Monday, June 16, 2008

June 9, 2008

Dear Sis~

The Sword of Damocles no longer hangs over Percy as Governor Kaine today commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment on the eve of his execution. Percy, as always, is oblivious to how his fate was so arbitrarily decided by men he has never met, and he'll certainly be at a loss as to how and why he's been suddenly transferred to a new prison. For me, at least, this whole debate was not so much about Percy, per se, (who arguably might be better off dead than enduring the next 40 years all alone in a maximum security solitary confinement cell surrounded by staff and prisoners who will abuse him) but instead was a referendum on what our society is and should be. Today, civility won out, but I'm acutely aware of how easily it could have gone the other way. Another governor, or this one with less compassion and wisdom, would have allowed the state to kill Percy. Percy survived by executive grace, not because any courts intervened, not because society deemed it morally reprehensible to kill a crazy man. In the end, it all came down to the moral compass of one man and, at least on this day, the right thing was done. I'm more than a little conflicted about Percy's fate for I know what a miserable existence lays ahead for him (profoundly insane people in prison are caged like beasts, seldom receiving any kind of treatment whatsoever. Imagine a cowering dog in a tiny kennel for the next 40 years and you can visualize Percy's future). From a spiritual/metaphysical perspective I don't pretend to understand what Percy's soul might gain by incarnating as a totally insane person. What purpose is served by enduring such a miserable life on this earth? And again, you can't help but wonder if the more merciful thing might be for Percy to pass on and come back around the next time with a whole mind. But, that's not my judgment to make, and it shouldn't be our society's, either.
It has occurred to me that perhaps the "purpose" of the Percy's in this world is not to teach Percy's soul anything, but instead is to teach all of us how to view the Percy's with love, compassion and understanding, to teach us the meaning of mercy (Shakespeare wrote that "mercy is nobility's true badge"). At any rate, tonight I am happy that Percy will live and that Virginia's better side has won out, even if it's just a fleeting victory. We have another execution in two weeks and two more in July, including my friend Christopher Emmett. Bad times lay ahead, but for now, I will sleep well tonight.
Love, Bill

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