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Murder by any other name

Opponents of the death penalty—a growing number, from 20 percent a decade ago to 40 percent today—still think they have to come up with reasons that are neither here nor there to explain their aversion to the practice. Why do they have to give a reason? For fear of what? Being seen as weak in the face of crime? Not red-blooded enough? Un-American? The mistaken execution of innocents is the statement most often trotted out as indeed it has been known to happen and is a terrible thing. But no reason is needed to oppose the death penalty other than that it’s murder.

lethal injection

Since the dreadful recent mess-up in Oklahoma, I’ve had to argue with a few people (very few—I live on the East Coast where most everyone I know opposes the death penalty, as they oppose torture, this last still proudly claimed by Cheney and the couples of cronies he may have left) regarding the very principle of the death penalty. Didn’t Clayton Lockett deserve death for his abominable crime, they ask? To which I answer that he deserved it a thousand times, that had I been the mother of the poor young woman he raped, shot and ordered buried alive, I would be the first to drive a stake through his vile heart. But I will not accept that my government exact revenge, I don’t want it to invoke either justice or any principle at all to justify the death penalty. Killing is killing. Killing in a terrible manner is also killing, on one side or another. And even if this criminal had received a kiss on the forehead and been gently put to sleep instead of being tortured to the point that hardened prison officials were sick to their stomach, it would still be killing.

Doesn’t it tell us something that the pharmaceutical company that used to manufacture the necessary drugs had to stop doing so because of backlash? Nor the fact that neither a European country nor Japan will step in and sell us any drug for death by lethal injection? Nor that doctors chastise their own who assist in executions and that the American Board of Anesthesiologists revokes the certification of any member who participates? In the rest of the civilized world, governments didn’t need excuses to ban forever the barbaric act of putting someone to death, and that decades ago. One after the other, they just did and people there now stare wide-eyed at us for continuing not only to impose it but to argue that it’s okay and even unavoidable in many cases.

Not totally unrelated, another piece of news this past week had me reeling. A firearms dealer in Maryland had to drop his plan to sell the German-made “smart-gun” which can only be fired in the proximity of a special watch and will lock up otherwise. He was pressured and threatened by NRA members who were afraid that this would open the door to more regulation in the sale of weapons. The week before, a California store had had to back down as well. Never mind that this government-recommended measure of trying to make guns more safe is a very timid one in the face of the carnage perpetrated on our children and our general population by deranged second-amendment defenders—the not-weak, red-blooded Americans who scoff at sissies.

Those sissies make up the population of the rest of the civilized world, from Japan to Canada to Europe to Australia. In the United States, in 2010, for a population of 308 million, there were 19,392 firearm-related suicides, and 11,078 firearm-related homicides.In 2008 Britain, for a population of almost 64 million, the number of deaths by firearm was 42. Food for thought there, I’d say. Except that thinking too is for sissies.

Why change our ways? They served us well in building this magnificent country, they’re serving us still. Getting rid of the bad guys, hoisting them up the nearest tree, strapping them to a gurney to shoot in their veins cocktails mixed by incompetent morons, forgetting quickly when another lunatic armed courtesy of the NRA mows down our kids in a school or a cinema, the sheriff can, head high, duty done, canter back to O.K. Corral.

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  1. A
    May 5, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    While I agree with your argument, Japan is a poor example. It executes murderers and traitors by hanging: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_Japan

    • May 5, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      Thanks. I didn’t write that there was no capital punishment in Japan. I said, one, that they won’t sell drugs for lethal injection executions to the US and two, that they have stricter gun laws than us.

  2. Chris Mirwaisi
    May 6, 2014 at 6:46 am

    I love my adoptive country but I don’t understand this persistence in wanting to keep murdering people. Looking at the world map for countries that still practice the death penalty, we’re not in great company.

    If nothing else, listen for the signs: European pharma makers don’t want anything to do with us. And our own chemists fudged the formula, visiting a carnival of pain upon the convict. How many more clues do we need that capital punishment is the wrong decision? And let’s not forget that it’s taxpayers who pay for the incarceration and also for the execution of these less-than-zero men. As citizens of the US, do we really want to stand behind torture?

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