Planet Waves :: Libra Equinox: In Search of Justice

Libra Equinox: In Search of Justice

The judge said, “Guilty” in a make-believe trial,
Slapped the sheriff on the back with a smile and said
“Supper’s waiting at home and I got to get to it.”

— Bobby Russell

Dear Friend and Reader:

If there was a silver lining to Wednesday night’s human sacrifice of Troy Davis, it was that so many people cared — and did something tangible about it. In the days and weeks leading up to his execution by the state of Georgia, there was an unprecedented global outpouring of sadness, concern and outrage not just because of evidence that he was innocent, but also of disgust at the continued use of the death penalty by the United States. No death sentence has raised this much public ire since Karla Faye Tucker, who was executed by Texas in 1998.

Troy Anthony Davis as a death row inmate in 2002, shown with his mother, Virginia. Photo from family website.

Troy Davis was convicted of the 1989 murder of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia, though seven of the nine witnesses whose testimony convicted him have recanted. One of the other two is believed by many to be the actual shooter. Millions of people signed petitions, spread the world through social media and shut down phone lines going into every conceivable office in the Georgia legal system. But as Troy himself put it, it really was about all the Troy Davises that came before and after the one who died Wednesday night.

The public uprising was truly activism in the tradition of Uranus square Pluto, the centerpiece of 2012 astrology — an aspect directly related to the fabled uprisings of the 1960s. Transcending national boundaries and the usual divisions of race and class, it is during Uranus-Pluto aspects, which happen a few times per century, that progress on human rights is often made. Troy Davis was one of many social justice stories that emerged in the week that the Sun was preparing its ingress into Libra, the sign of the legal system and the concept of fairness, (illustrated with scales, held by Astraea, the goddess of justice). The Sun entered Libra with the equinox early Friday, and will aspect Uranus and Pluto through the weekend and into next week. In doing so, it will set off the 2012 aspect, once again bringing the future a little closer to us.

Those raising their voices on behalf of Troy Davis included former FBI director William Sessions (who served under Ronald Reagan); Dr. Allen Ault, a former warden of the Georgia prison where Davis was killed; Pres. Jimmy Carter; Pope Benedict and many celebrities from around the world.

Most astonishing and unexpected among these figures was Dr. Ault, who with a group of former Georgia prison officials wrote to Gov. Nathan Deal out of “overwhelming concern” that Davis was innocent — and the impact that this would have on the executioners. The issue of what happens to the people who must actually kill the condemned person is finally starting to get some traction, after being raised for years by Helen Prejean.

“We write to you as former wardens and corrections officials who have had direct involvement in executions,” Ault and his colleagues wrote to Gov. Deal, who could have stopped the execution with a phone call.

“Like few others in this country, we understand that you have a job to do in carrying out the lawful orders of the judiciary. We also understand, from our own personal experiences, the awful lifelong repercussions that come from participating in the execution of prisoners. While most of the prisoners whose executions we participated in accepted responsibility for the crimes for which they were punished, some of us have also executed prisoners who maintained their innocence until the end. It is those cases that are most haunting to an executioner.

Amnesty International protest in Atlanta in support of Troy Davis, part of an international show of opposition for his execution — and for the death penalty itself. Many protests were in virtual space, and numerous others took place on the ground. Photo: Elizabeth Hartsig.

“We write to you today with the overwhelming concern that an innocent person could be executed in Georgia tonight. We know the legal process has exhausted itself in the case of Troy Anthony Davis, and yet, doubt about his guilt remains. This very fact will have an irreversible and damaging impact on your [prison] staff. Many people of significant standing share these concerns, including, notably, William Sessions, Director of the FBI under President Ronald Reagan.

“Living with the nightmares is something that we know from experience. No one has the right to ask a public servant to take on a lifelong sentence of nagging doubt, and for some of us, shame and guilt. Should our justice system be causing so much harm to so many people when there is an alternative?” [End of quote from Dr. Ault’s letter.]

The alternative would not have been to release Davis, but rather to commute his sentence to life without the possibility of parole while the investigation continued. The state could have hedged its bets here, especially given that he is likely to be exculpated (declared innocent after conviction, and in this case, execution). Because of the high probability of Davis’ innocence, what Dr. Ault and his co-authors are saying is that the death penalty spreads the agony like poison in water. I believe it spreads the karma of murder out over an entire society. In order for ‘justice’ to be done, millions of people had to feel the pain and helplessness of watching a potentially innocent man be put to death.

