A possible theory which might explain the difference between the plethora of writings seeking the abolition of the death penalty, as compared with a relative dearth of the same in favor of its continuance. It may be suggested that the arguments in its opposition are essentially based upon rational premises and therefore readily amenable to their literate expression, while the contrary position is not.
There are but few enlightened, democratic countries (unfortunately, including the U.S.) that still feature the atavistic and barbaric practice of the death penalty. It would seem far more emblematic of theocracies and other tyrannical regimes which have need of it to intimidate and control their respective populations.
Many logical and ethical arguments have been repeatedly made in opposition to the death penalty and it would seem sufficient merely to refer to them:
It is cruel, barbaric and antithetical to an enlightened society,
It has completely failed to serve as a deterrent,
It is grossly unfair in its racial application,
Following execution, mistakes in justice cannot be rectified,
Legal defense provided for the indigent defendant has been inadequate,
Its application has been unacceptably arbitrary,
It has proven by experience to be unfair to the mentally handicapped,
Its administration has often been incompetent causing horrific suffering,
It violates Natural Law (as stated by many eminent philosophers, including John Stuart Mill),
The long period between sentence and execution is great torture, and,
It is illegal under the U.S, Constitution’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishments.”
These are the cogent arguments seeking the abolition of the death penalty which have been eternally made and, as stated above, there would seem to be no utility in their restatement. It is telling, however, to point to the historic and expressive nature of the words, “capital punishment, themselves. The significant word, “capital” is directly referable to the identical verb origin as “decapitate” as used in such societal niceties as the guillotine and the chopping block (capital means “head”). The other euphemistic word is “execution,” referring to action such as, execution of a policy, a plan, the execution of an act. The employment of such banal euphemism is an admission of the undeniable, express and defensive recognition of the practice as a gross moral atrocity.
A related topic may be the “Right to Life” organization and its over- zealous adherents, whose dedication is antithetical to its pirated name. Their sole purported goal is the protection of the fetus, in contrast to their actual goal, the denial of a mother’s right to an abortion. This cohort claims religion and ethics as their basis, but would, after the birth of the fetus, deny the poor child needed help, including food stamps, affordable health care, welfare or any other program of vital assistance. After the event of birth, their religion and morality seem to become non-existent. These so- called “right to lifers” have strategically committed premeditated murder of abortion providers, favor the free sale and distribution of guns, are supporters of the subject death penalty and seem to consistently advocate military action in preference to diplomacy in instances of international problems. This is all shamefully abhorrent to its misleading name. (See Blog #52).
We would give expression to what appears to the sensitive observer, the subtle but articulated, concern for the continuation and preservation of “life” meaningfully expressed by our Planet in countless observable ways. The dynamics of planetary evolution over the countless millennia toward a sentient being, the self- healing of trees after a violent storm, the rebirth and replacement of flora following forest fires, the ingenious tactical dispersion of seeds by plants, are but a few examples of the seemingly infinite instances of a clear-cut planetary message that life’s continuance is mandated.
This (no less than) imperial mandate of Nature is certainly not within the jurisdiction of any legislature, however august, nor capable of refutation by the ignorant and misguided advocates for” justice” (read “vengeance”). The horrific approved murder of individuals guilty of murder creates an undesirable equivalency and inconsistency from the standpoint of any professed civilized and humane society.
Incidentally, what is being” killed” when a criminal’s (or any other) life is terminated? After death the body becomes completely useless and disposable; is it some species of electro-chemical power that is switched off when certain body parts are destroyed? The profound mystery of life and death ought not to be tampered with by the ignorant and unaware.
Every living thing is the recipient of a generous planetary franchise: to function. Our current initiation of major programs to probe deep outer space, are all in essence, a search for other “life.” We must be ever aware that (no less than) our own Planet, through its communicated phenomena of Nature, demands that the gifted franchise of life is eternally to be gratefully maintained and nurtured.