Let thy speech be short, comprehending much in few words.
Apocrypha, Ecclesiasticus 32:8
A few minor personnel announcements here at your proud weekly newspaper....
As of May 1, I will become publisher of the Scene, in addition to being editor. Albie Del Favero, who is currently publisher, will remain as chairman of the board of City Press Publishing, which is the subsidiary under Village Voice Media that publishes the Scene. Albie is also executive vice president and a board member of Village Voice Media. Last, but not least, Julie Huffstutler is being promoted from director of operations to assistant publisher.
If you want to know more, give me a shout: 244-7989, ext. 400.
There must be a response to the letter of Kurt Carlson (Apr. 13) and to others who so passionately call for the death of Robert Coe. Perhaps we can bury our heads by seeing red over the brutality of the crime, but there is startling evidencenever introduced in trialimplicating another man for the act. It raises compelling and important questions, but the public seems to embrace the same response as the higher courts: Save your breath because we won’t listen. We are too convinced by the confession of a profoundly mentally ill man, which was recanted when he was no longer under interrogation. We make arguments about how much money we’re paying, and how nobody will care when Coe is gone anyway.
I will care. I will care that Coe’s beautiful family will have witnessed people applauding for their brother’s death. Such people will have investigated no further than their own fear. I will care that they have killed without remorse. I will care that the day after will be ”business as usual“ in this state.
I know that questions of innocence for Coe will not be heard, like they will for Philip Workman. Reflect on this: Even if Workman is granted clemency, we will have executed as many as we have released from death’s door. When the pro-death penalty governor of Illinois was recently confronted with the same chilling statistic, he courageously declared a moratorium on executions. That is also the answer for Tennesseenot shortening appeals to save money (life sentences will do that). Prisons mean many things for the incarcerated, but for society, criminal justice should be about healing. Healing leaves no room for killing; neither should we.
Out of Mind, Out of Sight?
The lack of insight and compassion shown by some of your writers while covering the Coe execution is appallingespecially for an ”alternative“ newspaper (”At Death’s Door,“ Apr. 13).
Reporters who have days to write a story that nearly revolves around the topic of mental illness should do a bit of research. People who suffer from paranoid schizophrenia and similar diseases slip in and out of ”normalcy“ all the timesometimes they seem amazingly ”competent.“ Even with the right medications, these illnesses are puzzling and frustrating. They’re also expensiveespecially here in the land of the free. But your writers aren’t getting anywhere near that issue.
Nor are they reporting much about the nightmarish physical and sexual abuse that haunted Coe as a child. And no one’s writing the obvious sidebars about early intervention, treatment, and prevention. There’s no public outcry or frenzied legislative activity to deal with the nearly complete lack of mental health care in Tennessee.
Eighty percent of state killings happen here in the South, the land of a million churches, where most of the citizenry wants to pray to Jesus at the start of high school football games. We love to talk tough about state killing; and we love to spend money on guns and prisons. But we’ve always balked at extending mental-health care to the lower classes. Instead, we do what we always do when facing a tough social issue: We react with lots of rage as we race for the moral high ground.
We’re repeating the past in what seems like yet another misguided attempt to show the rest of the nation that state’s rights is a failed concept. We seem to demand federal intervention when it comes to such issues as slavery, civil rights, and state killing.
This isn’t the first time that Tennessee has refused to let go of a barbaric, dehumanizing institution. And it won’t be the last time that an abolition movement will prevail over a despotic state government and an unrighteous majority. We shall overcome.
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