MacPhail’s relatives said that Davis and his family had duped people into believing in his innocence. “We know what the truth is,” MacPhail’s widow, Joan MacPhail-Harris, told CNN. “And for someone to ludicrously say that he is a victim — we are victims. Look at us. We have put up with this stuff for 22 years. It’s time for justice. We need our justice.” I think she means revenge. There is a difference, and not everyone gets it. But as a friend pointed out yesterday, the blood lust that is associated with the American death penalty may be the toxic shadow of living in a country where justice has been denied to so many for so long.

Also executed Wednesday night was Lawrence Brewer, a self-avowed racist who tortured and murdered James Byrd, Jr. in 1998. He was the 236th prisoner to be executed by the State of Texas during the governorship of likely Republican candidate Rick Perry — a record number of executions under one governor. While this kind of case is often used as justification for the death penalty, Byrd’s family was opposed to Brewer’s execution on the basis that it is only more killing, which would help nothing.

More killing is what Texas is all about. Since 1976, when the death penalty was resumed in the United States after a brief moratorium, Texas has executed more than 476 prisoners, nearly half of those executed by the United States in the modern era of the death penalty.

Troy Davis pictured at his high school graduation ceremony. Photo provided by Amnesty International.

Despite the impressive reputation of Texas, Georgia is the unofficial capital of capital punishment in the United States. It was the Supreme Court’s Furman v. Georgia decision that stopped the death penalty in 1972 due to numerous problems. These included what was in reality a lottery system of inconsistent application of execution throughout the states, death sentences imposed for rape by some states and not others, and innumerable accusations of racial bias. Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote that the Bill of Rights “cannot tolerate the infliction of a sentence of death under legal systems that permit this unique penalty to be so wantonly and so freakishly imposed.”

It was Gregg v. Georgia, a 1976 decision, that allowed states to resume executions under new, supposedly more rigorous conditions — but those rules seem to have done little to impose fairness or guarantee that condemned people are actually guilty, or guilty of something other than being black. Issues with the death penalty in Georgia are part of its folk history. Everyone remembers “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” the haunting 1972 southern gothic song about the false trial and hanging of an innocent man.

Since then, Georgia’s execution process has been wracked with scandal — including federal officials seizing the state’s illegally imported supply of sodium thiopental, the drug usually used to kill prisoners. Davis’ execution was carried out by a company called CorrectHealth, a for-profit enterprise that oversees all executions in Georgia. What is entered on the certificate of death under the ’cause of death’ as state homicide is in fact corporate homicide.

Before he was killed, Davis spent 22 years in solitary confinement, a form of torture. He had four separate death dates, refusing his last meal for all of them, one time coming within two hours of execution before the process was stopped. His scheduled killing this week was delayed for several hours as the justices of the Supreme Court were polled about whether they wanted to grant a stay. The workings of the Supreme Court are mysterious, but one observer I trust said that the decision to deny a stay was likely unanimous, or the execution would have been halted. Technically, it takes a minimum of five justices to stay an execution, something that they rarely do.

Troy Davis was executed using pentobarbital, a drug usually used to euthanize household animals, and died Wednesday at 11:08 pm. But he leaves a legacy behind him: especially an invigorated anti-death penalty movement, and a name that everyone will recognize if and when evidence emerges that someone else committed the crime for which his life was taken. The chart for his death suggests that capital punishment in the United States will be one of the things overthrown by the public uprisings of 2012-2015.

Personal Questions and Public Issues

In case you didn’t notice, this was a week of subtle tension and constant adjustment. At times it might have been not so subtle, but better described as intense and edgy. There were two main aspects in effect — both of them quincunxes, or 150-degree aspects. If you think of a square as being inwardly confrontational and a trine as being an easy flow, think of a quincunx as halfway between. Their distinctive feeling is that of unresolved tension and the continuous sensation of working it out. In fact, we can make significant progress under the influence of these aspects.

Lady Gaga speaks at the National Equality March on Nov. 28, 2009. She was a leading advocate of open service in the military. Photo by Ryan J. Reilly via Wikimedia Commons.

The aspects were Sun quincunx Neptune, at the same time as Mars quincunx Chiron. It’s fairly rare to have this kind of simultaneous dual alignment of an unusual aspect like this, but for reasons I will describe another time, the sky is a setup for quincunxes at the moment. On a personal level, you may have noticed yourself asking many questions about your life, or rather, discovering that those questions existed. Next, you may have gone on a campaign of making many adjustments, another keyword of the quincunx.

