This isn't my first political piece. Nor will it be my last, I'm certain. However you feel about politics or religion, mine is not the mission to change your mind. Mine is simply the mission to express how I feel.
As any warm-blooded American is aware, we have the death penalty in place for the “really bad” people who commit “horrible” crimes.
Those “animals” of society who don't care about their fellow human, even so far as to take a life.
Please, kind and curious person, lend me your ear for a few moments. Pull up a chair, and let's discuss this topic, maybe not as friends, but as co-habitants of the human race. I do not care your colour, religion, creed, orientation. I simply care that you are a person, as I am. I simply care that we can converse about this sensitive topic.
If I may…
Recently, there's been a bit of an upset in Arkansas about executing death row inmates by the end of April due to the fact of the sedative that's implemented, midazolam, was about to expire. I've been following this story for the past week and a half or so. The manufacturer of this medication, this sedative, has been quite vocal about their strong stance on “We don't want any part of our medication being used for the execution of inmates. NO. STOP.” And yet… Here we are, eight death row inmates back-to-back being lined up to be put down like lame horses because this medication's about to expire. How about no! How about what the hell is wrong with you!
Years ago, I was ALL FOR the death penalty! “Kill 'em, let God sort 'em out!” was my mantra in regards to this specific punishment. Then in 2005, at the end of Scott Peterson's trial (remember him? The guy that killed his pregnant wife just days before she was due to have their first baby, all because he didn't want to just divorce her and be done so he could be with his mistress, a Ms Amber Frye, if memory serves….). Something his mother-in-law said at the victim impact statement at the end of his trial. She tore him a new one, such ferocity in her voice directed at him was the only reason he'd showed any emotion or reaction. I mean, if I'm honest, I felt like I MYSELF should've been on that bench! And I've never done anything! Not on that level. Yikes. But I have to hand it to her because had that been me in her shoes, I'd have been hauled away by at least three or four bailiffs. However. I appreciate and applaud loudly her statement about how she hoped every day he'd wake up with the sound of his pregnant wife begging for the life of their son and for herself. Begging for an answer as to WHY he was doing this. She hoped every night he'd hear that as he tried to fall asleep. That speech she gave, when she'd delivered her statement to him, she'd poke a finger at him, and it was the only, only time he showed any sense of being present in the situation. It made me stop and think, “Huh. Maybe there's something here. Maybe there's something to getting through to someone who's committed such a terrible crime, just let them rot for the rest of their lives in a jail cell rather than put them to death.”
My husband and I have come to a crossroads on this. We've agreed to disagree. He has expressed his reasons why he's all for the death penalty, and I've expressed mine as to why I'm against it. Not long after seeing the end of Peterson's trial, I'd watched “Dead Man Walking.” For those who don't know what that's about, it's actually a true story about two guys who raped and murdered a couple one night. One guy got life, the other death. The death row inmate (played by Sean Penn) reached out to find someone in the Church to come visit him. That's how Sr Helen Prejean came into the picture. She's the one who'd written the book, “Dead Man Walking,” about her experience helping Mr Poncelet in his circumstances. She was his only compassionate person in the audience at his execution. The movie was tough to watch (even though it was beautifully done, and I'm a huge fan of Susan Sarandon), but the book was even heavier to read. Knowing that it was a true experience shared with two people, that just broke me. I'd been against the death penalty since Peterson, but the book, “Dead Man Walking,” that just sealed it for me.
My husband pointed out, “The killer chose to be judge, jury, and executioner for their victim, without giving their victim a chance, a choice.” Okay, that may be true, but how is it AT ALL okay for we human beings to even decide, “Okay, Jim-Bob Joe-Bob Henry-Mike, you committed [x crime], so you deserve the death penalty!” Now, I know not everyone who reads this is Christian, I know not everyone has a higher power they seek out when they're hurting or in need of guidance/encouragement/etc. I get that. My husband is a Pantheist. I'm Catholic (in training). I'm not here to shove religion on anyone. My stance is this, though: How is it okay for us to play God (whomever or whatever you choose that to be for yourselves) and decide who lives and who dies? How is it okay for us human beings to decide what means of execution is “appropriate” to exact on another human being? No. I'm not okay with this.
I know, I know, the death penalty's been around for centuries. Many centuries. I recall many stories in the Bible, many stories in history about the death penalty. I have learnt quite a bit about the different methods. I know things have developed and evolved as far as how punishments are exacted, but it's disturbing. It's disturbing to me because how can we figure out what's an appropriate retaliation for what matches the crime that's been committed? Who decides these things?
This morning, I read about the latest Arkansas execution that was carried out for a Mr Kenneth Williams, about how his execution was clearly botched. I mean… WHEN. WHEN does enough become ENOUGH?! When?! Who decides when the final execution's going to happen? Who decides what drugs are to be administered that's the “most humane” way to kill someone for killing someone else?!
Why is it we use killing the guilty to prove that killing the innocent is wrong? I mean… What's wrong with putting this person in a cell for the rest of their lives, life without parole? OH, right. Politics. There's no money in keeping these people (yes, people) alive.
Now, I'm sorry that families are irreparably shattered because their loved one(s) have lost their lives at the hands of another person, but how is it okay to end that person's life and irreparably shatter that person's family, too? Isn't it enough that this person's been incarcerated for the rest of their natural life?
Last year, someone I know lost her best friend to murder. The victim died right outside my bedroom window. No one deserves to have their life snuffed out in such a horrible way. At the same time, though, and I know this'll make me the least popular person in the room, but so be it, it's not okay to end the guilty parties' lives because they ended an innocent life. It doesn't make sense at all. I've been trying to wrap my head around this b/s for years. And now that Arkansas is rushing, it seems, to do what they feel is “necessary” before a chemical expires…. Executions are being botched (Williams' execution last night wasn't the first one that got fucked in this mad rush to beat the expiration date on midazolam, by the way….), and what of that soul who was executed in Oklahoma, whose execution was also botched? How was THAT okay?!
Whether you believe in God, Allah, or even the Chicken God at the grocery store, whatever you believe your higher power (if any) to be…. Maybe these terrible situations in the execution chambers that's been happening more and more… Maybe this is God or Karma, or whatever… The universe…. Who knows….. Maybe this is a blatantly LOUD cosmic message that maybe this whole “You killed my [insert person here], so now you deserve [insert death penalty here] in retaliation. You are going to be an example to anyone else considering murdering someone else to show that murder is wrong, and we don't and won't stand for that type of bullshit here.”
Maybe. I dunno. I know, though, for me, I think this whole thing is bullshit. For my own experience…. My older brother was killed in a hit-and-run many years ago. Now, I know the circumstances that caused my brother's death in that accident. I know what happened to the person who had to face a judge to answer for what happened. But… I also know that I've (after years of working through it, years of prayer, years of screaming myself hoarse, years of hard, hard therapy) come to accept what happened, and I've come to forgive the person who stole my brother from us. If I were asked back then what would be an appropriate punishment for this person who snuffed my brother's candle, I can honestly tell you that no, I wouldn't have demanded his head. This person has to live with that morning on his mind for the rest of his days. He has to live with the fact that he's – through his carelessness – ended a life, he's shattered a family irreparably. Demanding his head in retaliation, that won't bring my brother back. Just like the murderers since the dawn of time….. When we've sentenced them to death, how's that going to bring those broken families back to being whole? How's that going to heal anyone? Please, someone, explain this!