Wednesday, November 16, 2005

We disagree.

The other night, N and I were lounging around flipping through the channels, chit-chatting more than watching anything. He landed on some made for T.V. looking movie called "The Executions of somebody...." I wasn't paying a lot of attention, but took note of the fact that it was pretty typical programming for N to land on. Within the first 5 minutes on that channel, we saw the same guy being injected and electrocuted several times. It wasn't my choice, that's for sure. (After I saw Dancer in the Dark, I had to completely stop watching any movie that even alluded to executions.)
All of the sudden, N turns to me and says "Do you believe in the death penalty?" Great. Fun. My first response was to say, "Yes, I'm a pacifist vegetarian who believes in the death penalty," and just leave it at that, but I didn't.
I absolutely detest talking about the death penalty. And I tried to make it as brief as possible. "No, I do not believe in the death penalty, and I've known for a long time that we don't agree about this." I tried to say it without judgement or provocation and like it was the end of the story. I have known for quite some time that there will be no agreement here. In fact, we couldn't be farther from agreement. He not only believes in it, but thinks it's too "nice" or humane when performed here in the states. At this point, he regails me with a horrifying tale of how one is burned alive in Africa. (Turn away if you have a weak stomach.) The person is put inside tires, the tires are soaked in kerosene and then lit. The rubber melts and splatters onto the person and the inside of the tire eventually become so hot that their head, literally, explodes. To N's credit....he recounts this with appropriate horror and not like a blood-thirsty nut. And it certainly shows me why he thinks its too humane here. He also believes that its right. An eye for an eye. It's the least that murderers, pedofiles, and rapists deserve, he believes.
I can't believe it. And even when I've been surrounded my red-staters, telling me all their millions of "cut-and-dry" reasons why its "right", I've never been able to swallow it. My dad believes in Ghandi like he's Jesus. This quote: "An eye for an eye only leaves the whole world blind" hangs all over his office. Sure, it's a little trite (especially when cross-stitched), but it's always been apart of my whole belief system. You cannot stoop to the level of violence if you're goal is to prevent violence. It's logically incoherent and completely hypocritical. I mean, have we completely abandoned the idea of a peaceful society simply because cut-and-dry, eye-for-eye is easy for everyone to understand?
And part of me, doesn't even think it does that kind of qualitative justice. A person kills a person who loves life. The state kills a person who is already dead enough inside to kill another person? If we lived in a perfect world....the challenge would be rehabilitation. Not just for us....and not some BS I found God b/c I'm about to die...but the person who's dead inside would be challenged to go through their pitiful life and re-invent themselves into a person that values others. I think these demons and this challenge would be a lot more painful, for many, than just checking out. But all of this seems pointless to most. It's not how the system is. It would take astronomical changes to make it that way, end of story. It can't be the end of my story. And I will never believe that it is right.
But at the same time, I know that my evaluation of the whole thing is completely rational, and I am insanely thankful that this is not an emotional choice for me, that I've never had to feel the loss of a loved one to senseless violence. And I will never argue with those who have and do believe in it. My hope is that people can rise above revenge and look at the bigger picture, but I'm sure, for some, that's just not possible.
But to me, its still and will always be murder. Whether the state does it, or I go exact the revenge myself. It's still murder, and turns innocence into blood.

And no, I do not have any brilliant suggestions about the penitentiary system. And yes, I recognize that it's costly and doesn't do shit to rehabilitate anyone. But I don't believe that budgets or systems have ever been a good reason to kill.

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