Thursday, September 22, 2011

Death-Penalty Hypocrisy

Note that in this post I am totally skirting any admission of where I stand on the issue. The point of this post is not to place my beliefs up for public scrutiny or discussion; my point is to extend the argument on the death penalty and to perhaps educate some folks so they examine their own position more consciously.

People who oppose the death penalty will mark Wednesday 9/21/2011 as the latest in the long line of state-sponsored killing in American history. But did you know that two people were killed in state-sponsored killings here yesterday? Or were you so focused on what appears to be another blatantly racist application of the death penalty in the South that you totally ignored the other state-sponsored killing, which also occurred in the Bible Belt and which was the direct outcome of race-hatred?

Everyone is on the "Troy Davis bandwagon" and folks on that bandwagon have been making some powerful moral arguments. What bothers me personally about this is that everyone is going on and on about the "wrongness of the death penalty" with regard to a possibly innocent black man... and nobody seems to have even heard of a man named Lawrence Brewer. I HAVE NOT HEARD ONE PEEP OF PROTEST AGAINST THE EXECUTION OF AN AVOWED RACIST PROUD-TO-BE-KKK WHITE MAN WHO WAS EXECUTED IN TEXAS ON THE SAME DAY.

So, let's review: do we actually oppose the death penalty, really? Or do we only oppose it when it is being applied in such a heinous way like with Troy Davis? I saw a protest sign equating the execution of Troy Davis with lynching -- equating the execution of a black man with lynching since it seems quite clear that something was fundamentally wrong with the state of Georgia's case against him. I get it.

I'm a white Southerner; believe me I get it.

But, are we protesting the execution of Troy Davis because it was a vile and disgusting racist miscarriage of justice, or because we think that state-sponsored killing is wrong? And for that matter, here's my challenge question: is there a middle-ground with the death penalty? Is it possible to maintain moral outrage against the death penalty in all cases "but"? Yaknow, all cases "but" those cases where we define the criminal act as deserving of death? And how is such a position any morally different than stating something like "I oppose abortion in all cases but when the mother's life is at risk?" 

I would think when it comes to human life that the argument becomes a binary: either we are against the death penalty or we are not. Period. If we want to say that the death penalty is morally unacceptable then WHY WERE WE NOT PROTESTING AGAINST THE EXECUTION OF THE RACIST WHITE MURDERER AS WELL? Do we oppose the death penalty only when it is the latest Cause Célèbre or when it is being applied in such an obviously unjust and racist way?

My opinion is that if we OPPOSE the death penalty then we OPPOSE it. Period.
It's not a gradation of morality, is it?

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