UPDATE: (Jan 31, 2013) I have been informed by an online friend that Kimberly has been given a reprieve to allow her lawyers time to argue that racial bias played a role in her sentencing.
Nevertheless, my sentiments in this essay remain the same, just substitute "was brought to the brink of execution" for all the references to her execution in the original text below:Someone with whom I went to high school was killed this morning (partially) by my hand. She was executed in Texas for murder. This is a democracy. This is my government. I pay the taxes which pay for this. I have no malice aforethought, I have no motive at all, but I have not done everything I could possibly do to end capital punishment in the US, so collectively, my thumb was on that plunger for the syringe this morning, along with all other US Citizens.
As I sat chanting the Emmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, the Ten Phrase Life Prolonging Kannon Sutra, this morning in her memory I realized that she died by my hand. Every time I have turned a blind eye to capital punishment, I moved her a little closer to that needle in her arm this morning. I don't say this to beat myself up, this is not what I want. I see clearly that capital punishment is wrong, it harms everyone involved.
This morning, because I feel at a loss concerning what else to do, I turn to my religion and chant a sutra which invokes nothing more or less than the heartfelt sorrow of being witness to pain, sickness, death, and innumerable losses of all kinds. In English, this is the text:
Kannon, perceiver of the cries of the world, takes refuge in Buddha, will be a Buddha, helps all to be Buddhas, is not separate from Buddha, Dharma, Sangha --being eternal, intimate, pure and joyful. In the morning, be one with Kannon, In the evening, be one with Kannon, whose heart, moment by moment, arises, whose heart, moment by moment, remains!It doesn't make a lot of sense, but the point is sometimes all you can do is be present, and be aware, or the endless suffering of existence. Kannon (also known as Quan Yin, Avalokiteshvara and many other names) is the same thing as the Virgin Mary is to Christians. Kannon is the hearer of all the cries in the world. The receiver of all prayers for compassion and unconditional love.
There's power in a quiet moment of silence, but this chant, particularly effective for me in Japanese, coats my chattering mind in it's calm rhythms for a moment while I just let my heart be open and witness loss that I can't do anything about.
I knew this woman only very tangentially, but I can see her 17 year old face, when I knew her. She's been executed by a government which I fund and defend.
Killing is wrong. More killing doesn't make it right.