Sun to Neptune had the vibe of not being able to stand the lies, the sensation of slipping, or the disregard of intellectual clarity. One thing about our era of history is its blatant anti-intellectualism — remember that ‘reality based’ is an insult and that science is considered by many to be inconvenient — or a sign of weak faith. Blending the Sun (expression, ego) and Neptune (creativity, deception) in a 150-degree aspect screams with the desire for clarity. Happening as it did at the end of two signs (Virgo and Aquarius), this may have come with the feeling of enough already.

At the same time, Mars was newly in Leo — which grants energy and courage. It was (and still is) making an aspect to Chiron in early Pisces. This is about a new approach, taking up new tools, and taking on life’s challenges with the courage of a warrior and the precision of a surgeon. The fog and slippery quality of Sun-Neptune may have felt like provocation into the new, exacting methods of Mars-Chiron.

These two aspects to me are like an illustration of the necessities of our moment. On one level there is so much bullshit and mental chaos that a sane person cannot stand it. There is that sense of drowning in disinformation, but really needing information good enough to act on. It’s enough to make you question your sanity, especially when events themselves become overwhelming.

Then you look at the situation another way, or feel within yourself for resources. You take an approach that utilizes a psychological tool or the direction of energy. All Mars-Chiron aspects have the feeling of martial arts, which are about the conscious use and application of inner power. This is the perfect antidote to the chaos of the Sun-Neptune aspect. Mars-Chiron favors the underdog and has the sense of a quest for justice.

Lady Gaga in Portand, Maine, on her sexual equality rights tour that helped end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Photo by Amanda Painter.

Now two other things are happening: the Sun is beginning its path across Libra, putting it into contact with the Uranus-Pluto square. This feels like resolution; it feels like a new surge of energy. The Sun will make a concentrated series of big aspects through the next two weeks — first to Chiron, then to Uranus, then to Pluto, then to Jupiter and finally to Saturn. (There is a very high-potency lineup on Wednesday, Sept. 29.)

The Sun is now in a cardinal sign and at the first moment of a new season — this sequence of events is about taking action. Said another way, it’s about a surge of energy that is focused into a tangible, disciplined process. The energy surge comes first — followed by the obvious need to focus. The story in the planets right now is not about going with the flow, but neither is it about pushing the river. It’s about the conscious application of mental and emotional power. Chiron is a big player that describes a process of planning, documenting and making decisions that are based on actual data.

As for the public issues — there were two other social justice events this week that would count for signs of the times. The first was the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the Clinton-era policy that led to an 18-year witch hunt of gay and lesbian people in the military. The legal process that led to this actually started in July, when the leaders of the military said their forces were ready to toss out the old policy that had wrecked so many lives and spread so much paranoia.

With this change, an era of nationally-sanctioned lying and discrimination has come to an end. Over the DADT years more than 14,500 able-bodied soldiers left the Armed Services due to sexual orientation. Very few left the military because they wanted to and with the end of DADT, many who were recently released are planning to rejoin. West Point graduate and activist Dan Choi plans on reenlisting, saying, “Going back to the military will be a vindication. I’m going back because I fought to go back. The seriousness of our claims was not just political theatre — it was really drawn from our lives. I sacrificed so much so I could go back.”

Meanwhile, those discharged as ‘undesirable’ can now petition to have their decisions changed to ‘honorable’, as was a 70-year-old discharge, concerning a World War II soldier.

With one or two rare exceptions, protests on Wall Street, New York City, this week were ignored by the media. At the peak there were more than 2,000 people there. Mayor Bloomberg was having CGI fantasies of many more. Photo by Alex Féthière.

Then there was a protest that was near to my heart: the occupation of Wall Street. On Sept. 17, the event kicked off with some 2,000 protesters crowding Bowling Green Plaza, angry about the financial meltdown caused by “the corruption of the 1%,” and the continuing unregulated speculation that erodes stability of the financial markets and of the whole economy. Protesters were comprised of recent college grads unable to find employment and others who have identified corporate America as the primary cause of our fiscal decline. As with so many protests these days, the idea was developed and implemented through social networking.

Mayor Bloomberg likened it to the Arab Spring, and made it clear that the same kind of “riots” that occurred in Egypt and Spain were unwelcome in New York. Perhaps that’s why there has been so little news coverage of this protest. Just one weekly free paper in New York City covered it, as did Toronto Star. Any journalist who violated an unspoken ban on the story could have been cut off from the mayor’s good graces, which is an annoying possibility to consider. Simultaneous protests are occurring in England, so it is BBC that seems to be the leader in covering both movements.

