The Death Penalty

In July of 2020, President Trump reactivated capital punishment for federal crimes. This declaration was in spite of a lack of public support for the death penalty. There had not been a federal execution for 17 years, but he made up for lost time by executing more than three times as many as the federal government had put to death in the previous six decades.. Thirteen people have been executed in these few months, three during the lame duck period of his administration. For the first time in history the US government executed more citizens than did all states combined.

Twenty-two states do not have the death penalty. They are: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia.

An average of 3.5 prisoners on death-row have been proved innocent. Since 1976 more than 171 people have been exonerated. Those statistics alone should be enough to stop the death penalty in this country. The number of executions since 1976 is 1,531. How many of those people were innocent?

For more information on this subject see the website for the Death Penalty Information Center at: https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/state-and-federal-info/state-by-state

Thorough statistics are available at DPIC Fact Sheet at: https://documents.deathpenaltyinfo.org/pdf/FactSheet.pdf

Photos by Pixabay

According to the ACLU which obtained documentation through the Freedom of Information Act, the first two months that the death penalty was re-instituted the expenses were over $4.7 million. This included all expenses for staff brought in from other federal prisons so they could learn how to carry out lethal injection. I was surprised to learn that the federal government pays all expenses for victims’ families to travel by air to witness the execution. In addition their hotels and food are covered as well as any expenses while they are in town. Other expenses include security for protestors who gather at the time of the execution.

“The Good Earth”

“The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck, published in 1931, is a story of hardship, love, riches and death set in China in the early Twentieth Century. Buck grew up in China, the daughter of US missionaries and then moved back there after college. She knew the culture of that era and after reading this book you will too. I found some parts hard to read because of the lack of worth and respect ascribed to female children and women, but it was enlightening.

Being a well known classic I thought that I had read this long ago. Recently, I picked the book up off my shelf and upon review saw nothing familiar. I always write the date I purchase a cook inside the cover and I saw that I had owned this book for sixteen years. It is dogeared and had a boarding pass inside which I often used as a book mark while traveling. It remains a mystery as to whether I had read it before and forgotten the whole story! Regardless, I am very glad that I have read it now and if you have not, I recommend that you do.

Pearl S. Buck has won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature. By the time of her death in 1973 she had published more than seventy books. It is available in audio and also graphic adaptation editions.

What is your opinion of “The Good Earth?” I am sure that most of you have read this story of a family that depended upon the earth for sustaining their life and lifestyle.

Another Poem by Sylvia

the same nighttime sky

i’ve watched 

another day go by…

the sun now setting 

in the western sky…

and with it my heart

so deepeningly blue…

are we 

still,

the same me

the same you?

don’t we 

share,

the same earth

the same sky…

the same moon

the same stars

in the same nighttime sky?

don’t we 

want,

the same hope

the same chance…

the same truth

the same peace

in this same lifetime dance?

i’ve watched 

another day go by…

the sun now rising 

in the eastern sky…

and with it my heart

no longer so blue…

together we can be

a new me

a new you

Sylvia L. Mattingly

January 20, 2021

Written before and after today’s Presidential Inauguration, in hopes of the end of such hateful divisiveness and instead, a reunification in this country.

Things Change

Back in the day there were strict rules enforced by society about the attire of a bride. White dresses were for women who had never been married or had a child. The whiter the dress the more virginal the bride, I suppose. A veil was even added for the mystery of the pure woman beneath. I’ve never been to a wedding where the groom wore anything except a dark suit or tux depending upon the formality of the service. There wasn’t a special attire for men who were previously married or fathered a child. I have known weddings where the bride wore colors, however.

The same double standard is true of the wedding party. The guys are all groomsmen. Are they married? Who knows or cares. The bridesmaids are a different story. There is one who is chosen to be closest to the bride and she is either a “Maid” of Honor or a “Matron” of Honor depending upon her marital status.

But things change over time and I am totally on board with that. In today’s world any bride is entitled to a white dress and there are even maternity wedding gowns today. They come in any color including white. Take a look at this link for a great view of the selection available: https://www.pinkblushmaternity.com/collections/maternity-white-dresses

This is what is on my mind today and I wanted to share it with you. I love that traditions have changed in this area and that women are a little closer to equal thinking and acceptance. I welcome your thoughts.

