Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I wanted to write something more about Tookie Williams' execution, which continues to haunt me. Then I received this powerful essay from my friend Jasmina Tesanovic, a Serbian author/filmmaker/feminist publisher; she says everything I hoped to and more:

They did him in, Tookie; it is my first capital punishment in California. They say, however, that Texas held the first place in executions while Bush was the governor.

Now Bush has the whole world to sample, to decree who deserves to live and who to die, who is a terrorist and who is a patriot, who can have scissors and who can have guns. Good and bad guys, it all looks like Hollywood and cowboy films. It not only looks like it, it is really is like it.

This Tookie, this black Californian, I don't care if he is guilty or not, I say when interviewed by a TV, as if my opinion mattered: the death penalty is barbarism and a crime against humanity, like torture.

How do you feel? the reporter asks me with tender feelings. What does that matter, I scream, it is not about feelings, it is about human rights. In point of fact I feel awful. We are standing in front of a federal building where we try to squeeze in, as if we were employees, in order to use their toilets during a protest lasting longer than two hours. I am bleeding, and it is not my heart. I am hungry, and it is not my soul. Six TV reportage cars are parked around us, only a few cops and a lot of free lance photographers.

People, not that many yet, but not as small as these crowds can be. Faces I know: pacifists, hippies, mostly middle aged people, just like those few I saw in New York City, dancing in the wind against global warming issues and Bush's response to Kyoto. I feel awful because I come from a country where ethnic cleansing was done legally and in my name; I feel America is my country too by now, and I feel the worst side of my new patriotism. The guy was black, the guy was a writer, the guy seems to be a redeemed soul dedicating his book to radicals and pacifists.

Angela Davis is speaking in front of the San Quentin prison in San Francisco. Thousands of people are rallying there. Harold Pinter speaks on video at his Nobel Prize event, but where are those voices in the USA? What are my favorite American writers doing these days, Philip Roth, John Updike... If only one of them said half of the things Pinter said, American writers would be winning Nobels. Only a dying man from Old Europe, in a wheelchair, dares to name the facts with their proper names. Literature is dead, buried by corporate nuclear wars, depleted uranium and bombings. Oil is blood and writers are selling their souls, not their books.

What next? Democracy is not enough, free information is not enough, Internet is not enough. A rally is scheduled in front of Gov. Schwarzenegger's house up the hill. We drive slowly. The view is beautiful and misty, the fancy Sunset Boulevard houses decorated with toys and Christmas lights. At the top a sparkling gate opens as sesame, we drive in; the two blondes from Code Pink. On our sides are black limos and SUVs, men in dark suits smoking and talking busily on the cell phones; we pass them and reach the top of the hill; a dead end street.

The Governor's house is not lighted; nobody is to be seen. On our way back, the cars and people have vanished, only a few spooky man in black are seen here and there; we stop in front of the gate. One car approaches us. Do you need something? they ask us, no thank you we answer. They scrutinize us and leave.

The next security SUV is more insistent: my friend here is not feeling well, Jo lies. You can take her to the restroom, the guy offers with concern. I realize it may be that we have innocently entered a gated community, surrounding the Governor's house. I am thrilled, but not happy to be dragged by the security and interrogated.

We have a friend on the other side of the street, Jo says. As it happens, this is true. You don't live here? they ask, startled. They escort us hurriedly to the security gates, and make sure that we go up the other side of the hill. The friend is luckily at home. She opens the door, lets us in and gives us a drink and a phone. All the fuss with scissors and security and yet, we trespassed. Not only that, but we managed to get in with sticker on our car saying CODE PINK and STOP THE NEXT WAR NOW, but we also managed to get out without being harassed.

It is sad evening to wait for a person to be publicly and legally executed, and then go to bed thinking that we have done all we could. Life stinks. How do executioners feel? The decision makers, how do they feel? Why don't TV reporters demand to know their feelings? In any case, whatever we said and did will not be broadcast. Some of our photos with candles will be published, with captions saying stuff we didn't say and didn't mean. I don't believe in God or pure spirituality, I held a candle to make a difference in the dark. It didn't make much difference, that candle. It barely warmed my hands.

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