Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Cruel and Unusual...

In my estimation, there are three topics that evoke deep, heartfelt emotions in us as human beings, usually at one extreme end of the spectrum or the other, but rarely does anyone among us remain neutral in our opinions of the subject. They are (in no particular order) abortion, same sex marriage, and capital punishment. Seldom do you ever hear someone say apathetically that they do not care about these issues. Unfortunately I was once forced to put my own ethical and spiritual beliefs about abortion into action, in the not too distant past. Luckily, it was not a decision I had to aid in making that concerned fathering a child of my own, but instead, rather or not I would financially back someone in need who wished to terminate their own pregnancy. Needless to say it was the hardest decision I ever had to make, but that is neither here nor there at this point. And I won't get into my feelings about same sex marriages today. Look forward to that one in the future. Today I'd rather focus my energy on providing you with another perspective on the ethics of capital punishment, or as it is more commonly known, the death penalty.

Again, it's one of the three main topics that evoke the most extreme, raw human emotion. I suppose a fourth topic would be the merits of war, but nevertheless, just think about it. When you go home at night and turn on the news (those of you with brains, not you simpletons), what are the most common things you see people protesting and picketing about? I guarantee you the death penalty is one of them.

Capital punishment is something that has been debated since its inception however many thousands of years ago, when a sharp, descending blade to the back of the neck known as the guillotine was the most common method of carrying out such punishment (though I have to imagine it was not the most sanitary). We as a society later advanced (if you choose to think of it that way) to electrocution, the gas chamber, and to today's most commonly used method, lethal injection.

Lethal injection has been in the news quite frequently in the past few months in North Carolina. Death Row inmates have even brought a law suit against the state in which they argue the case that this so-called "cocktail" of deadly drugs constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, thus violating their rights given to them under the Constitution of the United States of America. Quite simply, I agree with them. Who's to say what level of pain someone endures when injected with this concoction? Who knows the length of time this lasts? No one, that's who. No doctor, no matter how educated and experienced in the field can say with 100% certainty they know what it is like from a first hand account.

Law suit and cruel and unusual punishment aside, this is not my issue with capital punishment. The severity of pain is irrelevant to me. I don't care if an inmate injected with this lethal cocktail of drugs experiences sensations similar to euphoria before expiring on that cold, sterile table deep inside Central Prison. In my mind's eye capital punishment is wrong, regardless of physical pain endured. It's immoral. It's despicable. As a Christian, it is my devout belief that taking the life of another human being is wrong. No one - not me, you, Governor Easley, President Bush, the nine Justices of the Supreme Court - should have the right to determine whether an incarcerated man or woman should be put to death. I can only hope to live to see the day a moratorium is placed on capital punishment, not only in North Carolina, but nationwide.

I know many of you will disagree with me on the basis that those who are sentenced to Death Row received their sentence because they took the life of a person, or even multiple persons and therefore deserve death and nothing less. I recognize and acknowledge this. To not do so would be foolish and ignorant. But let me ask you this: Does executing someone for their decision to take the life of another make everything right? Does one forced death cancel out another? Does it bring anyone true happiness? What, if anything, does an execution solve? I know news outlets always question family members of victims who usually say it brings them solace and closure, but I really don't think that's what they are feeling.

I think only evil inside someone could cause them to be relieved by the death of another human. I believe in forgiveness. People make mistakes, it's a fact of life. Granted, some of those mistakes are larger and therefore come with greater consequences and punishment to fit the mistake, or in this case crime. However, death should not be an option among the types of punishment available. Life terms in prison should be adequate. Taking away the freedom of another is the real death. It's the death of the mind, and it's the death of life as one knows it. The physical death of the body is simply symbolic and, at best, serves as a deterrent, because the real death occurs long beforehand.

Those among us with hearts know that the debate should not be whether lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the rights given to us by our forefathers, but instead should focus on the ethics of carrying out such punishment at all.

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