TEXAS

The state of Texas put Quintin Jones to death on May 19, 2021, without any media witnesses present to observe the execution. Since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its death penalty statute in 1976 Texas has put to death 571 individuals. This is the first time there were no media witnesses. 

Officials blamed the problem on “miscommunication” by inexperienced members of the execution team. Some of the new personnel who had not been a part of an execution before simply forgot to summon the media into the waiting/witnessing area they said. My question is, why were inexperienced people in charge of an execution? What else might they have forgotten to do? No wonder we read about botched and painful experiences of those being executed!

According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), Texas law authorizes five media witnesses to observe each execution specifying that one witness must be from the Associated Press (AP). Later AP coverage of the event highlighted the importance of media witnesses in revealing problems such as have been seen in AL, AZ, OK, and OH where inmates were seen gasping for breath for several minutes or writhing in pain. Per DPIC Executive Director, Robert Dunham, “If the state with the most experience in executing prisoners lacks the competence to carry out this most basic execution function, what does that tell us about what else in the execution process states and the federal government can’t be trusted to perform properly?”

Qintin Jones

Photo by DPIC

Quintin Jones’ case had already attracted national attention because his was a resumption of state executions which had been on hold during the pandemic, but also because the victim’s family had requested clemency. That and a petition with more than 150,000 signatures didn’t convince Gov. Greg Abbott to grant clemency to Mr. Jones. 

COVID GRIEF

It has been a year since the pandemic began here in the United States. At that time, none of us knew what we were in store for. We were innocent and naive thinking we’d be inconvenienced for a short time. Now we know the hardships COVID19 is capable of causing. We wear masks, try to maintain a safe distance from others, don’t hug our loved ones and avoid shopping or eating out. People are working from home. Children have been trying to learn through virtual lessons. People we know and love are sick or perhaps even dying. Nothing is normal and we miss everything that we took for granted.

Most of us are aware that we are changed. We are not ourselves in many ways. Our feelings are not unlike those of grief when experiencing a specific loss, such as in divorce, a loss of a job or home, the death of a loved one or our own approaching death. In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross first described what she called the five stages of grief. Looking at these stages now may help us to understand some of our current feelings and moods. Those five stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

It is easy to see that our first reaction to the pandemic was denial that it could possibly be this serious. As time went on and we realized our lives were severely altered it was natural to feel anger. Anger at being told what we could and could not do, anger at those who refused to take those necessary precautions and anger at the inconvenience of it all was a frequent feeling. Bargaining may be harder to recognize, but at times we surely promised mentally that we’d follow the rules and that would bring an end to this curse sooner. Depression, including suicide, today is a significant problem according to mental health professionals. It is hard to fight when one is depressed and the condition becomes a vortex of despondency and a feeling of inertia that makes each day hard to face. Acceptance is having hope and in the case of COVID a feeling that normalcy will return and that life will be joyous again.

These stages of grief do not always come in this order and it isn’t unusual to switch back and forth among these stages. There are no exact parameters. Some degree of each stage will probably linger and overlap other stages. After twelve months of this experience you can probably identify these stages of grief in your life. Hopefully this recognition of the process and an understanding of the stages will help us to go forward with hope.

Photo by Pixabay

Wee Free Men

A Book Review by Dianne Bynum

So much fun, a great escape…It’s April of 2020 and the world is in the throes of a pandemic. I’ve been sick for a month with a virus that no one fully understands. I needed a book like The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. When my fever broke and I began to feel like reading but I was too feeble to walk about, I’d pick up this book and I’d be transported. Transported back to the time when I was a little girl that looked for evidence of fairies. A little girl that was intrigued by witches and wouldn’t have minded it at all if one crossed my path. It was a beautiful book of rolling Celtic hills, herds of sheep and farmhouses where fine butter is produced. But don’t think that this story is a mere fairytale. I found some First Sight while reading this book. I’ll let the Kelda, queen of the Wee Men explain, “First sight is when you can see what is really there, not what your head tells you ought to be there.” There was a lot to think about in this book. I love this line from Granny Aching, “Them as can do has to do for them as can’t. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voice.” I found strength in those words in a time of such unknown. I’ll have to warn you, there’s lots of “it’s a dream in a dream” stuff that may turn some readers off. You really need to enjoy fantasy before you can earn that Second Thought I spoke of earlier. Also if you’re a fan of Discworld, a series written by Pratchett, you won’t recognize this author. It has some of the same silly humor but this book is deeper and more traditional than the other books that I’ve read by him. I’m lucky to have found this book and I can’t recommend it enough if you’re looking for an escape.

