Saturday, September 25, 2010

Death Be Not Proud

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull...    John Donne

     We are going to kill a man on Wednesday.  All of us.  You.  Me.  Anyone who can legally vote in the United States is an accomplice.  Whether you voted in the last election or not, the fact is that our government allows for the death penalty, and the state of California is all set to execute a man on Wednesday.  What is the government but the voice of the people, and here in the United States we quietly proclaim that we have the power and authority to extinguish a life.
     It's not that I feel that crime should go unpunished.  Justice is important, but so is his sister.  Mercy.  Gandhi said it best: "An eye for an eye and the whole world would be blind."  Last year the United States dispatched 52 lives; this year we have already squelched 38 as we stealthily plot our next killing. 
     Beyond the moral responsibility we take on for capital punishment, here's another charming factoid to consider:
The California death penalty system costs taxpayers $114 million per year beyond the costs of keeping convicts locked up for life. Taxpayers have paid more than $250 million for each of the state’s executions. (L.A. Times, March 6, 2005)
When will we learn?
     The one sliver of hope that I found in the New York Times article that I linked above was in the last sentences.  California evidently has the largest backlog of prisoners on death row.  That gives me at least some hope that this state tries as hard as it can not to proceed with executions.  Maybe somewhere, in the deep places of their hearts, Californians feel a twinge of humility when considering the implications of capital punishment.  I wonder when we, as a country that still claims to be united under God (for better or worse), will humble ourselves and act with mercy toward our own.

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