Dave: “My uncle Sam was murdered, and I opposed the death sentence for his killers. Killing people in the name of justice is wrong. We do kill innocent people. A black man is more likely to be executed than a white man. Almost all the people executed are men. As a citizen of the country that is killing McVeigh, I am responsible for his death. That’s cruel and unusual punishment, for me, and attacks my core belief of what it means to be human.”
Oliver Wrede gave me some pushback about my position on televising executions:
“I think the effect would exactly be the opposite. People will buy chips and beer and invite neighbours and children to watch it. They will be disappointed that it wasn’t just fun to watch it and maybe demand that if they have the right to watch it live then there is nothing bad about asking to make it a little more TV-like or entertaining.“
Maybe I’m too idealistic, but I think most of us are smarter than that. I agree that there will always be some assholes out there who are too thickheaded to understand the gravity of what they’re witnessing, and they’ll sit around with chips and beer and cheer the executioner. However, I think that most people would react with disgust: At first they’d be disgusted at the mere fact that this is on TV in the first place. After that, my hope would be that some would realize that what’s really disgusting them, is the fact that it’s taking place at all.
My mom and I talked a little bit about what I wrote on Friday. She said that one of the TV magazines (60 Minutes or 20/20 or some-such) interviewed relatives of people who were killed in the bombing of the Federal building. Most people who were for the death penalty before the bombing were still for it, and most who were against it before the bombing were still against it. This doesn’t surprise me in the least.
I think for most issues like this, the death penalty, abortion rights, affirmative action, etc., that people adopt their parents’ opinions very early in life, and without much thought. There’s a small window between about the ages 15 to 22, in which people re-examine what they’ve learned as a child, and reformulate their opinions, based on their limited life experience, and communication and debate among their peers. After that, most people probably never change their minds, or revisit the reasoning behind the positions they’ve taken.
A few people have the strength of character to allow themselves the freedom to replay their inner debates, with enough open-mindedness that there’s a possibility of having a change of heart. I wouldn’t mind at all, giving the rest a bit of a shock. Maybe it would start them thinking, and at the very least it would spark some debate. Then of course, there are the 10% or so between 15 and 22, who’s opinions are still in flux. Turning their stomachs a bit, might give them a reason to oppose capital punishment.
In an interesting cooincidence, just the other day, I found an email I wrote in Jan, 1998, while sorting out some backups:
A Dutch friend of mine made a very interesting remark to me once. She and I were watching a story on CNN about a man who’d decided to opt for hanging instead of lethal injection or the electric chair. My friend cocked her head to one side, and asked me, “Is this a joke or something?” I asked her what she meant, and she said, “You mean you [Americans] still do that?” Yes, I told her we do, to which she responded, “What kind of barbarians are you?”
Food for thought…
Dictionary.com Word of the Day: denouement.