It struck me recently that so many of our intellectual debates about nonviolence and so much of our focus is centered around international crises, wars, and structural violence. And this makes sense; when we see grave human rights violations, crippling wars, or genocides, we ought to be outraged. It is necessary for us to draw attention to these circumstances and to do what we can to halt mass violence and prevent future harm.
But I sometimes wonder if, because we focus so intently on these troubling examples of violence, we sometimes forget to question the forms of violence that have become almost acceptable in our own country, such as the death penalty. I volunteer in the Prison Outreach program at Georgetown, which has led me to become involved in the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP). They often send out emails asking members to petition on behalf of people who are soon to be executed. I regularly click on the links included in the email and submit my petition, but it was beginning to be merely automatic, and I was unsure if I was even helping the cause at all. However, today the NCADP asked members to do something a little different, and a lot more creative. In mixing up their strategy, I think they will be much more effective.
Basically, instead of merely sending out petitions to state governments protesting a sentencing, NCADP is launching a massive YouTube campaign on behalf of Troy Davis, called the "Troy Davis Innocence Matters Video Project". Troy is on death row in Georgia for a murder that he almost certainly did not commit. The NCADP says, "Troy was sentenced to die despite the fact that seven of the nine people who testified against him at trial have recanted their testimony. (An eighth 'witness' is missing, while the ninth is thought to be the real killer. No physical evidence whatsoever tied Troy to the crime.)" Troy has an appeal before the Georgia Supreme Court this fall, so in support of him, and because his birthday is October 9th, NCADP is asking people to submit YouTube videos wishing him happy birthday as well as defending his innocence and advocating for a fair trial. This creative campaign will not only show solidarity with Troy, but it will also serve to question and draw attention to the larger problems surrounding capital punishment. I think newer media and technology are finally being used as nonviolent and effective tools against a violent, flawed justice system. I suppose we will just have to wait and see if this strategic campaign is actually successful. Definitely check out the campaign, and if you are opposed to the death penalty, think about becoming a member of the NCADP! Also, feel free to sign the petition demanding justice for Troy.