Does anyone else find it ironic that the U.S. government executed a former Army sharpshooter on Veterans Day?
Maybe it isn't so ironic, especially in light of the recent Fort Hood shootings at the hand of Nidal Malik Hasan. Some say the common thread is Muslim extremism. But I think the causes lie less with their particular religion than with the simple reality that overwhelming stress, combined with woefully burdened military counseling, is in danger of raising an entire division's worth of psychologically tormented killing machines. How many potential Tim McVeighs, John Muhammads and Nidal Hasans will arise from America's continued pursuit of some abstract notion called "victory?" Not many, I hope. We've had at least three too many already.
Funny thing about Tim McVeigh - he was so sure the government existed only to kill, that he went out and murdered 168 people just to make a statement. Then the government killed him, guaranteeing him martyr status to those who think democracy is a bloodsport.
What exactly does the death penalty accomplish? Does it bring back victims? No. Is it cheaper than a lifetime in prison? No. Is it disproportionately applied to black males? Yes. Have innocent people been executed? Yes.
There is no justice in execution. The practice is about revenge, plain and simple (and, no, justice and revenge are not interchangeable terms). There is not one intellectual argument in favor of the death penalty. Even the more reasonable ones ultimately come back to vindictiveness.
"But Ian," you say. "I think you would see it differently if your loved one was brutally raped and murdered." But that proves my point, doesn't it? I'd have to be blinded by rage and broken of rational thought to find execution to be a good idea. There's an old saying that the widow doesn't sit on the jury. Rule of law cannot prevail when our basest instincts take over. Would I want to kill someone who killed a family member? Probably. But I'd be put on trial just as fast if I took the law into my own hands after the fact. Two wrongs...
But the reason I'm against the death penalty above all else is because I fear Big Government. Yes, that notion might shock some of you. But understand that I'm not defining Big Government as Social Security, Medicare, welfare and other programs that help people in times of need, as the "Don't Tread On Me" types do. Simply put, I don't want the government to decide who lives and who dies - which is why I favor legal abortion and oppose execution. No government horror stories can even approach that in my view.
Funny how those who scream the loudest against so-called "death panels" and fear bureaucracy above all else are the ones who cheer the loudest when the government executes an inmate. Especially since the death-panel thing is a complete fabrication and death row is very, very real.
We like to pretend we're civilized, but never does that pretense appear so thin as when we lord it over someone who deserves to die. In that case, the best thing to do is not to kill them. Why? Because we're not like them, and we shouldn't inspire more like them.
Aren't we better than them? Than this?