Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Eye for an eye? Not I

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?


Tom Alday said...

Why am I not surprised you're following the media playbook and going with the "PTSD by proxy" reasoning for Hasan's terrorist rampage. When George Tiller was murdered you were quick to label THAT as terrorism, but this time the guy shouts ALLAH ACKBAR as he shoots defenseless women and soldiers and you try and make excuses for him?

Ian McGibboney said...

I'm sorry, was Scott Roeder (Tiller's killer) ever in the military? As far as I can tell, he not only wasn't in the military, but he was involved in an anti-government group. The only thing he and Hasan have in common is religious fanaticism and anti-government sentiment, which seems to be a growing threat with Obama as president. Both men were gigantic red flags that got missed for whatever reason. Otherwise, Tom, this is just your usual bullshit equivalency argument.

Tom Alday said...

Some would say another thing they have in common is they both committed terrorist acts. You condemned Tiller's killer as a terrorist before the blood was even dry on the floor. This guy though shoots a shit load more people and for the same religious and anti-government reasons and you try to explain it away as some kind of PTSD related malady even though this guy never saw combat.

I'm just trying to understand why you see one as terrorism and not the other. Can you explain that?

Ian McGibboney said...

First off, this post isn't even about Hasan; it's about the death penalty and the D.C. sniper. Hasan is mentioned as an aside, as part of a group of U.S. soldiers who took their killing prowess domestic. I've noticed you have had exactly nothing to say about that. As usual.

Instead, you (just like your blowhard brethren) can't get enough of this Muslim angle. Somehow, that makes this massacre worse in your eyes. Is this your way, Tom, of suggesting that Muslims not be allowed to serve in our military?

"Terrorism" is not a word to be thrown around to describe every brown person who shoots somebody. Terrorism refers to a specific act of political violence intended to incite fear in the population. We don't know yet if that applies to Hasan, but it sure did apply to the Tiller murder.

Tom Alday said...

How did I know you would use this as yet another attempt to label me a racist. You really need to find another crutch Ian, it's getting old.

I'm pursuing this muslim "angle" because the guy was a crazy fundamentalist (you know, the kind you guys HATE when they're christian) that was practically friending Al-Queda on Facebook and wanted OBL to be his BFF. Oh and the little part about him giving anti-american lectures and shouting islamic phrases as he blasted away at defenseless people. Yeah this "muslim angle" is totally unwarranted!

This is obviously terrorism and it has nothing to do with the color of his skin and more to do with his actions. McVey was a terrorist, the guy the killed Tiller was a terrorist and so is this guy. Are you so rigid in your ideology that the thought of agreeing with right wingers about that fact is an too much for you?

Ian McGibboney said...

What I want to know - and what we would be talking about if ever you addressed the actual point of anything I write - is how you feel about the death penalty, Tom. Like it? Hate it? What?

Second question: Even if Hasan did fit the mold of a terrorist - though I personally consider the killings a rampage and not a terrorist act - why did the military not act upon the many warning signs that allegedly existed with this guy? And what can be done to prevent such attacks in the future?

Tom Alday said...

As someone who has experienced traumatic crime firsthand I believe that the death penalty for heinous crimes has it's uses. The only problem with it is it's not applied evenly or nearly fast enough to be a proper deterrent.

As for Hasan and why no one acted upon all his suspicious activities you should read this article by an army Major:

NOLA Progressive said...

The death penalty is a tough moral topic for me to chew over in my own mind. Ideologically, I am opposed to killing; however, I do know that if someone I cared for dearly were victimized, I would be prone to a violent reaction. I do see the logic and compassion in realizing that this is a vengeance reflex as you stated though Ian. I'm not sure how much more humane a lifetime in prison is, but there is cetainly enough death already. Not to mention actions must have consequences.

As far as Hasan goes, I have no problem labeling his actions as acts of terror. I certainly labeled Tiller's killer as a terrorist because of the religious motivation coupled with the intent to scare a certain group of people. Not to mention the anti-government sentiment involved.

I see no reason to make a distinction for Hasan. He was religiously motivated, fear was definitely involved in his actions, and he certainly seems to have a beef with the government. The two equate, I think.

The only aside to that equation, for me at least, is the anti-Muslim sentiment that this has generated. Religion of all types is often taken to extremes. It is a genre that deals in absolutes unfortunately. Pair an adherence to an often extreme ethos with someone who is mentally unstable and it's a recipe for violence and disaster.

The flip side of the coin is Tiller's harbringer of death. I can't justify painting Christian's with a violent or negative brush. It's simply unstable people taking their religion to a dangerous and dark place.

rhonda said...

"Does anyone else find it ironic that the U.S. government executed a former Army sharpshooter on Veterans Day?"

i wonder what color troop support ribbon you put on your car for that? Support The Troops...Until They Come Home Physically Broken and/or Batshit Crazy and Actually Need Some Goddamn Support.

i also love when people say that someone has no excuse (they really mean "no right," by the way) to experience PTSD because they aren't actually IN THE LINE OF FIRE AT ALL TIMES. the average civilian throws a bitch fit when the grocery store runs out of his favorite waffles. i'm not exempt from this, as my irational bitch fits are the stuff of legend, but you wouldn't catch me demanding that a soldier who did any job during a war just suck it up. an army manicurist would see more human suffering in any given minute than i would in a whole month of my life. but you know, keep fighting our wars, whatever the fuck they stand for...and keep coming back to NO support.