U saradnji sa Američkim kutkom iz Niša, književni časopis Book Hub predstavlja vam poslednji roman sa čitalačkog kluba Američkog kutka Niš, čime je kutak zatvorio svoje radionice. Just Mercy, Brajana Stivensona, bavi se nepravdom u američkom pravosudnom sistemu. Knjiga pruža dirljiv i duboko ličan pogled na borbu protiv sistemskih nepravdi kroz priču jednog advokata koji se zalaže za pravednost.

Igra pravde i nepravde

Kroz više romana savršen američki pravosudni sistem pokazuje svoje ozbiljne probleme. Kriminalno pravosuđe u Americi ponekad deluje više kriminalno nego pravedno. Prepuno grešaka, zloupotreba, rasizma i okrutnih kazni, sistem tvrdoglavo odbija reforme i neuspeva da nauči čak i iz najočiglednijih grešaka. Nigde, kao na jugu, stvari nisu gore nego u tvrdokornom srcu Diksija, tj. Alabami, južnjačkom tlu koje autor unosi u svoj romaneskni prostor, čime postaje zaštitnik prokletih. Njegova knjiga, Just Mercy, osvetljava nepravde koje su postale glavna tema savremnog trenutka u američkoj istoriji.

Sistem nametnute krivice

DNK analize forenzičara širom Amerike skoro svake nedelje otkrivaju pogrešne osude. Takođe, preovlađujuće je prisustvo manjina u zatvorima. Sve ovo ukazuje na sistemsku pristrasnost. Paralelne drakonske kaznene smernice tokom rata protiv droga izgledaju sve strožije, što je dovelo do pojave pokreta Black lives matter. Studije koje je sporovela Stivensonova organizacija dovode u sumnju tačnost svedočenja očevidaca, a čak se i države koje još uvek izvršavaju smrtne kazne suočavaju sa katastrofalno loše izvedenim pogubljenjima. Ove vesti stižu do građana kroz članke i televizijske priloge o zlostavljanim pojedincima. Just Mercy, možemo žanrovski odredi kao memoar. Ovaj memoar sadrži dokumentarnu građu, okuplja i personalizuje borbu protiv nepravde kroz priču o jednom aktivističkom advokatu – Brajanu Stivensonu.

Stivensonov put

Brajan Stivenson je odrastao siromašan u Delaveru. Njegovi potomci (prabake i pradede) bili su robovi u Virdžiniji, a deda mu je ubijen u stambenom bloku u Filadelfiji kada je Stivenson bio još tinejdžer. Stivenson je pohađao Eastern College (sada Eastern University), hrišćansku instituciju izvan Filadelfije, a zatim je studirao prava na Harvardu. Posle toga je počeo da zastupa siromašne klijente na Jugu, prvo u Džordžiji, a zatim u Alabami, gde je bio suosnivač nevladine organizacije Inicijativa za ravnopravnu pravdu.

Misija i klijenti

Just Mercy se uglavnom fokusira na njegov rad i klijente. Centralna narativna linija je priča o Volteru Mek Milanu, koga je Stivenson počeo da zastupa kasnih 1980-ih, dok je bio na čekanju za izvršenje smrtne kazne zbog ubistva mlade bele žene u Monrovilu, u Alabami, rodnom gradu Harper Li. Mornovil je dugo promovisao svoju povezanost sa romanom Ubiti pticu rugalicu, pričom o afroamerikancu lažno optuženom za silovanje bele žene. Mek Milan, koji nikada nije čuo za tu knjigu i jedva da je imao problema sa zakonom, imao je aferu sa belom ženom, što ga je učinilo ranjivim za progon.

Pravda za Mek Milana

Mek Milanovo iskušenje je dobar predmet za Stivensona, pre svega zato što je bilo tako šokantno. Čitalac brzo počinje da navija za Mek Milana dok vlasti izmišljaju slučaj protiv njega, ignorišu svedoke koji su bili s njim na crkvenom skupu kod njegove kuće kada se desilo ubistvo, i šalju ga — pre suđenja — u smrt. Kada gotovo potpuno bela porota vrati presudu doživotnog zatvora, sudija, po imenu Robert E. Li Kej, preinači presudu u smrtnu kaznu.

