Death To The…

April 20, 2006 | By | Reply More

Mousaui is undergoing the ritual of being sentenced by a jury.  Do we kill him or warehouse him?  Yesterday the defense actually presented a 9-11 affiliate (family/friend of victim/survivor) to testify on behalf of Mousaui.

Personally, his insanity defense–of which Mousaui himself is vehemently opposed to–is, to my mind, beside the point.  As far as the reasoning behind putting someone or something to death that threatens or has harmed the community, sanity is immaterial.  A rabid dog is technically insane.  But that’s not why we undertake these rituals. 

No, we wish to know if the person we’re trying understands why we’re killing them.  We wish them to know that this is punishment.

There was a public service commercial airing when I was a child that addressed the whole notion of corporal punishment in a cartoon tableau showing a rancher tracking down various criminals–cattle rustlers and murderers–and hanging them, all with the justification “It’ll teach ’em a lesson.”

The death penalty, pure and simple, is vengeance.  I’m opposed to it because, while vengeance is a real motive (questionable but real) I don’t want the State to have that power.  Period. 

Death is irrevocable.  If you find out later that the victim wasn’t guilty of the crime, you can’t let him/her go.  While I don’t honestly have a problem with the notion that some people’s actions may warrant death, I don’t want the State to have that power–because what we as a society determine to be worthy of the ultimate punishment is changeable.  We are fickle about it.  And vesting the State with that authority under the assumption that the State is somehow impartial is naive.  The State reflects social prejudice.

Lock him up.  Forever.  This is the cost of protecting society.  Fine.  The argument that it’s cheaper to kill him holds no water, because we aren’t accounting all the different forms of cost.

9-11 was a death sentence imposed on three buildings’ worth of innocent people by an organization that is in some ways akin to a state.  That fact alone ought to be enough to show us how useless the death penalty actually is.

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About the Author ()

Mark is a writer and musician living in the St. Louis area. He hit puberty at the peak of the Sixties and came of age just as it was all coming to a close with the end of the Vietnam War. He was annoyed when bellbottoms went out of style, but he got over it.

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