ED30832D-1781-4FA2-802A-46A8EAC4B7FA_4_5005_c

The Earth Could Heal

the earth could heal

if we were gone
the earth could heal
we see the evidence
now that viral pandemonium
has herded us into seclusion
nature has begun to breathe again…
the air and water have cleared
as we have been forced
to shrink back in isolation
but even after this pandemic
has passed
will we have seen the difference
will we ever understand
that one day the earth might die
for it requires care and respect
and its resources are finite
we pillage and plunder
to make our lives more
convenient and comfortable
and we are never satisfied…
we will always want more…
we will take until
there is nothing left to give…
like Shel Silverstein’s “Giving Tree”
we have been given a level
of intelligence
that supersedes all…
and a sharp conscience
with which to hone wisdom
if only we were good stewards…
if only we could live
in balance and harmony
but just remember
that the earth could heal
the earth could heal
if we were gone
Sylvia L. Mattingly, May 8, 2020
Written during the Covid-19 pandemic that has rocked our world.
I feel passionate about how we affect our planet and Mother Nature.
We only have one home, and we’d better take care of it.
A6AFFCB2-CA38-4C9D-AFBE-8920826292D9
Photo by Pixabay

Coping

New Normal

These are unprecedented times. No one living has experienced such a pandemic in their adult lives. Restrictions depend upon where you live, but almost everyone is restricted in some way. Each country’s precautions are a little different and in the US it is up to each state to decide how much we must restrict our movements.

Regardless, we have all had to adjust to a new normal and there is nothing about it that feels, “Normal.” We must remember that physical distancing, masks, gloves and stay at home orders are designated to protect others as well as ourselves.

Coping

So-called social distancing is hard for me a hug loving, social being. I miss my friends. I miss my family. I miss going to the grocery and volunteering and driving and everything else that made up my daily life before COVID-19 dropped in on us.

  • I am trying to cope by taking one day at a time. This isolation is so open-ended at this point that it is depressing to think of the month or months stretching ahead. I try to have a goal (or two) for each day and when I achieve those I feel energized. The goals are too mundane to share, but of course, include such chores as reorganizing a closet.
  • This is also a wonderful opportunity to read. I have many books on my shelves that beg to be re-read and I have about fifty on my Kindle that I have not read. Reading is always informative and it swallows up a lot of free time.
  • This final coping mechanism should have been listed first because I think it is probably the most important. Here in Kentucky, I feel very fortunate that this pandemic has occurred in springtime. The sun shines bright almost every day and there are flowering trees and plants sprinkling color all around. Each day I go for a walk in the neighborhood and I am grateful that this virus did not visit in winter.
  • One last thought: Many people are making it possible for us to live during this trying time. Let’s remember those working in hospitals, grocery stores, law enforcement, and other essential capacities.

As our governor, Andy Beshear, reminds us each day, “We will get through this together.” 

How Are You coping?

 

“Think first of the action that is right to take, think later about coping with one’s fears.” Barbara Deming

Can We Still Laugh?

All the world is experiencing unprecedented challenges. We are in a state of shock at what is happening and we have no idea what is next. Global pandemics like the one we are dealing with today are once in a lifetime phenomenon.

Can We Still Laugh?

Even though people are losing their jobs and lifetime savings; Even though people are dying is it okay to still laugh? I say we must. Laughter is good medicine and right now we need some good medicine. As we are restricted in our movements and activities we need to see humor wherever it exists and I believe it is good to manufacture it, too.

We are a family of huggers. We give big hearty hugs when getting together and when saying goodbye. A week ago before things were quite as strict, we got together to celebrate my daughters’ birthdays. Via text Dianne, the oldest reminded us that we needed to keep more distance and not hug. I thought no more about it until Allison, the younger, arrived. She got out of their car and walked to the front door like this: F43A5DB1-5F1F-4E32-81DD-60C81CB6C3F1

Silly? Yes, but her isolation get-up produced howls of laughter that partially took the place of our usual hugs.

Maintaining our ability to laugh at life and at ourselves in no way minimizes the seriousness of our time. COVID-19 is not funny, but life still is. Let’s smile each day and laugh when given the opportunity.

04FB82E7-FDCD-4B45-B608-A8CB2A8FD827

 

“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” Mark Twain

 

Title Photo by Pixabay