• March Blog Challenge •
Day 11: Last book you read
For those of you unfamiliar with Damien Echols and the ‘West Memphis Three’ here is some background.
Let it be known that I have researched this case extensively. It takes more than a celebrity endorsement or a buzzworthy film for me jump on the bandwagon. I’ve done my homework.
West Memphis, AR is ‘right across the bridge’ from downtown Memphis. At the time of the tragic deaths, I was the same age as those three little boys, only six years old. The killer[s] of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore literally got away with murder.
This case is one that’s been on my radar for years. Not only do I have an inherent understanding of life in the Bible Belt of the deep south, but I know all too well what it’s like to be on the fringe in high school under these conditions. Deviation from the mainstream is often viewed with ignorance, scorn, fear, or all of the above. A wardrobe filled with black and a taste for hardcore music solicit stares. The whispers begin. Interest in counterculture and alternative spiritualities really gets people talking. Society eyes the stereotypical ostracized teenager [outcast, freak, weird, scary, etc.] with suspicion, which quickly escalates into a mob mentality when a scapegoat is needed. Guilty until proven innocent. Toss a bunch of ideas around and see if anything sticks. No matter how absurd the claim, once the seed is planted, the damage is done. Some people get railroaded without ever knowing what hit them. Rights get violated. Not everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. Preposterous allegations become fact while irrefutable evidence to the contrary never sees the light of day.
Don’t even get me started on the colossal failure of the judicial system….
I leave you with a handful of quotes from within the pages and two critical reviews that resonated with me.
“Everyone puts on their Sunday best and pays tribute to religion’s slaughterhouse and then dines on a cannibal communion. Education is foreign to the sunburned beasts of burden, and the painkiller comes in black-labeled Tennessee bottles. No one here moves quickly, but everyone moves with absolute certainty.”
“I’ve seen men who were haunted to the point of madness by things that never were and things that should have been….The ghosts in fire freeze and the ghosts in ice burn. Some died long ago; some were never born. Some ride the blood in my veins until it reaches my brain. Sometimes I even mistake myself for one. Sometimes I am one.”
“I want a life of strife, lust, striving, seeking, struggling, and debauchery.”
“Any friendship that is worth it’s weight is like a dark and secret place where you hide bits of yourself. The door can be opened only by the two people who have the key, and you carry it with you wherever you go. Magnify that by a billion, and you begin to get an idea of what marriage is like.”
“Damien Echols spent eighteen years on death row for murders he did not commit. Somehow, in the depths of his unspeakable nightmare, he found the courage and strength not only to survive, but to grow, to create, to forgive, and to understand. Life After Death is a brilliant, haunting, painful, and uplifting narrative of a hopeless childhood, a wrongful conviction, a brutal incarceration, and the beginning of a new life.” – John Grisham
“The life of Damien Echols is a journey similar to that of the metal that becomes a samurai’s sword. Heated and pounded until it becomes hardened, it can hold its edge for centuries. It is incredible that Damien endured and survived one of the most tragic miscarriages of American justice, and emerged such a centered, articulate and extraordinary man and writer. Life After Death proves that he paid dearly for his wisdom. – Henry Rollins
With infinite love, gratitude, and respect,