Awaking with a Start
I awoke from my dream with a start this morning. I was shaking and my breathing shook my frame. It had seemed very real, as my dreams often do. This is what I was dreaming:
I was walking through a big city park in the middle of the day. It reminded me of Central Park in New York. There was a slight incline up a hill. Above me on the hill there was a man in a business suit standing next to a large tree. In the tree was a woman, suspended from a branch, noose around her neck, the man about to pull the support out from under her. He was going to execute her. Correction, he was about to kill her. Execute is a weasel word for those wishing to avoid responsibility for their deadly deeds.
Behind me, people milled about on sidewalks, looking in store windows. They were shopping, oblivious to the horror about to be committed in their names. Just up the hill I could see the spirit of the woman this woman had killed. Her face was a portrait of horror, mouth wide open, hands flung skyward in horror, her silent screams unheard. There was no closure in this second round of killing, this gift that keeps on giving, only more pain and death.
Fear and anger welled up inside me. Before I could stop myself, I began to shout “Stop killing her! Stop killing her!” The hangman looked up with surprise, temporarily distracted from his grim work. Behind me the chattering shoppers continued to shop, mocha soy milk lattes in hand, oblivious to the events unfolding right in front of them in that city park. “Stop killing her! Stop killing her!” I screamed, increasingly frantic, hoping to draw someone’s attention, ANYONE…
At that point, a crew cut, middle aged white police officer approached me and told me I had to stop. I reminded him that it was precisely speech like this that the First Amendment protected. A cold smile crossed his face. He grabbed me and began to haul me away to a waiting squad car. At one point I manage to break free of his death grip and shout out “An eye for an eye only results in a world full of blind people,” paraphrasing Gandhi’s famous quote. On the nearby sidewalk, a middle aged woman looks up from the crowd of her children and neighbors and said, “Yeah. That’s right!” A momentary flash of truth. A fleeting lucid interval in a celebration of madness. And then just as quickly she is back to the business of consuming.
As I watched the woman plunge to her death. I screamed through the hand smelling of gunpowder the cop now has placed over my mouth. The deed now done, the woman’s killer, in his professional middle class drag, walked into the crowd of shoppers and disappeared.
I tend to listen to my dreams. They are often informative of where my mind really is, particularly the parts I cannot sccess in conscious mode. Sometimes my dreams haunt me, as I am sure this one will throughout the day. Other mornings I awake with the voice of G-d or the voice of angels whispering in my ears. Sometimes I awake with solutions to problems I went to bed pondering, the answer so clear and so obvious first thing in the morning.
But I have no peace of mind this morning. Today I awake feeling overwhelmed with anger, frustration, and absolute sorrow. The carnage of state killing does continue unabated. Here in Florida alone nearly 400 men and women await their murders by the good people of our state. The myth of closure continues to be touted as legitimization for what is little more than premeditated murder committed complete with ritual words, ritual meals, ritual motions, and cruciform beds where the sleep induced is permanent and the gift of death keeps on giving. The world becomes just a little blinder, the blindness paid with tax moneys, the murders committed in the name of taxpayers too busy shopping to be bothered.
But unlike in my dream, these murders do not occur in broad daylight in public spaces. They occur in the dark, dank inner sanctums of prisons with poetic names like Raiford and Huntsville and Angola in the midst of business suited wardens and crew cut, middle aged officers smelling of gunpowder, brute force and death. They occur out of sight and out of mind so that Americans who long ago stopped being citizens, opting for the responsibility-free mindlessness of consumerism, don’t have to worry their beautiful little minds (to quote Barbara Bush) about something as serious as murder.
We who protest in horror are swept away by the professional managers of death. They see us as idealistic nuisances, a pain in the neck for those who keep order in a nation where law, not to mention justice, are secondary concerns at best on a good day.
Amidst all that drama, the deadly gift of murder keeps on giving.
The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law University of Central Florida, Orlando
If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding. Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes.