I currently think Rick Perry is the most likely person to win the GOP presidential nomination. And when I think of Perry, the first thing I think of is Cameron Todd Willingham. And I will admit to being hopeful that if only we could explain what happened to people, they would be repelled by Perry’s role in the matter. But after being more honest with myself, I’m pretty sure that won’t happen. People just don’t care about the death penalty that much, don’t want to learn about its injustices, and when they do hear about them, are likely to say things like “you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” or even “it takes balls to execute an innocent man.”
I don’t much care that the Willingham case won’t deep-six Rick Perry. That kind of cynical utilitarianism has never been my bad [sic? I think he might mean “bag”]. Frederick Douglass couldn’t stop Jim Crow or achieve universal suffrage either. But we live in Douglass’s America, not Bobby Lee’s.
In this long battle, in this longer war for a more informed citizenry, and thus a more responsible political class, Willingham should not be forgotten. Activists, agitators, writers and thinkers who measure their efforts by presidential cycles should take up another business. This is no place for fast food intellectuals.
This will be a long, difficult battle. And unlike the one for marriage equality, which I consider destined for success for simple demographic reasons, there is no guarantee of success at any point during my lifetime. But it’s a battle I will never shy away from. It’s time for me to make another donation to the Innocence Project. I suggest you consider doing the same.