“Banks are sitting on cash hoards and corporate profits are riding high — yet ordinary U.S. taxpayers face joblessness and cuts,” wrote Amy Goodman in The Guardian (U.K.), apparently unable to place her op-ed in an American newspaper.

By the fourth day, the otherwise peaceful protest, smaller in numbers but no less vocal, had turned testy with a belligerent police presence: see the video here.

A summer ago, people in three-cornered hats, waving placards — some quite disturbing — and carrying guns held protests all over the nation, including in front of the White House. I don’t remember arrests. The Wall Street protest has scored a number of arrests now, including one arrestee reported in severe medical condition.

We remain a nation — and a world — in search of justice.

Eric Francis

Planet Waves
Weekly Horoscope for Friday, Sept. 23, 2011, #876 – BY ERIC FRANCIS

Revised and Updated! Click for Eric’s Zodiac Sign Descriptions

Aries (March 20-April 19) — You don’t have to apply a lot of force to get your way, or to express yourself — and in truth you don’t need to apply any force at all. Rather, direct your will, your intentions and your desire gently and with precision, and you’ll accomplish exactly what you want to accomplish. That said, be careful about approaching life as a game. This may be a strong temptation, particularly since you may have the notion that you can gain more by gambling than you can by honest effort. That, precisely, is the trap to avoid. Taking a creative approach is risky enough (though it’s a different kind of risk). It would call for more humility and does not involve a win-or-lose-everything approach. In fact it does not involve winning or losing at all. Rather, you will embark on a process of evaluating your actions, mainly through their results. You don’t know all of the factors involved in your life right now, and there are likely to be authority figures who will not look kindly on your playing fast and loose.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — What was the definition of ‘fair’ in the household you grew up in? That idea influences you now. I reckon that it had something to do with listening: with listening to others, and being listened to. There’s also something about the noise level. Were things suppressed and quiet, were they over-boiling and confrontational, or was there actual civility and communication? The answer to this question says something about how you respond to others, and how you expect them to respond to you. Looked at one way, your solar chart hints strongly at growing up in a household where there was a good bit of pride, and where everyone around you had to be number one. Yet this competitive vibe may not have been expressed openly; it may have been subversive. Contrast this now with whatever you’re going through emotionally; you may get a new layer of understanding about how and why you respond to the people close to you.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — You would be wise to work with those more powerful than yourself rather than against them. If you’re in doubt whether your cooperation would be a good idea, I suggest you sit out this round. Assuming your involvement passes an integrity check, here is what I suggest. Try out something that the Midwest Academy, an organizational training center, calls power analysis. Who actually has the power to make the decision in this situation? And what is your power to influence them? You need to know these things, and work with them carefully. Your mind is hot with ideas and creativity right now, but it’s vital that you direct it like a laser. That calls for applying strategy. Know who your friends are and who your potential enemies are, and do your best to get along with both. Keep peace in your environment; pride or talking too much is not going to serve you well. And if your mind is a geyser of ideas all of which you want to do yesterday, choose carefully among them for the best.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — You will be making a series of financial decisions this week, and I suggest you make them with impeccable care. You happen to have many advantages working for you, but you must guard against overconfidence. It is true that a significant impediment has been lifted from your life during the past week or so, but this merely shifts the balance of power rather than guaranteeing an outcome of any kind. The quality that is the very strongest in your chart right now is a spirit of innovation. Careful experiments, based on what you’ve learned from previous endeavors, are one of the best ways you can invest your time and energy. I do mean careful. You will be rewarded for your discipline and your restraint, which will also provide the perfect venue for your best ideas to come through. Part of that discipline is about understanding the potential costs, benefits and liabilities of everything.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — You may feel like you’re caught in a situation you cannot get out of — or, if you notice carefully, you may see you’re in the perfect position to take action that has a positive influence on several different situations around you. They all seem to involve partnership, work and finance. You’re serving as a point of contact — but this is not merely a passive role. The part you play is about initiative, motivation and making sure that any action taken is the correct action. As the next week passes, you may have an inclination to increase or magnify your involvement; I suggest you keep your efforts steady and persistent, rather than backing off or coming on stronger. That you have the awareness and courage to assert your will is another — but you’re also setting the tempo of an approach that is designed to last a while. Take as little credit for your contribution as possible, which will keep the involvement of ego down to a minimum. There is no room for games.