Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's Time to Stir Things Up. Again.

One day , just one day between now and Easter, I'd like to wake up and not hear of another crazy shooting. Hey, I'll even take a day when I wake up and instead of hearing about someone who got killed, maybe hear about someone who didn't get killed -- especially after the news out of Ohio a week or so ago.

Ohio's attorney general, Thomas Madden,  is quoted as saying (of a botched execution) that while the Constitution bars cruel and unusual punishment, it doesn't guarantee a pain-free one. This was in response to  a scheduled execution in which the condemned prisoner took 25 minutes to die after two previously untested drugs were administered.

Reading the article gave me chills, not just because I am personally opposed to capital punishment, but because the cavalier tone emanating from the state's top law enforcement official was so callous. It was also another painful reminder of Texas stunning record of executions -- the nation's highest. Hell, we even executed a man in 2004 who was posthumously pardoned, which did nothing to restore him, but, given it happened in Texas, the pardon was a step. It  happened in spite of  the governor's efforts to sabotage the investigation that led to proof of the  executed man's innocence (

Of course, there's always the happy news that while Texas ranks number one in executions nationwide, the United States is keeping company with Iran , (where public stoning is still on the books), North Korea,  Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.  Oh, I almost forgot: Afghanistan and China.
According to Amnesty International, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty. In 2012, Latvia abolished the death penalty for all crimes (  Latvia, folks, Latvia.
I can hear Molly musing to herself, rhetorically asking how much meaner, how much more indifferent to human suffering we're going to be as a nation before we implode. I mean, don't we want to be compared for something other than school shootings, wars and poverty? Oh, and how about health care -- especially woman's health? Remember Texas governor Perry's  irrational refusal to accept billions from the federal government that could fund care for those least able to afford it?. By the way, we're talking a $79 billion -- with a 'b' --  all because it would also have covered birth control and abortions. This, by the way, is the same Perry is who wangled an invite to the prestigious World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland ostensibly to participate in a discussion of  health care.

Who says there's not an abundance of irony left in the world.

Increasingly, the foxes are in charge of the hen house and we are revealing ourselves to be the chickens.

I look at an Austin City Council that  won't  challenge developers to include affordable housing units in construction plans, all the while shedding crocodile tears over the continual displacement of Afro-Americans and Hispanics from Austin's remaining integrated east side. East Austin now has a cachet sorely missing a mere decade ago. This part of town, where I choose to live, was at one time home to  neighborhoods populated by working-class blacks, browns and a few whites with shared economic circumstances. They weren't rich, but they were abjectly poor. There were even trailers for homeless men and women trying  once to get on their feet. The city is still dithering over where to put the trailers.

Meanwhile I'm trying to figure out how a state  that puts such a high premium on religion can't see its way clear to address this issue. I mean, if Pope Francis can confiscate a greedy German bishop's property and convert it to a soup kitchen and homeless shelter, surely, surely, more of Austin's church community can tap into parishioner conscience to openly advocate for change.

I had lunch recently with a friend  who suggested that Austin has outgrown itself, that the zaniness that gave rise to a "Keep Austin Weird" characterization is drying up bit by bit. This is not to say David  can't still kick Goliath's ass. A year or so ago the Broken Spoke, and iconic honky-tonk Austin institution faced down the usual greedy-Gus developers who threatened to shut it down  in order to build a parking lot for yet another megalith multi-unit something or other. Long story short, the megalith is up but the honky tonk still stands. Locals came to the Spoke's aid, loud and clear.

So there is still spirit left in Austin, but  there are too many who feel  so disenfranchised that they've just adjourned to their easy chairs and called it quits. So hear this: if  all who say "my vote doesn't count" or "my letter doesn't count" were to write a note or storm the polls the way the French stormed the Bastille, we'd have one helluva revolution.

With the seventh anniversary of Molly's death just a few days away the corner, I know she'd be thrilled to see grass roots stirring it up.

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