Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Death Penalty is Immoral

Troy Davis, scheduled to die as I type this.
On the left side of my blog run my general principles, which frame my approach to living in this world and interacting with others. There are other, more specific principles in particular areas of life that should be enumerated, explained and defended. I'd like to make these part of the permanent record of this blog, too, and featured prominently. I'll probably add them as I write about them.

Let's call this new group My Human Rights Principles. The first speaks to the most basic right of all.

  1. The death penalty is immoral and should be abolished everywhere, including the U.S.
There is never a justification for the premeditated killing of anyone. Self-defense, I feel, is rarely if ever premeditated and certainly never coldly calculated. War is so complex an issue that I don't feel it weighs on this one and is wrapped up in the self-defense discussion (at least when it involves a justifiable defense of a nation, with wars of choice or aggression being tantamount to murder and thus unjustifiable).

In my life, the only time my stand against the death penalty was strained was in the case of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber. His act, so unjustifiable and so vile in killing 164 men, women, and children, was heinous and his very public lack of remorse was clear.

When he was executed, I didn't mind. I had no regrets and felt better for his passing. That's, however, because I'm a weak and imperfect soul, not because it turns out the death penalty is somehow justified in his case. It only demonstrates that good men and women find it hard to mourn the loss of a vicious psychopath. It doesn't make us right. It's a clear reminder of why we should struggle to defend our principles, even in the face of our human frailties.

I briefly felt the same ambivalence toward Osama bin Laden's death, but I'd grown since my visceral reaction to McVeigh's death. I had come to know that it was wrong, and if I had the power, I'd have stopped it. I also know that bringing bin Laden to justice -- and not executing him -- would have served our national interests far more than the cowboy way we dealt with him in Pakistan. We never benefit from our violence, and if that is not clear in the short run, it surely becomes clear in the long run.

We can be made to pay for our acts of revenge; we can never be made to pay for mercy and forgiveness, for we are rewarded by their very acts.

Update: The U.S. Supreme Court has opted to not intervene, leaving Troy Davis no further appeals.

Update 2: Troy Davis pronounced dead, by lethal injection, this evening at 11:08 PM ET.

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