Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Sobering and humbling ...

This blogging business is very much a mixed blessing. I've heard it said that it is a democratising way of expressing free speech. But let's face it - it's also a self-indulgent and self-important way of sounding off at no great risk or inconvenience to the author. Or in other words, a masturbatory vehicle for smart-arses. Yes guilty.

I used to be much more of an activist, but as the years have passed, although my ideals haven't essentially changed, my focus has shifted a bit from marching stridently through life to treading carefully and trying to minimise the damage done along the way ... Nowadays I go to a few meetings for various causes, and every few weeks send out some letters on behalf of Amnesty International. Every now and then one particular campaign gets to you.

It's not a new campaign, the guy has been on death row for decades for fuck's sake, but somehow until now, the case of Gary Tyler has passed me by. It's all too familiar - convicted as a juvenile in the seventies in Louisiana in the wake of racial battles over school integration, he was convicted on very questionable evidence by an all-white jury and defended by an incompetent defender. He has been repeatedly denied appeals and pardons because of his unapologetic and militant stance. So much so that Amnesty have adopted him as a political prisoner.

I might have salved my conscience with a letter that took no more than ten minutes to write and the cost of stamp - but check out the work of Reprieve, an organisation who do this on a full time basis. The term 'do-gooder' gets thrown around as one of abuse. But I can guarantee that you can't help but feel a bit humbled when you read about people like this.

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