Photo by Pixabay

A New Day

The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.
And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.
But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain.
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the West.
We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked South.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.
The new dawn balloons as we free it.
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Amanda Gorman is a 22 year old Harvard graduate who was selected to be the inaugural poet at President Joe Biden’s swearing in ceremony today. You may hear her beautifully recite her poem here: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/20/meet-amanda-gorman-the-youngest-inaugural-poet-in-us-history.html

Title photo by Pixabay

Land of the Lost Souls

“Land of the Lost Souls, My Life on the Streets” by Cadillac Man

This book was originally written by Cadillac Man in spiral notebooks over a period of sixteen years. He covers the perils, freedoms and uncertainties of a man living on the streets of New York City. No matter how many homeless people you’ve seen, perhaps even known, I am sure that you know little about what their day-to-day life is like. I know that I did not. This book gives an intimate and frightening view of what that existence is like.

Cadillac Man got his street name from being hit by a Cadillac and afterwards bearing the imprint of the car’s logo. He has a way of telling much of his story humorously, but there is also fear, fighting, death and even romance in his life. If you are offended by foul language then perhaps this isn’t a book for you. I found the gritty verbiage more believable than if it had been sanitized.

This book is illuminating and probably should be read by most of us who have a safe environment and place to call home. There are many reasons why there are folks living on the streets and we should be more aware of them.

A New Year Haiku

2020 Then
Pandemic COVID19
We want it over

2021
Capitol Insurrection
Who expected this?

Who would have indeed?
All those paying attention
Will it be over?

No one knows for sure
Peace and harmony might come
Or more rioting

What is the cause here?
Plenty blame to go around
Arrest each one now

A new day comes soon
January twentieth
Hold our breath ’til then.

Title photo by Pixabay

“The Second Grave”

“The Second Grave” by Carl Wedekind

Attorney Wedekind writes about violence in Kentucky’s history beginning in 1742 and through the end of the twentieth century. His purpose is to demonstrate that as the state has transitioned from the days of lynchings, duels and family feuds abolishing capital punishment should naturally follow.

The reasons most often given in favor of the death penalty are:

  1. Executions will deter murder by others in the future
  2. Society’s sense of justice demands executions
  3. Victim’s families loss and grief requires executions for justice and closure
  4. It is a waste of taxpayers’ money to keep a murderer locked up for life with free room and board
  5. Rehabilitation of a murderer is unlikely or impossible

The author addresses each of these and gives both examples and statistics to disprove each. He is for the abolishment of capital punishment and presents a strong case.

Because this book is dated (copyright 1999) I started to not review it here, but after more thought I changed my mind. It is still relevant to the discussion of capital punishment and the history of Kentucky is similar to that of other states. The truths apply universally and over time.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject of capital punishment whether for or against. It will also be of interest to any Kentuckian.

Dishes With Attitude

Depression Glass

Depression glass sounds, well, depressing. It is far from it as can be seen in the photos below. Depression glass was made from 1929 to 1939 in the United States during the, you guessed it, Depression. Such pieces in beautiful colors of pink, yellow and green, are collectors pieces today and I have about two dozen dishes passed down by my maternal grandmother who I called Mammy. I love them because they were hers and then my Mom’s. I wonder where they will end up, because my heirs are not likely to really care for them. They are not that practical to use, since they are rather fancy in design. I’m guessing that they brightened the daily life of many homemakers during the depression when money and everything else was scarce.

One of the best things about these fancy dishes is that they could often be obtained for free in products such as Quaker Oats or at very low prices, making it possible for most homes to have at least a few pieces during that era. My depression glass makes me happy because of the memories it evokes.

Carnival Glass

Carnival glass is harder to describe so I’m going to rely on the three photos below and Wikipedia: “Carnival glass gets its iridescent sheen from the application of metallic salts while the glass is still hot from the pressing. A final firing of the glass brings out the iridescent properties of the salts, giving carnival glass the distinct shine it is known for.”

Carnival glass was first made in the US, but later was produced in almost every country. It was particularly popular in Australia. Huge production took place in the 1920s, again when housewives were looking to brighten up drab lifestyles and homes. The name comes from the fact that such pieces were often given as prizes at carnivals and fairgrounds. Much of it was sold, however, and some pieces today are collector’s items which can be worth considerable amounts of money, particularly the scarce colors. Carnival glass is fun because it is so different from what we commonly see today.

I have a few pieces of Carnaval glass passed down by each of my Grandmothers.

Fiesta

Fiesta dish ware speaks for itself! It is made in a fiesta of colors and it has brightened my home for over 60 years. It comes in open stock and I chose it for my dishes rather than a china pattern when I wed back in 1960. China came later, but Fiesta dishes served our family growing up and still decks my table today, everyday.

