By Charles deGravelles
On Monday, yet another mass shooting, this time in Washington, D.C., claimed the lives of 13 people and sent a now common shock through the spine of our battered country. Recently, the President tried to convince us to lob missiles into Syria, even as we continue to struggle, like Br’er Rabbit, to disengage from the tar babies of Afghanistan and Iraq. And now that we have passed yet another anniversary of 9/11, the prospects for a peaceful resolution of the “war on terror” seem no closer.
I live in an area saturated with violence. Two cities in Louisiana, New Orleans and my own hometown of Baton Rouge, are among the most crime-ridden in the nation. Murders and other violent crimes are commonplace; there is a steady flow through the court systems into the state’s overcrowded prisons, already the most populated, per capita, in the country.
I grew up in a more peaceful town and time, but I have certainly witnessed my share of the pain and grief that comes from violence. I have been a minister at Angola prison for 23 years, and I know that for every one of the more than 5,000 men who are incarcerated there, a tsunami-like wave of trauma, heartbreak and loss has radiated outward, engulfing the lives of loved ones of victims and perpetrators alike.
For three years I was spiritual advisor for a death row inmate, Feltus Taylor, a man who robbed and shot, execution style, people he had worked with at a fried chicken restaurant on Florida Boulevard. I was with Feltus on June 6, 2000 when he himself was put to death, execution style, by lethal injection in the death chamber at Angola. One of his victims, the only one to survive the shooting, forgave Feltus and reconciled with him, and these words of forgiveness and reconciliation were the last words Feltus ever heard as he died on the execution gurney. Read More…