Sushi, Without the Extras

How do you think he got the ideas for the Prince? From his cat, of course.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Presence of mind

Today marked the end of a rape trial back home, which is something of a momentous occasion. The perpetrator apparently forced his way into the victim's home, raped her brutally, and then forced her into the car with him. He proceeded to drive around town, making several stops at key sites around the city and raping her again at each stop. Fortunately, the young lady kept her wits about her, persuaded him to stop at a Taco Bell to get her something to eat, and jumped out of the vehicle while he ordered something from the drive through. The trial lasted four and a half days, and she was on the stand for five and a half hours. The rapist was convicted on five counts.

The worst part of it all is that I know this person. I can put a name, a face, and a person to the name of the victim. Obviously, that's the worst part for me. For her, she'll have to deal with this for the rest of her life.

The state in which she lives still holds to the death penalty and in fact sparked some of the most significant litigation as to whether the state should be allowed to take a citizen's life to date. Under the factors listed by the Supreme Court permitting the implementation is a violent crime committed as part of a kidnapping. So, do I think this man should die?

That's a tough question. On the one hand, the asking whether the state should be allowed to extinguish the life of a citizen is a valid one. Does the death penalty serve as an effective deterrent to violent crime? There's evidence on both sides of the question, meaning that at best, the answers are inconclusive. Does it save the state money? Not really. Inmates spend ages on death row until the appeals process is exhausted, and the sheer cost of the bifurcated trial is staggering. Does the state have the moral authority to execute a citizen--it certainly will not return this young lady's pre-rape mentality? I don't know. I'm not a moral philosopher, but what I do know is that I know the victim this time. I know her parents and sibling. It's somehow harder to find my way through this one, but the worst part about it is that ultimately, I'm not seeking justice for her. I'm seeking revenge for myself against this man who has introduced darkness into the periphery of my safe little life with my two cats and small living space.

Is that the real reason that the United States has maintained the death penalty for all of these years and is part of an ever-dwindling minority of nations that continues to terminate the lives of those it considers most heinous? Are we seeking some sort of vengeance for the mere fact that an individual crossed the line and broke the basic trust that keeps society functioning? If we think about the American democratic system as being divinely ordained, it certainly stands to reason. As was demonstrated in Salem, Massachusetts, the pilgrims clearly had little moral difficulty in sentencing their own to death because they had gone against God's order. If we consider American Democracy as being God's order and the laws by which it functions as being divine laws, execution of these criminals makes a certain amount of sense.

That's the rhetoric that appears in our foreign policy, but part of me wonders if such ideas apply to our domestic concerns. I don't believe so, but I wonder why the distinction exists. If we're part of the New Jerusalem in the one context...should we not be so in the other?

I should so sleep now.


Blogger Robert Farley said...

Yeah, but why the difference with other states, particularly other democratic states? It doesn't seem to me that democracy is a good explanation, unless democracy works different in the US than it does anywhere else, because it seems that as places get more democratic, they become less inclined to execute people.

Then again, you may be right in suggesting that American democracy, seen by so many as ordained by God, may have different implications than the democracy pursued by other states.

Personally, I think that the continued affection for the death penalty has a lot to do with the reluctance of Americans to think in terms of class, combined with our willingness to think about everything in terms of race.

9:52 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home