Fiesta is a line of ceramic glazed dishes introduced by the Home Laughlin Company of West Virginia in 1936. The art deco style dinnerware was not manufactured from 1973 to 1985 but is produced today in the colors in the photos below and many others. Over the years colors are introduced and then retired. A few of those pieces I have from Mammy’s kitchen, gray, rose and a very dark green.

Fun fact, at one point some Fiesta colors were found to be slightly radioactive, due to uranium compounds being used in the ceramic glaze. I have one such piece, a bright coral salad plate. I will keep it forever. I think my Fiesta dishes will find happy homes after I die, because my daughters and at least one granddaughter enjoy pieces already.

Cut Glass

Cut Glass dishes are not as prevalent as the other fun kinds described above. I have one cut glass bowl seen below. Cut glass is not the same as glass etching. Rather it feels slightly sharp to the touch at each of the cut surfaces. Pressed glass looks similar but is smoother and less valuable. I wish I knew the history of this cut glass bowl, but all I know is that it was my Mother’s and she loved and valued it, so I do as well.

The Sun Does Shine

“The Sun Does Shine, How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row” by Anthony Ray Hinton – with Lara Love Hardin

In 1985 “Ray” Hinton was a twenty-nine year old man living with his beloved Mother and working a full time job within the community. He wasn’t perfect. He had written a few bad checks and had once stolen a car, but he was not a murderer. That did not keep him from being arrested, tried and convicted to be put to death in Holman Prison in his home state of Alabama. Hinton was innocent and for three years he could only think of that and of getting even with those who put him in prison. During this time he did not speak except to his Mother and his best friend who visited him. After those years he realized that anger and hatred were not helping his cause and he began to make a life where he was even though he never gave up believing that one day he would be proven innocent.

For thirty years he lived, ate and slept in a cell that was 5X7 feet and during these years he had only one hour per day of exercise in an outdoor chainlink pen. Somehow he made his life worth living. He knew he was innocent and he had hope. He started a book club on the cell block and for the first time prisoners had something more than the Bible to read. They were only allowed two books and they had to share them up and down the rows of cells, but after everyone had a chance to read, there would be a discussion of the book. The men now had something to think about other than their approaching executions.

His incompetent trial attorney half-heartedly appealed his case without any success. Justice was hard to come by as a poor black man but year after year he continued to hope. During the time he spent on death row he knew each time there was an execution because his cell was only feet away from the room where this took place. As the generator kicked on for the electric chair the lights in the cell block would dim. Then he smelled the burned flesh of his fellow prisoners, men he got to know over the years they were contained in close proximity. Fifty-four men were killed during the years Hinton remained on Death Row.

When the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) learned of his case an attorney was sent in to seek a re-trial. After a few years there was another attorney and further attempts were made to fight the legal system and to obtain justice for Hinton but to no avail. Finally a miracle occurred in the form of Bryan Stevenson, founder of the EJI, (and author of “Just Mercy” https://crookedcreek.live/2020/11/23/just-mercy/ ) who made a surprise visit to Holman Prison. He informed Hinton that he was taking over his case. More years of legal proceedings took place until Stevenson finally took Ray Holman’s case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2015 he finally walked out of prison a free man.

This story of courage and forgiveness is well worth your read. I highly recommend it for better understanding humankind as well as the Justice System or what stands for justice in the United States.

See “Decades Behind Bars” by Gay Holman at https://crookedcreek.live/2019/05/27/decades-behind-bars-book-review/

Happy 2021

Most of us will not be sorry to say, “Good-Bye” to 2020, but if we are here to discuss it we can be grateful for the survival. With so many throughout the world succumbing to COVID19 we are lucky to be welcoming a New Year.

I wish a happy and safe new year to each of you. May your 2021 be filled with hope and success.

2021

Photos by Pixabay

The Unlived Year
Midnight strikes and the old year's gone.
We close the tablets we've written on.
And torn 'twist hope and doubt and fear,
we open the book of the unlived year!

An unlived year! Ah, stained with tears
are the well-thumbed volumes of other years!
Soiled by blunders and black regret 
are the pages we read with eyelids wet. 

But fresh in our hands once more is laid
a clean, new book by the Master made.
Unmarred are the pages lying there--
Twelve new chapters fresh and fair.

It is ours to write the daily tale,
of how we conquer - or how we fail;
Of struggle and effort and hope that makes 
like a song in the heart, when the bright day breaks.

Yes, fresh in our hands with the title clear, 
is the challenge now of an unlived year!
Author Unknown