Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Finally! My liberal views

Sorry for the delay in posting this, but after much thought, there are really only two views that I hold that today would qualify as “liberal”: My opposition to the death penalty, and the outrageous pay that CEOs get. Being in favor of free speech and the freedom of worship and expression used to be considered liberal views, but nowadays liberals have proven to be just as bad as they say conservatives are on those issues. Anyway, on to one of my liberal views.

The death penalty

I thought about the following question the other day when discussing the issue of the death penalty: Why don’t we have public beheadings anymore? Or drawing and quartering? There’s also crushing by boulders or by elephants. And of course, the classic hangings, electric chair, and firing squads.

Why don’t we do any of that anymore? Yes, it is still done in other countries, but why don’t we do that here, since we allow the death penalty? Oh, I see! It’s too barbaric! That’s why we now do the lethal injection thing – because it’s more humane!

No death penalty supporter has been able to answer the following question in a good way: Humane as compared to what? Isn’t the person strapped in the gurney just as dead afterwards as those who were executed in the other ways?

Some people who know that I’m Catholic also know that the Catholic Church allows for the death penalty, but what they don’t often know is that it is allowed only when there is no other way to stop someone from doing harm. If there are alternatives to stopping a criminal from committing crimes, then that alternative is to be used instead, and we have that alternative in the locking of them away for life. That’s what the late Pope John Paul II had advocated.

Don’t the other methods of execution make you squeamish – to say the least? Notice how we’ve gone from the more barbaric and ghoulish methods of execution of the past to those of more recent times that are considered "more humane”. This reflects the changing public perceptions of execution. As our sense and definition of humanity has grown and developed, then our acceptance of the death penalty has diminished. We still have the death penalty, of course, but we don’t do the more violent methods of execution that existed in the past.

I don't think that, among current death penalty supporters, any of them would accept a return of French Revolution-style public beheadings, nor would they be in favor of such gruesome executions as drawing and quartering. Not only are such methods barbaric, but it would also make "their side" of the debate look bad. That's why executions are now hidden away from public view - so that the actual acts themselves won't disturb anyone’s consciences.

So why even hang onto a death penalty? Part of it is because those that lost a loved one to a violent crime want the satisfaction of seeing their loved one's murderer brought to justice for their crime. In truth, I can understand that desire. If I lost a loved one to a violent crime, I have to admit that I might feel the same way. I also have to admit that I honestly don't know how I'd react in such a situation.

But I hope that I can at least accept that putting my loved one's murderer to death won't bring my loved one back. And any satisfaction of seeing that murderer brought to justice would only be momentary. In other words, by desiring a violent death of the murderer of my loved one, I am giving in to my emotions.

Justice based on intense emotions has a way of becoming less about justice and more about surrendering ourselves to our darker emotions. Giving in to our darker emotions has a way of turning us into the very things that we despise. Desiring justice for an evil done is not only right, it's also completely natural and expected, but there are limits to how much justice can be done and still be called justice.

And last, even death penalty supporters should be frightened by the prospect of the state having that much control over our lives - that they can even end it if it suits their needs. It seems to me that the less control that the state has over the ending of our lives, the better for us all. That's because the state has a funny way of desiring more of what we choose to give it. And when I say "funny", I don't mean "funny ha-ha".

Coming next, my other liberal view.

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