Troy Davis and Our Laser-Pointer Culture

Troy Davis and Our Laser-Pointer Culture

Troy Davis and Our Laser-Pointer Culture

Will Troy Davis be forgotten with the next news cycle? That’s up to us, not the media.


One week ago, the state of Georgia murdered Troy Anthony Davis in cold blood. Despite a death penalty conviction shrouded in doubt and an international outcry, Troy was injected with poison until his heart stopped beating. Despite pleas for clemency from a pope, a former president, Reagan’s FBI director and former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele, Troy was put to death with chemicals the army uses to euthanize dogs. Despite the work of thousands of activists, there was a legal lynching in Georgia.

The night of Troy’s death saw an unprecedented national conversation about the death penalty. News broadcasts led with Troy’s story. “Troy Davis” was the number-one trending topic on Twitter. Even in my corner of the media world in sports-radio-land, many microphone jocks understood that something momentous and monstrous had taken place, and took the time to open up the phone lines and express their thoughts. (Granted, some of these thoughts might have been better left unsaid.) Some athletes even took to Twitter to express their rage.

Now it’s one week later, and in the world of mainstream as well as social media, Troy Davis is yesterday’s news. The big stories are about whether New Jersey’s unionbusting governor will satisfy his gluttonous ambitions by running for president. It’s about the “heroism” of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo in leading his team to victory on Monday Night Football with bruised ribs. It’s the false rumors that a sex tape is out there featuring 18-year-old Miley Cyrus. Here we have our ADD media in all its infamy: political intrigue, football and barely legal porn. They’re like a person with a laser pointer torturing a cat by flashing it at different spot on a dark rug, as the cat haplessly leaps from spot to spot. Meanwhile, Troy Davis is still dead. Meanwhile, our government performed a methodical ritualistic murder. This is simply something we cannot afford to casually unsee.

This Saturday, October 1, Troy Davis is being put to rest in Savannah, Georgia. His family has asked that supporters in different cities hold commemorations and wear black armbands or Troy Davis T-shirts. Whatever people do, the family wants us to never forget, because that was in accordance with Troy’s last wishes. “There are so many more Troy Davises," he said. “This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.”

In DC, we are gathering at 11 am at Tivoli Square (14th and Park NW) and we’ll march to St. Stephens Church at 16th and Newton. There we will hear speakers including 1968 Olympian John Carlos, Dr. Jared Ball and Reverend Graylan Hagler. Then we will walk down to the White House to leave a cardboard coffin at the steps of the White House. The idea that President Obama would say nothing is its own outrage. And to the Obama fantasists, crudely working overtime trying to shore up his left flank for next year’s election, he did in fact say nothing.

But Obama’s silence should only fuel our desire to make sure that Troy isn’t forgotten with the next news cycle. Howard Zinn once said, “It doesn’t matter who’s sitting in the White House. It matters who’s sitting in.” This Saturday, sit, stand and speak out for Troy Davis. Let’s ensure, like Emmett Till before him, that his death haunts those who see black life as expendable. There are, as he said, so many more Troy Davises.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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