Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tha Last Fanatic

Tonight I read this story about another guy released from prison after a couple of decades of being locked up. Every time I see a story about someone else being freed because of DNA, I cringe just a little bit.

It's not a capital murder case which is odd. For Texas. There must have been some mitigating factors. And although it wasn't a capital case, I find the whole capital punishment, DNA, and innocence projects quite fascinating.

For years and years, I refused to talk about capital punishment. It is one of those arguments where there are no clear winners- just a bunch of fanatics. On both sides. They debate all of the usual topics. Justice, deterrent effects, costs of incarceration and space, biblical dogma and made up and subjectively interpreted dogma depending on which side you land on and what lengths you will go to when trying to prove your point.

Dudley Sharp believes in capital punishment. He is one of those guys who will go to any lengths to prove his point- he loves to cite scripture. He has blogs, he has been on talk shows. I think I can safely call him a death penalty fanatic. Merriam's online defines a fanatic as someone marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion for their cause. That pretty much defines Dudley Sharp.

I met Dudley as the result of him contacting me via a blog I had written about seeing Sister Helen Prejean. (Dead Man Walking) Sister Helen is also a fanatic. The polar opposite of Dudley. 

Unlike Dudley, I am not a fanatic. For most of my life, I have struggled with the death penalty. I've been back and forth with it. I never saw it as a political game or some politically partisan topic. It is more important than that. But the partisan hacks, the politicians, have hijacked capital punishment and turned it into some sort of partisan debate on getting tough with crime and criminals. Politicians are much more forgiving when it comes to their own corruption, bribery, neat little golden parachute private sector jobs, getting essentially free mortgages from Angelo Mozilo, or giving away taxpayer money to your campaign contributing friends at Solyndra. Or trading stocks on inside information which is legal for Congress. Or committing perjury over the gunwalker scandal. Politicians it seems, are tough on murderers if it's politically expedient and gets them re-elected. It's all those other crimes that they are "soft" on. The crimes they engage in.

Timothy McVeigh changed my mind about capital punishment for awhile. His crime was so severe, so dastardly, and so cowardly, that it defied belief. Moving him along to the next world made sense to me. Same with Osama Bin Laden. Yet these people don't care. They are fanatics too.They knew they were going to die for their deeds yet they did them anyway. There is no way to deter guys like Sharp, McVeigh, Bin Laden.

So let's look for some similarities.

It seems that three of our fanatics have several things in common. Killing people achieves some result or goal for each of them. Sharp uses the revenge spirited rationale of justice. McVeigh used the actions of our government at Ruby Ridge and Waco- and his own hatred for the government as rationale for killing all of those folks at the McMurrah Federal Building. Bin Laden used his religion and his hatred for the U.S. as rationale. Interesting. Do these folks have anything else in common?

Yes. A certain level of cowardice. Bin Laden used like minded fanatics to carry out death missions against innocent people. He was not at risk. McVeigh arms a bomb and flees, killing innocent people who could not conceive that level of hatred and evil. He was not at risk. And Mr. Sharp? How much courage does it take to land on some majority view and run with it? If Sharp were asked to execute the condemned, would he? How much courage does it take to administer a lethal injection to a man who is strapped down? Would Sharp have the same level of conviction if he alone were not aided by the state? What if the state said, Mr. Sharp, we are going to let you be our executioner. You can kill just as many people as you would like to, quickly, up until you kill an innocent man. Unfortunately, if you kill an innocent man- we must kill you. Or if you execute more than one innocent person, we must execute a like number of your immediate family. We have a strict eye for an eye policy and we always seek justice wherever that might come from. Would Mr. Sharp agree to those terms? What level of conviction does he have? Perhaps he will land here and tell us himself.

In fact, if you look up the term psychopathy, you might find this first paragraph kind of interesting.

Here is a link to a piece Dudley wrote. It's not bad stuff and he makes a few valid points. Note the poll at the bottom. The majority of people disagree with his piece. Interesting.

Here is my back and forth with Dudley in the comments, almost two years ago.

Sister Helen Prejean is a fanatic. All men and women of faith have great courage. Sister Helen doesn't want to kill one more mentally ill, retarded, railroaded, or innocent person. Sister Helen is fighting a battle she cannot win. The entire power structure of the US is made up of politicians, judges, prosecutors, cops, and people like Sharp. They don't care whether a few innocent people die. It's an acceptable error rate for them. They are winning.

You'd think after a couple thousand years we'd be a little more evolved. Yet the best we've ever been able to do is continue to kill people. This death penalty thing has been going on for quite awhile. In fact, I remember them executing a guy named Jesus Christ. They had the same characters in that story. The judges, prosecutors, the Roman cops. People that thought executing Christ was the right thing to do. People sympathetic to the state. Not much has changed at all. In the end I suppose, you just have to ask yourself which kind of fanatic you want to be.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How about a penal colony surrounded by shark infested waters with no guards. A sort of survival of the fittest kind of place. We accept the risk that someone might escape some day.