Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Death Sentence

According to so many religions, certain acts mandate the death sentence. Certainly, many of the rules are simply outmoded, and for one reason or another, are comical and ridiculous to consider enforcing. Some have taken on a more appropriate punishment, or simply moved down to being things which are criticized. For obvious reasons, this is good – nobody wants to be put to death for being held in contempt of court – though it would be kind of hilarious to see Karl Rove put to death for being in contempt of Congress.

Last night, as the majority of the world now knows, Troy Davis was executed by the state of Georgia, his official time of death recorded as 11:08 PM. I admit, I’m not a hero of justice, I wasn’t fighting for his freedom or anything, and I really wasn’t aware of the case until about two months ago, if that. I’m not saying people didn’t fight hard enough, or that I was the only one who cared – no, if nobody else fought or cared enough, I’d never have known about this, my world would have been no different today than yesterday.

In 1991, Troy was convicted of, and sentenced to death for, the murder of an off duty police officer, Mark MacPhail, working as a security guard who was attempting to help a homeless man being assaulted in a parking lot.

Troy was convicted, based in large part, on circumstantial evidence and witness testimony, including that of Sylvester “Redd” Coles, later himself implicated in the crime. Due to a string of mishandling of the case, evidence, and witnesses by the defense, both in the original trial and subsequent appeals and evidentiary hearings, as well as the aggression of the prosecutors, and the blood thirsty MacPhail family, no substantial case was put together to clear Davis, or at least commute his sentence to life in prison.

I do not claim to know whether or not Troy Davis was guilty or innocent. The most important fact here is that we do not KNOW. Enough holes were in the original case, or later exposed that the case by definition must be considered to have at least a serious doubt, serious enough that the death penalty cannot in fairness be applied here. Unfortunately, for Troy Davis, at least, the debate is now academic. Hopefully, he will at least be given a fair trial in his afterlife.

As a generality, I personally believe in the death penalty. Some crimes are simply too heinous, such as rape, child molestation, and murder, and the perpetrators of these crimes do not deserve the life they have been given, and in some cases, maintain after committing the crime. That said, the burden of proof in a capital case must by definition be 100%. There can be no doubt, as a life cannot be returned once taken. A life sentence without the possibility of parole serves the same purpose, and it always leaves room for a conviction to be overturned later.

In a different case, the death sentence is almost not enough, certainly not in a manner which we can feel a true sense of justice. Just hours before Troy Davis was executed, justice was truly served, even if in a state in which the death penalty should be abolished for the sake of the poor and innocent who may be the wrong color or class. Last night, Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed in perhaps one of the most well known and revolting hate crimes of the last century.

Brewer and two of his friends, John William King and Shawn Berry, chained a black man, James Byrd, Jr. to the back of their pickup truck, and dragged him to death, spreading his remains across nearly three miles.

My point is, I support the death penalty. A deterrent it is not, but I know that I could be brought some peace if someone close to me were murdered, and the guilty party would have to face their imminent death. While there is still room for error, however, I cannot support the death penalty. A mistake like that cannot be reversed.

Being a Good Person vs. Being Too Good

Is there such a thing as being too good of a person? I never would have believed it, but it might be possible, at least insofar as societal concepts go. Most people contribute something to the world, and try to leave things better than they found them. Some people though give everything to help other people.

I don’t know when or how it started, nor why, but I’ve always had a feeling that I owe it to the world to do the most good I can. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a saint, nor am I saying I should be (though I might revisit that in the event the current Pope ever gets sainted). I’ve got plenty of issues and faults, and blame them on what you or I might like, they’re still within my control. I’m just saying that I’ve tried, in particular in the last few years, to do the right thing wherever possible, to “take care of my people,” as my grandfather might have said.