Stivensonova borba i uspeh

Stivenson nije prvi koji je ispričao ovu nepravdu. U popularnoj emisiji 60 Minuta , američki građani su mogli da vide reportažu koju je uradio novinar Pit Erli. Kasnije je to pretočio u knjigu o ovom slučaju, Circumstantial Evidence (1995). Mek Milanovo oslobađanje 1993. godine našlo se na naslovnoj strani Njujork tajmsa. Međutim, knjiga Just Mercy donela je novi život priči postavljajući je u dva dirljiva konteksta: Stivensonov životni rad i duboki trag rasne nepravde u američkom svakodnevnom građanskom životu.

Profesionalni i lični uticaj

Mek Milanov slučaj bio je temelj za osnovu autorove buduće borbe za ravnovnopravnost, i profesionalno i lično. Oslobađanje klijenta je unapredilo njegovu reputaciju. Snaga ovog dela leži u tome što Stivenson umesto holivudskog momenta slavlja, otkriva svoju ljutnju zbog bola nanetog Mek Milanu, njegovoj porodici i zajednici. Razmišljao je o drugima koji su nepravedno osuđeni a koji nisu dobili smrtnu kaznu i zbog toga su manje privukli pažnju aktivističkih advokata.

Borba protiv sistemskih problema

Stivenson koristi Mek Millanov slučaj da ilustruje svoju posvećenost okrivljenim pojedincima. Autor je ostao je u bliskom kontaktu sa Mek Milanom sve do njegove smrti. I dan danas autor ukazuje na krucijalne probleme u američkom pravosuđu. Što više uspeha Stivenson postiže boreći se protiv svojih beznadežnih slučajeva, to više podrške građanstva i nevladinih organizacija dobija. Ubrzo je osvojio Mek Artur stipendiju, švedsku nagradu Olof Palme i druge nagrade i priznanja, i privlači dovoljno savezničke i fondacijske podrške da formira ceo advokatski i pravni tim u svojoj nevladinoj organizaciji.

Deca i doživotne kazne

Do druge polovine knjige, Stivenson i njegov tim bave se obaveznim doživotnim kaznama za decu (sada ukinute) i širim merama da podstaknu Amerikance da prepoznaju nasleđe ropstva u današnjem krivičnom pravosuđu.

Stivensonov prikaz i borba

Stivenson, pišući svoju knjigu, hoda po tankoj liniji kada je reč o prikazivanju kako dobro može trijumfovati u svetu, bez da sebe prikaže kao jedinog odgovornog za donošenje tog dobra. Protiv slabih šansi za uspehom, Stivenson je radio na oslobađanju desetina ljudi od pogrešnih ili prekomernih kazni, argumentujući pet puta pred Vrhovnim sudom greške u američkom pravosuđu. Knjiga ne veliča njegovu plemenitost nego plemenitost cilja, i čita se kao poziv na akciju za sve što još treba da se uradi u savremenom američkom državnom uređenju.

Dokumentarne priče i narativ 

Just Mercy ima svoje osobenosti. Mnoge priče koje prepričava su stare više od 30 godina ali su ispričane kao da su se desile juče. Dijalog je rekonstruisan. Scene su prizvane iz sećanja. Misli likova su kanalizovane na način pisaca istinitih kriminalnih priča. Mek Milan, koji je osuđen na smrt, „osećao je nešto što se može opisati samo kao bes (. . .) Otpustite ove lance. Otpustite ove lance. Nije mogao da se seti kada je poslednji put izgubio kontrolu, ali osećao je kako se raspada.“ Stevenson izostavlja da tačno naznači godine kada su se suđenja desila, možda da bi izbegao utisak da se deo ovoga desio davno i ukaža da se isto događa i dan danas.

