During this crazy campaign season, we're never very far from hearing the words "American Exceptionalism." We -- candidates and others -- persist in using this meaningless and hackneyed phrase despite what most of us now know about all the times in history when our America was not-so-exceptional.
Let me illustrate my point with a letter. You need to read this letter. You really do. It was written this summer by a former resident of Death Row in a Louisiana state prison. His name is John Thompson. Here are the key parts of what he wrote:
I was sentenced to death in 1984 for a crime I didn't commit. I spent 14 years on death row and another four in prison before I was exonerated and freed. I came weeks from execution for something I knew I didn't do.
The prosecutors at my trials hid evidence of my innocence in both a robbery case and a murder case that got me convicted and sentenced to death.
While I was on death row, I met other condemned men (and teenagers) including Ryan Matthews, Shareef Cousin, Dan Bright, Curtis Kyles, Albert Burrell and Michael Graham. All six of them were exonerated and freed, not killed by lethal injection.
We were condemned for over 60 years between us. And we were from all over the state: four of us from New Orleans, one from Jefferson Parish and two from Union Parish. All of us had lawyers to represent us at our trials. But you can bet none of us had an "O.J." defense.
After we were condemned, all of us were "lucky"enough to get lawyers from groups with the money to properly investigate our cases. Because they had the money and time to properly investigate, each of us was exonerated and freed.
My lawyers were from a law firm in Philadelphia who dedicated 16 years of their lives to proving my innocence. If they hadn't, I'd be dead. No doubt about it.