Friday, December 02, 2005

Dead Like Thee

There's black days and then there's black days.

O.K. Conservative America, you've had your little Captial Punishment romp. Now, call it even, get over yourselves and join the rest of the civilized world and abolish the death penalty.

A. it's inhumane
B. it isn't working
C. you don't always get your man

There is evil in the world. There are unrepentant, vile monsters stalking the country. We have in our arsenal of justice, the means to keep these people from society without resorting to state sponsored murder.

Capital punishment feels like religious fundamentalism dressed up as a social program. "An eye for an eye" may have been fine in the past. But we've evolved - or become more intelligently designed for those of you supporting that bit of crazy - over the years. Death penalty advocates often use similar language as religious extremists. They talk about retribution, honour, vengeance. They preach biblical ties to capital punishment all the while ignoring a pretty basic commandment.

Capital punishment at a political level serves two purposes. It lets conservative politicians take an easy route to being "tough on crime". It's a pretty transparent ploy that unfortunately works. People don't like crime (obviously) and so by saying "we'll clean up crime by getting rid of criminals permanently", politicians play directly and overtly into some of our basest instincts.

On a more subtle and possibly devious level. Capital punishment plays directly into the culture of fear being propagated by certain governments in the world. It's easy to see connection between "buy an SUV and be safe on the road, carry a gun and protect your family from terrorists, alarm your house to protect you from intruders, buy a tonne of duct tape to protect you from biological weapons" and "kill the monster that murdered a family and you'll have a safer society".

Fear is running North America right now. It's not so bad in Canada at the moment. We're being told to be fearful of gay marriage and marijuana. But in watching the news from the States, they are being inundated with a million reasons to be afraid. Many of which are at best theoretical and at worst, created out of thin air by politicians and then supported by the media. Capital punishment buys directly into those fears and gives the people a false sense that they are "doing something". As in "We put a killer to death today. We are 'doing something' to fight crime." No, you're "doing something" to kill another person. Crime rates, the terror threat level, the price of gas etc... none of this is going to become better by putting people to death. Ever.

What is going to help American society to feel safe is to stop scaring American people half to death. In the last month I've seen at least four "child abduction" stories on CNN. They've all been little white kids, all from good Christian families. What does this serve? Does it serve to help find the children? No! Emphatically No! Some guy in California watching CNN's national coverage is not going to find cute little Sally abducted from her home in Conneticut. What the CNN coverage will do however, is serve to make that person living across the country more afraid that his kid will be taken and more likely to join the voices that demand the ultimate in retribution when the perpetrator is caught. This is the means by which capital punishment survives in America today. Take away the propagation of fear and the religious extremism and you'll have much more support to abolish the death penalty.


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