Ramiro Gonzales is not the only person who failed Bridget Townsend on January 15, 2001.
My inbox has been busy. I’ve been receiving a lot of email related to this blog post about my correspondence and friendship with Ramiro Gonzales, an inmate currently on Death Watch in Texas.
Many of the emails and comments have been very kind, and if you are somebody who sent such an email—thank you. I’ve been very touched by the support offered by my friends, acquaintances and strangers.
I’ve also received many angry emails and negative comments. I’ve had people write to me and say they’ve been listening to my music for years but now will never listen to my albums ever again. “What about the victims?” has been a common theme. “Please stop this garbage from filling up my newsfeed” is another. I’ve also received a few messages telling me what Ramiro did that led to his conviction and death sentence, as if maybe I didn’t already know. Perhaps he never told me? Maybe I don’t know how to use Google? It’s puzzling.
What Ramiro did when he was two months past his 18th birthday was revolting and horrifying. There should be outrage when people are violated. Bridget Townsend’s life mattered, and there should be outrage that her life was taken. Outrage is good, useful and required when atrocities happen.
However, there’s plenty of blame and outrage to go around. When all of the angry energy is directed at a single person, we’ve lost sight of the greater, more pressing problems in our society. Ramiro was not the only person who harmed his victims–there were lifetimes of failures leading up to his crimes. Our society and culture contributed, and we should be outraged.
It’s been fairly well established that greater economic inequality leads to greater instances of crime. Perhaps we should be outraged at the inequity and racism that leaves 33 percent of Texan minority children living in poverty. Doesn’t it make more sense for a government to spend its resources trying to do something about this, rather than using them to kill its people who are the products of this injustice?
[An aside: Indigenous children in Canada fare even worse. Shamefully, 40 percent of these children live in poverty. That number moves to 50 percent for Status First Nations children. Canada is not a guiltless nation.]
We should be outraged that 500,000 children born this year in the United States will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. Those who have been both physically and/or sexually abused are far more likely to end up committing violent crimes. Doesn’t it make more sense for a government to spend its resources on more services for children who have been victimized, rather than kill its citizens who are broken by their own violations?
We should be outraged at how we treat the mentally ill. Although this statistic is problematic (what threshold are they using when describing those with a mental illness?) the Texas Public Policy Foundation says that among those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, eight times as many of them are in prison than in hospital. Those diagnosed with mental illnesses who live in the community are not receiving enough support. Doesn’t it make more sense for a government to use its resources to support those who are suffering rather than kill its citizens who haven’t received the care they need?
When somebody makes the terrible decision to take another person’s life, we should be outraged. We should be angry. They should be punished. But we should not kill them. While we’re busy arguing about whether somebody (who is a product of injustice) should live or die, we become distracted from the fact that our governments and those in positions of power continue at best to perpetuate, and at worst perpetrate, the injustices that lead to evil and desperate acts.
I’m not saying all of this excuses the actions of people who commit heinous crimes. Do all poor people from visible minority groups go out and kill people? No, of course not. Are there very many wealthy, white people on Death Row?
So, in case anybody was wondering, I absolutely hold the family of Bridget Townsend in mind as I ask the State of Texas to spare Ramiro’s life. It is possible to hold both the enormous tragedy of her murder and the desire to have my friend alive simultaneously. It’s also possible to hold an individual accountable for their actions without killing them. Most other developed countries have been able to do this for decades. Killing people because they’ve killed people creates scapegoats for all the failures that came before. The State of Texas holds some of the responsibility for Bridget Townsend’s death. They will hold all of the responsibility for Ramiro Gonzales’ death if they decide to murder him on August 10th.
Love and light,
If you are in and around Toronto on June 23rd, please join me for The Yellow Rose Cabaret – a fundraising concert to help me get to Texas and to support Canada Cares TDR. If you live outside the GTA, you can watch a live stream of the concert on Stageit.com.
I have had some people ask if they might be able to send Ramiro a note of support. If you post your message in the form below, I will pass it on to him. Your message will not show up on this website, but will be emailed directly to me. I think Ramiro will appreciate knowing he is thought of and prayed for.
You could also send a letter asking for clemency to:
Governor Greg Abbott
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428