Friday, September 23, 2011

Hampshire College Students Hold Vigil for Troy Davis

Late on Wednesday afternoon, Hampshire College students, like their counterparts and other citizens around the country, held a vigil to protest the impending execution of Troy Davis, sentenced to die at 7:00 p.m. for the murder of a Georgia policeman some two decades ago. A massive international petition movement protested the sentence, arguing that there was substantial doubt as to his guilt.

Surprisingly, I was the only member of the faculty present, aside from my colleague Chris Tinson, professor of African-American studies, who was one of the speakers.

Chris spoke both of the case at hand and of the broader problem of the "prison-industrial complex" and the death penalty, which, he said, disproportionately victimized the US minority population, especially African-Americans. At the same time, he reminded the several dozen students in attendance: to protest the sentence of Davis was in no wise to deny the suffering of the murdered policeman and his family, who, he said, we should hold in our hearts and prayers. The ultimate message, he said, should be not first and foremost to seek vengeance, but to set things right.

It was, all in all, a serious, sincere, and dignified event.

Around 6:00 p.m., the students boarded the PVTA bus and headed downtown to a larger rally on the Common. As all know by now, the Supreme Court—the last resort in this instance, because all previous decisions by the courts and review board had upheld the original sentence—declined to stay the execution, which was finally carried out around 11:00 p.m.


The only discordant note was struck by some outside "Spartacists," who, in their characteristically parasitical manner, attempted to attach themselves to this local protest in order to further their own interests. Typically, they made no statements about the Davis case and did not in any way take part in the event, instead (as is their default mode) merely attempting to peddle what they rather grandiosely call a "newspaper." (I hope that is not the sum total of their business model; I've never seen anyone actually buy the thing.) When one of them approached me, I made the mistake of being polite (yeah, I should know better), and she attempted to extol the virtues of the publication. Finally—even though it was the fortieth-anniversary edition (woo-hoo!)—I simply indicated that her parents had tried to sell me the same rag a generation ago, and I hadn't bought it (literally or figuratively) back then, either. She kept smiling her but eventually stopped talking.

Evidently the infantile leftists were not all smiles last time they darkened our doorstep, for today's internal college announcements included a lengthy statement protesting their presence on campus. The objection was not to their political views (which are merely ludicrous rather than dangerous), and instead, their social behavior. As the complaint explained, last year they "behaved in a transphobic and queer-phobic manner towards a transgender student of color on campus; in the process insulting both the student and that student's allies." To make matters worse, they declined to engage in proper (my characterization) Marxist-Leninist self-criticism: "Instead of apologizing or acknowledging the concern, the Spartacists claimed that transphobia was a made-up term, and although corrected multiple times, refused to address the student by their correct pronouns."

Not surprising that they had no idea how to talk about queer and transgender issues. They don't even have a clue about socialism. Sad that these wingnuts run around, interfering with our events and giving leftism a bad name. Maybe they should re-read what Lenin said about objective and subjective political conditions. Oh, yeah: and what their mentor Trotsky said about the garbage heap of history.

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