Random Liberals

We are random liberals (who knew?). Collectively, we make up the greatest blog in the history of ourselves. We will blog about anything that suits us; mostly politics, with a little bit of religion and randomness to make the blog exciting.

Contributors
Rob
Joshua

Monday, March 21, 2005

Death Penalty

So. Last week was my Spring Break. Yes, that's right, the implication is that I'm back in school. Hooray for me. More on that development later. First, Spring Break. The Texas Moratorium Network, in conjunction with the Austin chapter of Campaign to End the Death Penalty, held an anti-death penalty alternative Spring Break. Together with about 20 other high school and college students, I went to Austin and learned about the issues surrounding the death penalty, and basic steps that we can take to abolish the death penalty.

Overall, there were 6 seminars that were held between Saturday March 12th and Wednesday March 16th. The two on Saturday dealt with the issues of the death penalty: the racial and economic inequalities in the system, the cost of capital trials and punishment, and the moral quandry of state-sanctioned executions. The two seminars on Monday dealt with our response: how to reach our target audience through the media and through protesting and lobbying. The other two seminars, one on Sunday and one on Wednesday, dealt with direct actions: canvassing and petition-gathering, and actually planning and executing a protest.

As good and informative as the seminars were, they couldn't hold a candle to actually taking action, which we did on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday was Lobby Day. At noon, the Texas Moratorium Network held a press conference featuring a death penalty defense lawyer, a state representative, and the mother of a murder victim. The mother's speech was especially powerful. She called for forgiveness of those who had taken so much away from her and other mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends. She did not want the blood of any other person on her hands.

After the press conference, about 30 people, some who were in Austin just for Tuesday's activity, went into the capitol to sit in on committee meetings. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee was debating a bill which would make it possible for juries to sentence a convicted murderer to life without parole. Several of the activists sat in on this meeting, and watched the bill get reported out of committee. Several others, including me, sat in on the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, which was scheduled to debate a formality bill outlawing the execution of people who were under 18 years of age at the time of their crimes. I say "formality bill" because as most folks know, the Supreme Court declared, in Roper v. Simmons, that executing such individuals was cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore unconstitutional. In any case, none of us stayed long enough to see that bill reported to the committee. We left after about 2 hours of debate on various other bills because we wanted to stick our heads in the offices of our representatives. I went into the office of my senator, Sen. Kim Brimer. Unfortunately, he was not there, but his receptionist was very gracious, and accepted the literature we were handing out on his behalf. Not much telling where Sen. Brimer falls on this issue (though I'm not all that optimistic...he's a conservative Republican), but we shall see soon.

On Wednesday, we rallied in front of the governor's mansion, then marched around four blocks of downtown Austin, chanting and carrying signs. That was definitely fun, and it was great seeing all the support we had. That said, I think the trip to the capitol was a much better experience for me. I want to go back there. Preferably on the staff of a representative or as a rep my own self, but clerking would be good, too. Wow...and this is even with the knowledge that the Texas legislature is a bit of a circus. Ah, who am I kidding. It's a freakin madhouse. But still...that was something else. In any case, more on the death penalty--especially the case of Pablo Meléndez, a man who came within two days of execution before being granted a stay last Monday--later this week. Until then, be safe.

Robert

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Looking Beyond

I was really bored tonight and was looking at old (well, not that old) newspaper articles with one of my friends. I happened to run across an editorial in the Dallas Morning News complaining about a picture they used of a soldier smoking a cigarette. The lady was complaining the paper should have used a better picture because the soldiers are role models to children. For a moment I was angry and, at the same time, saddened that all the woman could see was the cigarette and not the face. It was a face which spoke volumes of what the soldier had seen, weariness, violence, the hate of certain people who feel the need to kill instead of be diplomatic, and a little sorrow.

The soldier might have given up enough by fighting for a cause that was not his own and he deserved to be able to enjoy something, even if it was a cigarette. I don't agree with smoking but if that's what it takes to loosen up after a battle, so be it. It was his choice. I hope that others looked beyond what was in his mouth and saw the story in his eyes, because that's what captured my attention.

Some people need to realize there is a war going on and the people involved have feelings that are being jerked around violently at every second. At the end of the day, no soldier is going to see that cigarette or beer or whatever comfort food they have. They'll be reliving what happened just hours ago. They're humans and sometimes they're going to make choices some people won't agree with, but those people need to forget it and just say, "I truly support you, from the bottom of my heart. And I hope that you'll be able to come home safely one day."