Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Strangely shocked

I'm strangely shocked over Saddam Hussein's death.

It's not that I think he was anything other than a miserable despot who brutalized those entrusted to him. I know he was a mass murderer, and most likely irredeemable. He showed no remorse, or any sense of regret over his actions.

What I'm shocked about is that we killed him. And I'm including myself in that "we," as an American and a fellow member of the human race. It wasn't enough for him to be defeated, captured, imprisoned and tried for his crimes. We had to actually kill him.

The New York Times has a discussion thread that's 2,000 strong of people weighing in about the execution. It's fascinating reading. I'm not the only one doing serious soul-searching over the issue.

I guess my biggest questions are, The power to give life is not ours, should we assume the power to take it away? And, What does this do to our national psyche, when we condone or instigate acts such as this?

I'm reminded of the magnificent Elizabeth I from HBO that I watched recently on Netflix. While mostly dealing with Elizabeth and her paramours, the drama had a lengthy section devoted to the queen's angst over having to execute her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots. She resisted for over nineteen years, struggling over the consequences to her own reign of executing an anointed sovereign. She never quite came to peace with it, although eventually the execution took place.

Later, England moved toward an even stronger parliamentary system, and took the step of executing one of her own kings, Charles I, for treason. This was earthshaking, because prior to that time, treason had been defined as acts against the king and how could a king commit acts against himself? But Parliament redefined treason as acts against the country, against the people. Charles was found guilty, and beheaded.

Now, we appear to be redefining executable offences yet again. Sovereigns are being held responsible for horrific acts against their own people by other countries. This is frankly quite new in human history, so perhaps we're not good at it yet. Crimes against humanity are becoming universally condemned, it is true, but we're selective about which ones we go after. Our national interests must be involved apparently. But at least we're making the right kind of noises. These offenses cannot be tolerated.

Yet, I ask myself, do we need to kill the offenders? Once their fangs have been removed, do they warrant execution? Or do they remain a rallying point for further treason, even as Elizabeth finally discovered Mary Queen of Scots to be?

Perhaps this would have been true of Saddam. Still, I'm shocked at his death. I hope we are moving toward becoming a world where enlightened citizens can achieve justice for crimes against humanity while still showing mercy toward the condemned.

Is this possible? What do you think?

Justice requires reformation of the sinner. Mercy cancels the debt only when justice approves. Revenge is inadmissible.

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 1/02/2007 11:28:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The executioners

Saddam! Saddam! So evil
that in the end you won.
Your ruthless taking of life
took our reverence and replaced it
with your own dead soul.

Saddam! Saddam! You were already dead
but we believed our murdering
is better than yours,
our revenge a strong but bitter pill
that would bring us peace.

Saddam! Saddam! It is not you who died
but we.

At 1/02/2007 11:38:00 AM, Anonymous Chris said...

I am with you and MT, laura. this was an opportunity for the US to take a small step in overcoming revenge. But how can the US ask another nation/legal system do what it cannot yet do: abolish the death penalty?

At 1/02/2007 06:02:00 PM, Blogger Kim said...

In light of the incredible healing impact the Amish community showed the world when it forgave the man who killed their children, Saddaam's execution is a stark reminder of how far we have yet to evolve.

Killing and death never solve anything.

Thx for your post on this. MT, Chris, thx for thought provoking comments.

At 1/03/2007 12:19:00 PM, Blogger ObiDonWan said...

Yes, if the decision had been ours, he would not have been executed. Whether his continuing life would have led to results like: his followers breaking him free from prison, uniting in a solid front, etc., we don't know. They could still unite with Saddam on banners as a martyr. We don't know. I'm still saddened by real executions, although I watch many violent movies that all preach justified revenge and try to involve the viewer in self-rightous revenge. Our own nation is moving against revenge killings (execution for murder) but we haven't found suitable substitutes that will assure us of not breeding and training more killers. If "Death is the last enemy," (paraphrasing the Bible), then "A Murderer is the next-to-last enemy." If we could overcome the first, then murder would no longer be an option. It seems we have a l-o-o-o-n-g way to go.


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