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — Most things that people start — especially the ones that turn out to be the most meaningful — begin as a kind of mystery, with an outcome that could never be predicted. How many times have you said, or heard someone say, ‘If I knew what I was getting into, I never would have tried — but I’m glad that I did’. You may discover that you’re in just such a moment where one decision leads to another; where one adventure leads to the next and pretty soon you have no idea how you got where you are. I would guess, however, that you have some kind of a clue or a feeling that some unusual turns of events are on the horizon, particularly where your professional life and your creative life intersect. Many things that were cloaked in a fog have become clear even in the past two or three days. This is a time to keep your mind loose and limber, and dance to the music rather than the choreography.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — The Sun moves into your sign [today/Friday], and this will feel like turning the lights on in a space where you were already able to see most things in the dark. You will not only notice subtle differences; you will see your options. You will also discover a surprise in the form of the revelation of how someone close to you feels about something they may not have been stating directly. Did you have a clue about this? Does what you’re discovering seem familiar? Try not to act too surprised. There is actually a significant benefit in this for you. You may be feeling restless the past few months, as if you’ve become stuck in your own footprints — particularly where an important relationship or relationships are concerned. This weekend’s turn of events will connect you to more people, and send a pleasant shockwave through your life, yet without threatening to turn over your world.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — The more you overtly assert your leadership, the more likely you are to run into resistance of people who specialize in negative inertia. Look for the small, meaningful leverage points where you can assert your influence gently. If possible, work invisibly, behind the scenes, rather than making any kind of announcement or openly setting an agenda. Let others be the vectors for your ideas. I know this sounds like I’m recommending subterfuge, but actually I’m suggesting that you move carefully beneath the radar of those who may not have your best interests at heart. Unless you proceed with a bit of stealth, you could easily get bogged in emotional drama, or spur the jealousy of those who simply feel like resisting you. Meanwhile, check carefully why you want to do what you’re doing. What is your actual goal? I get that part of it involves personal advancement. But you seem to have other motives. The clearer you are about them, the more easily you will get it to happen.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — Now is the time to make your presence known to the world. I know there’s part of you that wants to hole up and get things done, but you have some rare and precious opportunities to show the world your face, your talent and your shining presence. You’re in an unusual position to meet people who are your creative peers, and who have the energy to shock you to a new level of expression. Indeed, anyone you make contact with or collaborate with during the next few days could do that — and you may find yourself with a new mission or project on your hands. That would be the time to retreat — but only for as long as you need to. I suggest you be as extroverted as you can be for the next month, though if I’m not being clear, this is not about being social as much as it is about pollenating your mind and spreading your presence and involvement in the world.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — For you, taking authority is not taking something new — it’s about occupying something that you’ve already created. Authority means authorship, so think of this as living out a story that has been taking shape in your mind for a long time. The theme of the story is justice, which is another way of saying fairness. This does not usually happen by luck; typically, it takes effort, and some degree of subverting all of the other agendas that currently exist around you. And I do mean subvert, rather than challenge openly. The most important thing you can do is present your alternative, and present it not only logically but beautifully so that it has at least two levels of appeal. The second most important thing to do is pay attention to who is pushing their will the hardest, and use the martial arts skill of turning their own energy against them. In other words, set your adversaries up to be their own worst enemy; then you won’t have to play that role.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Let others know that you’re listening and moreover, that you understand them. Once you’ve spent a few moments getting clear, the words, ‘I understand where you’re coming from’, or ‘This is what I hear you saying’, will go a long way. What close partners (or even adversaries) want most is to be heard, and this is something you can offer. It costs you nothing, and you’ll only benefit. At the same time, your solar chart currently hints at a risk if you assert yourself in a way that tells others you want them to believe you. I dare say that it’s not going to work: someone close to you is in too aggressive a mood to listen to much at all, but their conquering spirit will calm down a little if you pay attention. This is not necessarily going to solve the problem, and I suggest you watch the situation closely. Soon enough whoever you’re dealing with is likely to encounter a more powerful authority and will have to change his or her ways.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — This is the month to get your financial house in order. Whether you’re dealing with creditors, with clients, with an employer or with some kind of investment advisor, you are in a position to make a series of strategic moves that simplify your situation, allow you to apply several good ideas, and come to a new understanding about the value of your work. One of the distinctive qualities of this adjustment phase is a blend of creativity and absolute practicality. You don’t need to take any flying leaps; you don’t need to risk everything. You need to get the engine connected to the wheels and decide where you want to go. Over the next few weeks you’re likely to discover that doors you thought were closed will swing open, and that people you thought opposed you are willing to cooperate. But most of all you will discover that you’re making a unique contribution to the world — a fact that can serve you very well.

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