Wednesday, September 03, 2003

The Death Penalty: No room for forgiveness

The execution of anti-abortion nutcase Paul Hill shows very well the futility of the death penalty. Hill was a deeply disturbed individual and a danger to society. He needed to be locked away from society, but there was no reason why he or anyone else should have been executed.

The death penalty serves but one and only one purpose in our society - vengance. It accomplishes nothing else that cannot also be accomplished by life imprisonment. It does not deter other people from committing crimes and it allows no room for correcting errors when an innocent person is put to death.

I think it is sadly ironic that a nation that claims to be overwhelmingly "Christian" is so strongly in favor of the death penalty. After all, Jesus was himself a victim of a state-sponsored execution. Jesus flatly rejected the "eye for an eye" values of the Old Testament and even stood up to a mob at one point to stop an execution. When Jesus prevented the stoning of Mary Magdalene, he did not do so because he thought she was innocent of the crime. He defended her despite her guilt. Forgiveness was the key to Christ's message and we are a nation that is very short on forgiveness.

There are many ways to argue about the death penalty - both secular and religious. But I think it all comes down to a person's philosophy of life which can be boiled down to the simple question "Why are we here?" If you believe as I do that we are created by a loving God then you have to then ask what is it that he expects us to do while we are here. The best answer that I can come up with is to love God and we do this by loving his creation - i.e. one another. The more we love one another, the more we show our love for God and the closer we come to God. A very simplistic formula, I know, but it works for me.

Assuming that God wants everyone to reach this goal while they are here and knowing that God is very big on forgiveness, I have come to the conclusion that we should not be in the business of shortening the lifespan of people who are probably the furthest away from reaching that goal. Maybe this person would have turned their life around in prison when they were 40, but we executed them when they were 25. Maybe some people think this is just because out of a need for vengance they want this person to be separated from God (or in their minds "Go to Hell) rather than have the opportunity to turn their life around (after all, their victim(s) did not have that opportunity). But don't you think that God takes all of this into consideration? Wouldn't a loving and forgiving God be more likely to give someone a second chance when their life was artificially shortened by execution, murder, war, plague or accident? It seems only fair to me.

That is why we need to get out of the business of executing criminals and leave matters of vengance up to God.

Monday, September 01, 2003

Random Notes redux

My friend Mark Harden should be pleased this week to see that his browbeating campaign to persuade Express-News Insight Editor Joe Holley to add more conservative voices to the weekly Random Notes section of the Sunday paper has been very successful.

This week the right-left balance is a strikingly conservative 7-2 if you include the throw-away Martin Luther King quote at the end as a liberal statement.

First we have a quote from a New York Times war correspondent making the highly suspect statement that there were "probably fewer people (who) died in the six weeks since this war began than would have died if Saddam Hussein's killing machine had gone about its daily business." Of course, we still don't know how many people actually died during the U.S. bombing campaign and invasion so there is no solid figure to use for comparison. And while Hussein's regime was without a doubt corrupt and murderous, are we to really believe that they killed people at such a high rate for such a long period of time. Wouldn't they have depleted the nation's population at some point? Were they killing that many people everyday back when Dick Cheney and Halliburton were over there making millions rebuilding the country's infrastructure?

The second quote by the New York Times' Thomas Friedman is a right-wing pot shot at Palestinian statehood - something even Bush believes needs to happen.

Then we have quotes from Colin Powell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, right-wing blogger Mickey Kaus, Gov. Rick Perry and a Republican County Commissioner from Gillespie County.

The only real quote from the left is by the chairman of the Tejano Democrats trashing a Republican attack ad that aired on radio stations in the Valley.

Perhaps Holley is trying to make up for past instances where the random quotes have too heavily favored the liberal viewpoint, but nevertheless, Mark would not seem to have much to complain about this time around.

Back to Work

Blogging has been exceedingly light (actually non-existent) this past week as I have been discovering firsthand the difficulties involved in doing much of anything when tending to the needs of a week-old baby. The rest of the world suddenly seems less important at times like this, but I will try to get back into the groove of daily posting this week.

I am eternally grateful to my employer for giving me two weeks of "paternity leave" to stay at home with my son. But it is still a very short time and I am exceedingly jealous of my wife who will stay home with the baby for 12 weeks. But I suppose she earned that privilege after going through nine months of pregnancy and a C-section.

Still, it would be nice to have more time that I could take off. I think there is a lot of merit to the arguments made by Juliet B. Schor in her book The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure and by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich who says that Americans should have four weeks of paid vacation every year as a rule.

Happy Labor Day!