Friday, October 12, 2007




Yesterday the staff of TCASK took a trip to Chattanooga to meet with our main contact there, Tim McDonald. Chattanooga TCASK was at one point an active chapter that met regularly and held is TCASK's hope return Chattanooga to that status and I believe it is highly probable that we will. Chattanooga itself is a charming riverside city that is vibrant and full of history. Stacy, Tim and I had lunch at Southern Star where I had a classic southern meal: meatloaf, mashed potatoes, fried zucchini (yum), and a baked apple. Over the down home cooking we talked about some of the challenges and interesting aspects of Chattanooga in organizing around the death penalty. For example, the main newspaper of Chattanooga, the Chattanooga Times Free Press is a combination of two newspapers. The Times half was founded by the original founders of the New York Times. Furthermore, the newspaper now has two editorial staffs--and two editorial pages! Fascinating huh? The Times half are against the death penalty while the Free Press half are death penalty supporters. As always, we are looking to work with students so Stacy and I traversed the University Tennessee Chattanooga campus and paid quick visits to the varying campus ministries. We also have a fantastic supporter amongst the UTC faculty, Shela VanNess and I look forward to speaking to some young "Mocs."


On September 30, 2007 University of Memphis football player Taylor Bradford was murdered on the U of M campus. My heart dropped to the floor when I read this story initially for so many reasons. I love football and as a spectator I believe the players love it just as much as I do or even more. To make it to the elite D1 college level is an amazing feat, regardless of what position you play or how much playing time you receive. One must make incredible sacrifices to get to that phase in their playing career and surely Taylor made those sacrifices. To make it that far and be a well liked player on the team only to be shot and murdered is a travesty. It seems that violence on campuses, college, high school, or even younger is not going away. Violence seems to find a way into every nook an cranny of our society--especially striking those in a position to elevate and transform themselves into a positive force as Bradford did.

Suspects have been apprehended and the district attorney's office has stated it will seek the death penalty. This statement is the crux of the anti-death penalty movement. How can I denounce the DA's actions without devaluing Bradford's murder, and for that matter, violence and the victims it creates? I juggle with this issue constantly--it might be perceived publicly that because we fight against the death penalty that we are "pro murderer" and "anti-victim" and this could not be further from the truth. I believe that for the very reason I juggle with how to express my emotions towards the murder of Bradford in balance with fighting against the death penalty is when abolitionists are at their finest. We value LIFE, period. And I do not believe that further violence will bring resolution or act as a deterrent in this already hyper violent society. Do not confuse this with apathy or inaction. Fighting against the death penalty is about the promotion of peace and perhaps a greater question to look at the overall systemic and structural problems that are at the foundation of a murder. Guns, drugs, poverty, domestic violence, alcohol, education, health care...we live in a complex world, one with complex problems. Who out there believes that the killing of one murderer for a particularly heinous crime will serve a calculated purpose in this complex society? I sure don't and as always, my belief about the death penalty being mostly about retribution is affirmed. All that we are left with is another dead body.

The Kite Runner

I recently finished Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner. The novel is set in Afghanistan and America and tells the story of two young boys and how the privilege afforded by birth acts as a polarizing road map to their futures. In reading about Hassan (servant) and Amir (privileged) I saw a little of myself in the two young boys. In Hassan I saw in myself the inquisitive optimist who is sometimes naive to the way things are or "should be." Hassan stands up for himself and Amir regardless of his lower class billing and has a heart as pure as glacial waters. In one of my favorite lines, Amir describes Hassan by saying "That's the thing about people that always mean what they say, they think everyone else does too." Amir is intelligent and complex and often times angry at his Dad for not paying attention to him as much as Hassan. Amir believes the only way he'll become closer to his father is by great acts or achievements. However, Amir is a coward and while the privilege he has been granted means he can read and write, the illiterate Hassan is a better person overall.

However, Amir does change, and around the age of 21 or so, a friend of his fathers is asking him if he knew that Baba, his father, is a great man. Amir says yes, that his father is a great man. The friend replies that because you realize that your father is a great man, you are half way to becoming a great man yourself. Upon reading this, I immediately thought of my father and some of the battles we waged, the victories we celebrated together, but most of all the lessons he taught me through providing for his family. I always knew that my father was a good provider and he paid for my college education, but at the age of 23, being on my own, looking towards the future, I realized that my father is a great man. I hope that I too am half way to becoming a man.
Comments :
IN ref the Memphis part, notice how good ole Memphis jumped up there on the list for murders?
Ahhhh, the state of TN! Gotta love it
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