 

Lične priče i pravosudne borbe

Za jedan memoar, Just Mercy sadrži malo intimnih detalja. Čitalac se pita koga je ovaj čovek duboko voleo, osim svoje majke i svojih klijenata među obespravljenima? Teško je reći. Gotovo sve što saznajemo o njegovom privatnom životu izgleda kao ilustracija šire borbe za socijalnu pravdu. (Izuzetak: scena u kojoj sedi u svom autu, provodeći nekoliko minuta sam slušajući Sly and the Family Stone na radiju. „Za nešto više od tri godine advokatske prakse postao sam jedan od onih ljudi kojima tako mali događaji mogu značajno povećati radost.“)

Stivensonov pogled na svet

Kao što Stivenson kaže u TED govoru, „Na kraju ćemo biti ocenjeni ne po našoj tehnologiji, nećemo biti ocenjeni po našem dizajnu, nećemo biti ocenjeni po našem intelektu i razumu. Na kraju, ocenjujete karakter društva prema tome kako tretiraju siromašne, osuđene, zatvorene.“ Ovaj način razmišljanja je u skladu sa drugim izjavama koje daje tokom celog dela: „Suprotno od siromaštva nije bogatstvo; suprotno od siromaštva je pravda.“ One su poput fraza iz propovedi, podsticaji na pravedno delovanje. „Pravo pitanje smrtne kazne u ovoj zemlji je, da li zaslužujemo da ubijemo?“ Poruka ove knjige, utisnuta dramatičnim primerima odbijanja jednog čoveka da mirno sedi i toleriše užas, jeste da se zlo može prevazići, razlika može biti napravljena. Just Mercy će vas učiniti uznemirenim i učiniće vas punim nade. Većina nas je čitala roman Harper Li Ubiti pticu rugalicu. Radnja je smeštena u grad Mejkomb, u Alabami, gde je mladi Afroamerikanac, Tom Robinson, osuđen za zločin uprkos svojoj nevinosti. Stevenson pravi poređenja sa Pticom rugalicom u istinitim pričama zabeleženim u Just Mercy. On strukturiše narativ oko mladog Afroamerikanca Voltera mek Milana, potpuno nevinog za zločin, koji je osuđen na smrt. Mek Milan je živeo u Monrovilu, rodnom gradu Harper Li, koji je bio inspiracija za Mejkomb. Njegov pravi zločin bio je afera sa belom ženom. Osuđen je za ubistvo uprkos prisustvu na javnom događaju tokom izvršenja zločina.
Ovaj nefikcionalni prikaz izaziva napetost i želju za okretanjem stranica kod čitalaca, koji se u borbama za spasavanje onih uhvaćenih u nepravednom sistemu stavljaju na njihovu stranu. Pravosudne zloupotrebe su tako velike, da bi se autor suočio sa kritikama zbog takvih neverovatnih zapleta. Stivenson naizmenično koristi poglavlja kako bi čitalac bio uvučen u Mek Milanove događaje i memoarsku priču o suočavanju sa desetinama drugih slučajeva u borbi za pravdu.
Težina dokumentarnih priča i nepravdi ne vodi do beznađa. Čitalac je uzdignut Stivensonovim unutrašnjim radom na očuvanju sopstvenog osećaja identiteta i nade. Pored te nade postoji i bes što učestvujemo u sistemu sa okrutnim podzemljem rasista. U mnogim američkim zajednicama danas, jedan od tri Afroamerikanca je u zatvoru, u zatvorskom sistemu ili na uslovnoj slobodi. U Alabami, više od trećine Afroamerikanaca je izgubilo pravo glasa. Na svakih devet izvršenja smrtne kazne, jedan osuđenik je oslobođen. Stevenson nas podseća da za mnoge u SAD-u, suprotnost siromaštvu nije bogatstvo, već pravda.

Poziv na Akciju

Kroz Just Mercy, Stivenson nam pruža dubok pogled na nepravde koje su deo američkog pravosudnog sistema i podstiče američke čitaoce da se angažuju i bore za pravednije društvo. Njegova priča je svedočanstvo o moći posvećenosti, empatije i nepopustljivog zalaganja za pravdu. Knjiga nas podseća da je borba za pravdu neprekidna, ali da su promene moguće kada se borimo srcem i odlučnošću.

