Death Penalty

In the news, a woman was caught smuggling heroin into China. She now faces the death penalty. Many Americans think this is wrong. They don’t think China should execute people who aren’t guilty of extreme crimes. Well, there are a lot of Americans who think that the death penalty is just plain wrong — which is an argument which I feel is more moral and more “pro-life.” The death penalty is not a deterrant, and the argument that housing criminals for life costs too much money is absurd: do all decisions have to go back to money? Or might human virtue and dignity, applied even to “the least of these,” count for something?

The death penalty can be compared to this: parents say, “Don’t hit.” And what’s the penalty if one kid hits another? The parent hits the kid. Or: parents say, “Don’t call names.” And what’s the penalty if a kid calls names? The parents verbally abuse him/her. That’s what the death penalty is like: hypocrisy. The U.S. ranks up with China, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Congo, etc. Just because people were killed in the bible or the Book of Mormon doesn’t mean we have to live in such a society today. Just because J. Smith and B. Young taught the concept of “blood atonement” in the 19th century, doesn’t mean Mormons have to support it today. It’s 2006. We’ve been through an enlightenment age. Though there are uneducated crimimals in our midst, society as a whole needs to do better.

The death penalty has been abolished in all of North America (except the U.S. and Cuba). In South America, half of the countries have abolished it, and the other half doesn’t practice it. Islamic Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, China, India, and Indonesia still have and use the death penalty. The rest of Africa has abolished it or doesn’t practice it. Europe has abolished it. Australia has abolished it. Even Russia no longer practices the death penalty.

What concerns me the most is why people are so in favor of it. Those feelings of revenge and Nietzschean “ressentiment” are better left unappeased and untickled. The “death penalty as a deterrant” argument is history. The money argument is unhuman. The highest correlation between support for the death penalty is the degree of fundamentalist religious interpretation.

Support for the war, death penalty, and guns are most strongly associated with fundamentalist religion. (Tangent: I don’t even think we should do away with guns… I think the gun issue isn’t black and white. What I’d like to see is a human approach that could reduce our desires to blow people away. Canada has as many guns per household as we do, but they aren’t killing each other as often as we do. What gives?)

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