Returning from a hike among majestic redwoods at an Oakland park, I rejoiced that I’d had time to walk after caring for my grandchildren most of the day. I was surprised when my credit card asked me to approve a charge for $600 I hadn’t placed, but denied it and continued on. Until I saw my car: side window bashed in, trunk open, everything there stolen: purse, wallet, eyeglasses, computer, iPad. Thieves had done the same thing to three other cars; according to Next Door reports, they’d been active in the area, robbing many cars that day.
Of course such loss is stunning; I continue to discover what was lost on that computer, and I’ll waste hours on closing bank accounts, changing passwords, getting new credit cards and a driver’s license, all the paraphernalia of identification and complex 21st century life. But I’ve been touched by my family’s help, and the random strangers who’ve expressed sympathy, helped me navigate without money or ID.
But my loss is nothing, compared to how many people have been robbed this year: of life, health, relationships, employment, socializing, travel, mobility, so much of what we took for granted a year ago. Even final goodbyes are impossible. We’ve all seen the heart-breaking farewells as a nurse holds an iPad for a patient and grieving family.
But one loss could have been prevented. The federal government had not executed anyone for 17 years, then in a last spree, Trump arranged 10 until now, and plans 3 more for next week. It’s a blatant violation of Catholic social teaching and basic human decency. Sister Helen Prejean alerted us years ago to this travesty, through her book and the film Dead Man Walking. Since her ground-breaking work, the climate has shifted and a clear majority now oppose the death penalty. She puts it bluntly: we don’t just defend the dignity of human life when it’s attractive or innocent.
She also reminds us that hope is an active verb. President-elect Biden opposes federal executions. To support his stance, we can all sign the petition at https://catholicsmobilizing.org/.