 

 

The Power of Justice: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

In collaboration with the American Corner in Niš, the literary magazine Book Hub presents the latest novel from the American Corner Niš book club, marking the closure of their workshops. Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy addresses injustices within the American judicial system, offering a poignant and deeply personal look at the fight against systemic injustices through the story of a lawyer advocating for justice.

The Play of Justice and Injustice

Through several novels, the supposedly perfect American judicial system reveals its serious flaws. Sometimes, criminal justice in America seems more criminal than just. Filled with mistakes, abuses, racism, and cruel punishments, the system stubbornly resists reform and fails to learn even from the most obvious errors. Nowhere are things worse than in the deep heart of Dixie, Alabama, where the author sets his novel, becoming a defender of the condemned. His book, Just Mercy, highlights injustices that have become a central theme in contemporary American history.

The System of Imposed Guilt

DNA analyses by forensic experts across America almost weekly reveal wrongful convictions. Additionally, the overrepresentation of minorities in prisons points to systemic bias. Parallel draconian sentencing guidelines during the war on drugs seem increasingly severe, leading to the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Studies conducted by Stevenson’s organization question the accuracy of eyewitness testimonies, and even states that still carry out death penalties face catastrophically poor executions. These reports reach the public through articles and television segments about mistreated individuals. Just Mercy can be classified as a memoir, documenting and personalizing the fight against injustice through the story of one activist lawyer – Bryan Stevenson.

Stevenson’s Journey

Bryan Stevenson grew up poor in Delaware. His ancestors were slaves in Virginia, and his grandfather was murdered in a housing project in Philadelphia when Stevenson was a teenager. He attended Eastern College (now Eastern University), a Christian institution outside Philadelphia, and then studied law at Harvard. After that, he began representing poor clients in the South, first in Georgia, and then in Alabama, where he co-founded the non-profit Equal Justice Initiative.

Mission and Clients

Just Mercy primarily focuses on his work and clients. The central narrative line is the story of Walter McMillian, whom Stevenson began representing in the late 1980s while McMillian was on death row for the murder of a young white woman in Monroeville, Alabama, the hometown of Harper Lee. Monroeville has long promoted its connection to the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, a story about an African American falsely accused of raping a white woman. McMillian, who had never heard of the book and had hardly any legal troubles, had an affair with a white woman, making him vulnerable to persecution.

Justice for McMillian

McMillian’s ordeal makes a compelling subject for Stevenson, primarily because it was so shocking. Readers quickly begin to root for McMillian as authorities fabricate the case against him, ignore witnesses who were with him at a church gathering at his home when the murder occurred, and send him to death row before trial. When an almost entirely white jury returns a life sentence verdict, the judge, named Robert E. Lee Key, changes the sentence to death.

Stevenson’s Struggle and Success

Stevenson was not the first to tell this injustice. On the popular show 60 Minutes, Americans could see a report by journalist Pete Earley. He later turned it into a book on the case, Circumstantial Evidence (1995). McMillian’s release in 1993 made the front page of the New York Times. However, Just Mercy brought new life to the story by placing it in two poignant contexts: Stevenson’s life work and the deep imprint of racial injustice in American civil life.

Professional and Personal Impact

McMillian’s case was foundational for the author’s future fight for equality, both professionally and personally. Freeing his client advanced his reputation. The power of this work lies in Stevenson’s revelation of his anger over the pain inflicted on McMillian, his family, and his community, rather than celebrating a Hollywood-style victory. He reflects on others who were wrongfully convicted but did not receive the death penalty and thus attracted less attention from activist lawyers.

Fighting Systemic Problems

Stevenson uses McMillian’s case to illustrate his dedication to accused individuals. The author remained in close contact with McMillian until his death. To this day, the author points out crucial issues in the American justice system. The more success Stevenson achieves in fighting his hopeless cases, the more support he gains from citizens and NGOs. Soon he won a MacArthur Fellowship, the Swedish Olof Palme Prize, and other awards and recognitions, attracting enough allied and foundational support to form an entire legal team in his NGO.

