes but precious minutes for gratitude, hope, forgiveness, sorrow and joy.
My thoughts keep going back to when Troy Davis and my son Dylan were born. I remember it was in 1968, and in November of that same year, Dick Gregory ran for President. Please join me, Dick Gregory and the thousands of others who will stop each noon to be mindful. I will stop my work, my meal, and my time with friends when I hear the Arcata Fire Department siren signaling a mindfulness moment.
Rondal Snodgrass continues to provide consultation services for non-profits, private landowners and public agencies, and now has begun new services for men wanting to make positive changes in their personal and professional lives.