(Wait – what’s this business about the Pope? Isn’t this a Jewish site? Yes, it is, more or less, but I have some strong feelings as a recovering Cathoholic. [sic])

For a very long time, I have had a habit of sort of spreading my luck (I won’t say wealth, as I have none of that) around to those who have less. This has been doubly so within the trans community since I’ve been involved there, most of our people in the group have low to no income, and have difficulty improving their chances due to discrimination and transphobia. Be it a few bucks for a Metrocard or bus, a ride somewhere, a meal, help moving from one transient home to another, or even occasionally a computer as I happen to have a spare one, I’ve done what I can. In turn, I’ve been blessed with people so wonderful that they will often share their last $20 with me on the times when I’ve been low on money.

This is by no means my way of extolling my generosity or virtues, I don’t see it as that anyway. This is more about peoples’ reactions to this behavior, and how some have taken to treating me in response.

I have noticed an increasingly negative response to my desire to do the buying when I’m able, or offer to go out of my way, or whatever it is that I’m able to do to help. The first time it was really said out loud to me was a date last year who told me straight up (AFTER we’d had several dates and I’d paid for all of them) that she felt like I was “trying to buy” her. In my opinion, it’s one thing to buy someone things and then expect more from them, and quite another to simply treat them and let them make the next decisions. Certainly to go so far as accepting someone else’s generosity, regardless of motive, and then accuse them of having an ulterior motive after having accepted it all is more than a little ridiculous.

Moreover, it strikes me that after a time, some people come to just expect this, that someone would be a never ending fountain of wishes. On more than one occasion, the one time I am unable to help someone, people act as though I’m their ‘tagalong’ friend who always takes but never gives. When this happened almost ten years ago in a group of myself and two other friends, the third friend had to point out how ridiculous it was when the other friend suddenly got upset that I asked him to loan me money for lunch that day. The third friend had to remind the other that I had paid for most of his lunches back in school, and he got so indignant that I was daring to ask him for a favor, as if I’d always borrowed his last dollar and never once repaid him.

I’m not looking for reassurances that I’m a really great or special person, nor do I want supporting or countering evidence from people on this post. I just wanted to vent about being made to feel like I’m somehow a terrible person for behavior I can’t even explain.

Transsexuality and G-d, Struggling With Desire and Calling

This afternoon (When did it become afternoon? The dreary weather makes it feel more like a late morning that just won’t quit), I was having an e-mail conversation with my aunt. We had a conversation over tea not long ago about how transsexuality and feminism are inextricably linked, and how that link requires a mutual respect and acceptance between cis and transgendered women. More to the point, I suppose I had the conversation, she listened… sort of. Such is the life of a conversation with my aunt and things which do not concern Adam Lambert.

We all know that a biological ability to do something does not, in and of themselves, make up the physical sexes, let alone gender identities. To my aunt, however, those basic (and base) properties are all that should be entailed in the determination of gender. To her, rejection of one set of properties and jealousy/lust for another are conflated as being the same as my gender identity, and the resultant dysphoric feelings.

Part of my biggest issue with religion and G-d in the past have related to being handed a raw deal, and being asked to endure it. The concept to me is anathema that someone could willingly give a life filled with hurt, sadness, anger, and despair, in addition to being asked to live without being something you feel such a desperate longing for. Maybe, though, there is something to the idea that “We are only given that which we can handle.”

During this conversation, I began writing a response to her which triggered more thoughts, ones not relevant to her, or perhaps things that could not be explained to her. A few months ago, during a visit to the hospital for my job, I was confronted with an ugly reality, one that had lingered in my mind, but never really had time to set in and do some damage. I was on the maternity ward doing a survey of some of our devices, and forced to reconcile the fact that I would never be here for myself. Yes, perhaps for a partner, or a friend, but never for me – I would never occupy one of these rooms.

I had the recognition today, even if I hadn’t been searching for it outright, that though I was not to be granted the gift of having been born as I would desire, there is something else for which I’ve been chosen. It may take a long time, but I will find whatever that is, and with the help of faith, friends, and family, I intend to make the best of it.