Children and Life Sentences

By the second half of the book, Stevenson and his team are addressing mandatory life sentences for children (now abolished) and broader measures to encourage Americans to recognize the legacy of slavery in today’s criminal justice system.

Stevenson’s Portrayal and Struggle

Writing his book, Stevenson walks a fine line between showing how good can triumph in the world without portraying himself as the sole bringer of that good. Against the slim odds of success, Stevenson has worked to free dozens of people from wrongful or excessive sentences, arguing before the Supreme Court five times about the mistakes in the American justice system. The book doesn’t glorify his nobility but the nobility of the cause, and reads as a call to action for all that still needs to be done in modern American governance.

Documentary Stories and Narrative

Just Mercy has its peculiarities. Many of the stories retold are over 30 years old but are narrated as if they happened yesterday. Dialogue is reconstructed. Scenes are summoned from memory. Characters’ thoughts are channeled in a true-crime writer’s fashion. McMillian, sentenced to death, „felt something that can only be described as rage (. . .) Release these chains. Release these chains. He couldn’t remember the last time he lost control, but he felt himself unraveling.” Stevenson omits exact years when the trials occurred, perhaps to avoid the impression that some of this happened long ago and to indicate that it is still happening today.

Personal Stories and Judicial Battles

For a memoir, Just Mercy contains few intimate details. Readers wonder who this man deeply loved, besides his mother and his clients among the disenfranchised? It’s hard to say. Almost everything we learn about his private life seems like an illustration of the broader struggle for social justice. (Exception: the scene where he sits in his car, spending a few minutes alone listening to Sly and the Family Stone on the radio. “In just over three years of practicing law, I had become one of those people for whom such small events could significantly increase joy.”)

Stevenson’s Worldview

As Stevenson says in a TED talk, “Ultimately, we’ll be judged not by our technology, not by our design, not by our intellect and reason. Ultimately, you judge the character of a society by how they treat the poor, the condemned, the incarcerated.” This way of thinking aligns with other statements he makes throughout the work: “The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.” They are like phrases from a sermon, prompts for righteous action. “The real question of capital punishment in this country is, do we deserve to kill?” The message of this book, stamped with dramatic examples of one man’s refusal to sit quietly and tolerate horror, is that evil can be overcome, a difference can be made. Just Mercy will make you disturbed and hopeful. Most of us have read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The plot is set in the town of Maycomb, Alabama, where a young African American, Tom Robinson, is convicted of a crime despite his innocence. Stevenson draws comparisons with Mockingbird in the true stories recorded in Just Mercy. He structures the narrative around a young African American, Walter McMillian, completely innocent of the crime, who is sentenced to death. McMillian lived in Monroeville, Harper Lee’s hometown, which inspired Maycomb. His real crime was an affair with a white woman. He was convicted of murder despite his presence at a public event during the crime.
This non-fiction depiction creates tension and a desire to turn pages in readers who side with those caught in an unjust system. Judicial abuses are so great that the author would face criticism for such incredible plots. Stevenson alternates chapters to engage readers in McMillian’s events and the memoir’s story of facing dozens of other cases in the fight for justice.
The weight of documentary stories and injustices does not lead to despair. Readers are uplifted by Stevenson’s inner work on maintaining his sense of identity and hope. Alongside that hope is the anger that we participate in a system with a cruel racist underbelly. In many American communities today, one in three African Americans is in prison, in the prison system, or on parole. In Alabama, more than a third of African Americans have lost their right to vote. For every nine executions, one convict is exonerated. Stevenson reminds us that for many in the U.S., the opposite of poverty is not wealth, but justice.

A Call to Action

Through Just Mercy, Stevenson gives us a profound insight into the injustices that are part of the American judicial system and encourages American readers to engage and fight for a fairer society. His story is a testament to the power of dedication, empathy, and unwavering commitment to justice. The book reminds us that the struggle for justice is ongoing, but that change is possible when we fight with heart and determination.

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