Last weekend I had the most incredible experience. I was invited by a friend of mine to join him and 2 others to go see a Philadelphia Eagles game in Atlanta. He had won 4 all-expense-paid tickets to fly out of town, stay at the team hotel, have a huge dinner, go to the game, walk on the field, talk to the players and just all around have a great time for two days. It was phenomenal.
I got to meet players, I got to get my pictures with people I really have enjoyed seeing on TV. I got to go to an Atlanta Braves game too! It was a once-in-a-lifetime type of weekend.
But these weren't the highlights.
The greatest part of the weekend was what I learned about justice.
You see, we went to MLK's church and heard a sermon about how the justice system in the United States is broken. The minister talked about the life of Troy Davis - scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, September 21st 2011. As I write another appeal has failed. It was in some ways overwhelming to set among hundreds of people who look at the legal system and our justice system with such jadedness. It was eye-opening how much a product of my context I am.
As we walked along on the street we met people demonstrating against the execution. We asked them the history of the case and learned more about it. Walking away a man named Michael shook his head and said, "they gonna let him burn." And so we asked him what he thought and he echoed the same sense of disappointment in the justice system. It was his opinion that because he was black and because a policeman died they won't let him off.
Michael then went on to say how he is stigmatized because he was an ex-con. Listening to him, the whole situation seemed hopeless. It stirs something inside of you when you see a grown man realize that he will never get a fair chance because of the choices he has made in the past.
It gave our group a lot to talk about. At one point I asked them if they thought the highest expression of being human was to establish justice or give mercy. Imagine you knew that Troy was guilty . . . what would be the greatest act - to bring about justice? Or to show mercy? To execute and uphold the idea of law (which is extremely noble) or to pardon in hopes that his life could counteract what he did 20 years ago (equally as noble).
Is mercy naive?
Is justice another word for revenge?
It would be easy for me to argue for mercy, but how would I feel if the victim was my father?
It would be easy for me to argue for justice to be fulfilled, but what would I want if I was in that situation?
So many questions with no clear answers. It was a weekend that the death penalty came close to home. What would you want?