More than Fair: why I oppose the death penalty

I try to keep my vegetarianism quiet, because I don’t often feel like answering questions about it, and it has been my habit for almost half of my life now, so I’m not really interested in it anymore. Still, people sometimes ask me which of the many reasons for this lifestyle prompted my change: ethics, opposition to the industry, health, love of animals, desire to conserve resources, etc. And even though each of those is a very good reason, and I’m glad those reasons guide the decision making of others, I don’t have a very satisfying answer. In truth, eating meat feels weird to me, and I don’t want to do it.

I can be extremely opinionated and extremely loud, which you might not know from reading this blog because I usually shy away from controversial topics (unless you consider “God is good and we should have hope and all that” controversial, which maybe you do). In truth, I don’t like being criticized, at least by strangers, and I know that many of my readers have different social and cultural views than I do, so I try to keep my political commentary very tame.

But for the next few hours it appears to be “cool” to be anti-death penalty (if the twitter chatter about Troy Davis is any indication – Kim Kardashian is tweeting about it, for heaven’s sake) so I’ll go out on a limb and write about why I am very opposed to the death penalty.

Or I would write about it, if I knew why. Much like eating meat, state sanctioned killing feels weird to me. I know all the reasons people cite: executions are expensive, the court system is not always just, we know innocent people have been sentenced to death row, it is not a deterrent, and so on. And again, I think those are good reasons to be opposed, but they aren’t necessarily my reasons.

I wish they were. I wish I had a practical, logical explanation for why the death penalty repulses me, even when those who are executed have done horrible things. But instead I have my usual assortment of squishy affective reasons for it, and I’m still willing myself to believe that those reasons can be enough.

The death penalty says we can’t think creatively anymore. It says we give up. It says we know best, that there is no room for redemption, that death wins. It says that love and mercy have no place, that a person is defined by the worst thing they have ever done, and that if we do not kill because they have killed then “it isn’t fair”. You know who else complains that “life isn’t fair”? Seven year olds.

I want more for us than to be fair, asking an eye for an eye. I want us to comfort victims while also acknowledging that the job of our justice system is not to satisfy the desire for revenge. I want us to realize that everyone deserves defense and protection, that we are all safer when everyone -even the worst among us, who may have started out and who may even remain the weakest – is offered protection under the law. I want a world where we recognize that the line between good and evil runs through every human heart, and that there is always a chance, however slim, that we may nudge that barrier so that goodness and mercy can prevail.

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9 Responses to More than Fair: why I oppose the death penalty

  1. I think you don’t need a logical, rational argument to be anti-death penalty. I think you need one to be pro-death penalty. And I haven’t seen anyone do that yet.

    • felicemifa says:

      That’s a very good point. It’s interesting to me, when I can give myself enough distance from myself to evaluate it, that I feel the need to apologize for feeling compassionate and desiring mercy. That says a lot about the world we live in, eh?

  2. Flor says:

    I’ve long said my opposition to the death penalty is a-rational; it comes from moral disquiet. The idea that the state is killing someone on my behalf at very, very least makes me ill. The fact that on top of that disquiet there are compelling rational reasons to strenuously limit if not end the practice should lead any thinking, feeling person to the conclusion that the absolute of ending a life is wrong in this complex, ambiguous world.

    So. I’m right there with you.

  3. Jo Chopra says:

    This is absolutely perfectly stated. I’ve not heard anyone say it better. I’m sharing this on twitter and facebook. Many thanks. SO beautifully written! Jo (Cathleen’s Mom)

  4. The weight of Troy Davis’ case and the death penalty about to be served again, today, in Alabama makes my soul sick. Added to that, the execution of a minor (14) this morning in Iran. My brain is racing like loom, while my soul short circuits. Words. I have to find words. Words have always been there like a branch in a raging river.
    I think about Troy and other folks on Death row. I find myself wondering about the excecuted’s path to execution. Issues of morality and accountability tabled for a moment, I wonder about him or her. Is execution just the final death they face, after so many before? Death of innocense. Death of dreams. Death of hope that life can hurt less or feel better or feel at all.
    I never once had the impulse to go kill someone. I can’t imagine the weight on your soul of killing someone, whether in self-defense or war or because it is court ordered. Court ordered killing… How do you even get past those three words?
    I used to believe in capital punishment as a deterrent to crime. If you kill one of my loved ones, I’ll have an appetite for it. I’ll clutch any justifications for it. Still, I think there are core reasons I haven’t had the urge to kill anyone. I’ve been fed. I’ve been loved. I haven’t been violated, once or a thousand times. The system’s looked out for me. Teachers gave a damn about me. I had medical care. I had safe housing. I saw my loved ones in healthy surroundings. I was given promises, and they panned out. I was white. I had parents of some prestige. Had I lived another life…I might have died a lot of deaths. Had it been different, I might have walked in those shoes, to the room of death. Give me little food, little care, little safety, and a whole lot of horror, and I can tell you one thing. I wouldn’t put much of a price on my life. Why would I put much of a price on anyone else’s? (this has morphed into a FB note)

  5. Sidd says:

    I am reminded of the Lord’s prayer as i read this -” your will be done on earth as in heaven”.
    I wonder if the justice system tried to play God here !?
    I wonder if forgiveness is what you make of it or something that percolates to all level and stands no matter what?
    Is death to Troy and many others, actually justice?

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  7. Pingback: Death Penalty Repeal in Connecticut: Why I still oppose capital punishment. | Felice mi fa

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