Friday, September 23, 2011

Virtual reality

Cityscapes in Greece tend towards the dreary and mundane. There are a few architectural gems nestled amongst the standard seven- or eight-story polikatoikia, but for the most part buildings are simply vast expanses of concrete suited to the purpose of housing multiple residences and shops. Denizens do what they can to brighten their spaces – balconies become virtual jungles, filled with potted plants and melancholy songbirds. Still, without the glamour of shopping and people-watching, walking around the city can be monotonous at best, unless you find your route along the sea. So imagine my delight when this mural sprang up on a street I frequently haunt. It is a cheerful respite from the blight of building edges, usually caked with dirt and peeling paint. It serves as a portal into an imaginary world, away from the humdrum of the city, even though its surroundings are a constant reminder of reality.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Death in the U.S.

The U.S. state of Georgia might have executed an innocent man last night. It probably seems heartless under the circumstances to apply the word “might” regarding Troy Davis’ innocence, but from what I have read about the case over the past few days there is too much missing information to make a claim for innocence *or* guilt, which is why his execution is particularly troubling.

Let me be honest, I am not technically against the death penalty (no, I am *really* NOT a Republican, I swear). Personally, I feel that when a human being crosses that line to our baser selves – where killing others is a natural, pleasurable state of mind – that putting him (or her) to death is the most humane choice, both for them and society. Of course, the problem with my opinion is that it relies on certainty, and as we all know, certainty does not come easily in a court of law. Since we live in a world where people lie (criminals, victims, witnesses, lawyers, judges, statesmen, media, etc.) we have to rely on science and evidence to provide the kind of proof needed for this kind of certainty, and yet, even these things can lie.

In the case of Troy Davis, there was too much doubt for the state of Georgia to reasonably bear the burden of responsibility for ending his life, yet it happened. I have read some things that suggest the whole outcome of Mr. Davis’ trial was racially motivated, as to the truth of that, I cannot say. When such a thing happens that is so far beyond our grasp of humanity it is easy to place blame somewhere. The South is an easy target – a lingering stain of racism, the post-Civil War defeat, a wound that doesn’t seem to heal even after 150 years. Whatever the reason, perhaps it is time for the death penalty states in the U.S. to scrutinize their corporeal punishment laws and what motivates them.