Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Death penalty under scrutiny

I thought this was good news today:

Justices Stay Execution, a Signal to Lower Courts

Essentially, the Supreme Court has signaled to stay all executions until they can figure out how they feel about a particular method of execution, that of lethal injection. Is it "cruel and unusual" or not?

So, no one will be being executed for the time being. I'm glad about this, because I believe in Life. The opposite of Life, to me, should not be used as a solution to anything. I'm not saying that I wouldn't end a human life if I had to—if someone were immediately threatening a small child, for example—but to have it be so institutionalized and calculated, not to mention unfairly applied to non-whites, just seems unevolved to me. I think the US is one of the few countries that still practices this form of punishment.

Also, I've always thought that the death penalty just postpones the reckoning for ourselves and the individual. By choosing to punish with death, we eject from our ranks those who still need redemption. And, if you believe in an afterlife, as I do, you've got to ask: What are things like on the other side with all these unredeemed criminals running around? Are we just shunting our problems onto the next realm?

I'd rather face up to the fact that we're in this together. That the anti-social among us are a product of their context, and we have a responsibility to collectively improve that context so that anti-social behavior happens less and less. It's a tougher, longer road than simply excising those whose actions make us angry and vengeful. Are we gaining the spiritual strength to love and redeem even these? Are we gaining the wisdom to devise consequences that teach rather than punish?

This current issue is a legal wrangle in the courts, but it reflects I believe our country's ambivalence toward the death penalty. I hope it's an indication of a growing movement to find another way.


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