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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Death Penalty In The Land of Gandhi

(This small piece on the death penalty was written on India's Independence Day, known as Republic Day in that country. Hence, the reference to it at the end.)

These are, indeed, dark days in the history of India as a sovereign nation free of British Imperial rule. Once again, we see the lessons human history graciously affords have been forgotten. Much to my dismay and much to our own detriment as a species whose survival is now in jeopardy, history does repeat itself and will continue to do so until we prove, once and for all, we can learn from our mistakes.

The death penalty is wrong--as a matter of principle--under any circumstances.  Once you take someone's life, you can't bring them back from the abyss when you find out, later, you've made a grievous mistake.  

There have been dozens of documented executions since the reinstatement of the death penalty, in America, where it was later learned that the person put to death paid the ultimate price for something they didn’t do. 

Any person supporting the death penalty, whether they're an average, everyday citizen, a legislator, a sage, chieftain, or the most powerful person on earth hasn't thought out this question to its logical conclusion. Or, perhaps, they support the death penalty fully knowing it's wrong, as is often the case.

Those who've been duped into believing our system is fair should know that our legal justice system is a cesspool of corruption, injustice, and all manner of iniquity, where so-called star witnesses lie with impunity, prosecutors and police officers routinely fabricate cases built on false premises, misrepresent the facts in their police reports, and judges are swayed by favors from those in high places.

Few have any qualms about making life or death decisions for the sake of personal gain—selfish careerism—because such decisions are incentivized by the system—built into it. Our Supreme Court, for example, sides with Big Money interests 95% of the time and with the people just 5% of the time. This has been case throughout our history right up to the present.

And none of these legal eagles ever seem to have any feelings, shame, or guilt for the untold pain and suffering they heap on their brothers and sisters every day, whether it’s by actively participating in deception or supporting it, anonymously, with their silence, which is, for all practical purposes, the moral equivalent of complicity as the lie of omission is still a lie.

Unfortunately, until you're in the unique position of going to prison because you may have offended someone, then, you're probably not going to be able to feel compassion for others who’ve been through such an experience, although making an honest attempt to understand is a good start.

Sometimes, I lie awake and think about what it feels like to eat one last meal (how a person can manage to keep down food with all of the stress) and, of one’s own free will, take one's final steps towards a clinical, cold, sterile room. They're strapped down to a table by strangers they’ve never met before and, then, summarily executed for something they didn't do, while ghoulish, delusional onlookers celebrate while the victim expresses uncontrollable fear and dies in front of them. 

The death penalty is wrong and not just because a percentage of those who are innocent are paying the ultimate price for crimes they didn’t commit. The death penalty is wrong as a matter of principle.

If the United States or India, for that matter, really wants to consider itself a humane nation, a just and moral nation, with the realistic hope of garnering genuine respect and admiration from the rest of the world one day (not the loathing, revulsion, justifiable anger and open hostility for the hypocrites we are), then, maybe, it's time to start feeling the pain, tragedy and heartbreak of others, instead of being so willing and, as is so often the case, so eager to inflict it.

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

--Mohandas K. Gandhi

Happy Republic Day