My Thoughts on the Death Penalty
would preface my answer with this statement; my stance on the death penalty is not so much an opinion on the death penalty itself as it is my taking issue with inconsistancy in the spirit and reasoning of laws.
Here we have another issue that clearly demonstrates in it's reasoning and debate the inherent conflicts that make it difficult at best to define the American character today. I would preface my answer with this statement; my stance on the death penalty is not so much an opinion on the death penalty itself as it is my taking issue with inconsistancy in the spirit and reasoning of laws. In short my answer on the death penalty is this, I am opposed to it, until or unless we alter our image of ourselves and the image we portray of our nation or an arguement more consistant with the state character of our nation can be presented.
There are consistant claims that our nation makes about its' own character:
1. We claim that we are Christian nation
2. We claim that we are a nation of equality and fairness
3. we claim that we are a compassionate country
4. We claim that we are nation of laws and that those laws are to be applied dispassionately
There is an inherent conflict with being a judeo-christian country and laying claim to that morality while putting people to death, regardless of their crime. It is clear in the Old Testament's Ten Commandments and in the teachings of the Christian savior Jesus Christ in the New Testament that killing is unacceptable. I can find no exceptions, no caveats to the statement "Thou, Shall not Kill". Examining things strictly even from a moral perspective, if killing is wrong and one man kills someone, then the state kills that man, you now have two killings and in essence, two wrongs. It adds up neither mathematically nor spritually. If good intentions often pave the way to hell, it seems absolutely clear in the Christian bible that vengeance builds a rocket there. I can see no way to lay claim that the death penalty is a moral correct means of dealing with criminal behavior.
We know from countless studies that the death penalty is not applied fairly, that race, income level and even gender can play a role in the application of the death penalty in every possible facet of the justice system, from the decision to pursue the ultimate punishment by prosecutors to the decision to grant the punishment by juries and judges alike and there seems to be no way to ensure that this will not happen for as long as human discretion is granted in such cases.
I suppose there could be some arguement for the death penalty as compassionate toward society at large and the families of victims,but is the assurity of safety from a particular person of violence or the satisfaction of a life for a life really a compassion or something more practical? How can we lay claim to being "the" compassionate country when most of our contemporaries have stopped putting people to death and the countries that continue to use this type of punishment are countries we consider to be backwards and even barbaric.
As for being a nation of laws where justice is applied dispassionately, I find conflict once again. Here we have again a mountain of evidence that this particular punishment serves no real function as a deterrent to criminal behavior, in particular because those driven to committ homocide are taken up by emotion or maladjustments over which no reasoning will have power. This then leaves a limited set of reasoning for why we would continue to apply this punishment. If we do not kill someone who is so dangerous that they cannot be permitted to live among us anymore, then we have to pay to keep them alive, which some claim is costly or does not sit well with them. Unfortunately for them in any practical sense this does not hold water, since as a means of lessening the assault on our stated moral character we provide a seemingly unending number of appeals that can take years and years to exhaust and can be entirely at our own cost, utlimately it can and often does end up costing more to kill them than keep them alive. This leaves only one reason and motivation, vengeance which is an act of passion, sometimes the very passion that led to the prisoner's own crime.
I suppose that for me, if we were to publicly admit that this particular punishment is against our stated moral character, but we do it anyway, or if we were to adopt a new moral character that is more suitable to such practices then I would not in all honesty be troubled by the death penalty. Until then though, with this issue as with others in the same moral vein, I am opposed to it because it makes no sense when compared against the people we claim we are and want to be.