I don’t understand how people can’t see that asking for the elimination of the death penalty can be presented as the actual, literal opposite of “soft on crime”. In fact I would even argue that it’s a show of an innate weakness on the part of society to even ask for the death penalty.
It demonstrates that we don’t have the collective fortitude to even attempt reforming a “criminal” because of our childlike levels of disgust towards reality and it’s many horrific and unpleasant elements. The mere thought of having to interact in any way, even the most remote, with our varied and numerous societal taboos can send two-thirds of our society off clutching at their pearls.
Plus if you’re feeling particularly vengeful might I point out that asking for someone to become a better human and go on to live to regret what they did is most certainly a much harsher punishment than death. Having to live with whatever it was that you may have done after you’ve come to fully grasp the depths and distances of the ripples your actions sent out is much more of a hardcore punishment then just offing someone.
And like so many things American, our collective demand for criminals to be punished harshly is nothing more than faux toughness on display in an attempt cover a rather potent cocktail of our collective ignorance. Of course where ignorance walks, fear is almost always certain to follow closely behind. One particularly odious form that favorite of American drinks has taken is NIMBY.
NIMBY. Such a happy sounding acronym but for all of its gleeful phonemes it is quite the repugnant manifestation of a debased ideology.
The cry of the suburban HOA (the favorite initialism of the bored authoritarians amongst us).
NIMBY is just one example of a category of behavior that humans possess but it seems Americans are constantly working at perfecting; ignoring our problems until they’re too big to ignore. The overwhelming majority of our society shy away from knowing too much about uncomfortable (or downright horrific) topics. In a smaller tribe/society we wouldn’t have had room to hide from such harshness. In our overwhelmingly vast global society there exists plentiful space to hide things in the margins. Whether that’s the manufacture of cheap goods using exploitative practices banned in our own nations centuries ago or the treatment and handling of those our society has deemed unfit to participate.
It’s in those societal shadows that those that would be prone to the temptations exploitation provides will congregate and freely operate.
In our blind quest for vengeance and blood sacrifice we’ve lost the plot, the reason we are supposedly different. We have this amazing feature of our brains referred to as the pre-frontal vortex which gives rise to the Executive Functions: Organization and Regulation. It allows us to put a check on our baser, animalistic instincts, by giving us more advanced powers of information gathering, analysis and behavior management. The key element though is information. If the system doesn’t have all the relevant data then it won’t function correctly according to its needs and the demands of the environment.
Hiding our proverbial heads in the sand and refusing to acknowledge the ills of our society denies our thought processes critical information and naturally by extension our overall judgment. Shying away from such disagreeable truths is only achievable because of the complexity and diversity of our society which allows for the effective compartmentalization of details and experiences.
The lucky ones in the suburban and upper class bubbles don’t have many experiences involving the criminal justice system. The few interactions that are experienced are self-limiting and mediated via attorney in most cases. The few jobs that openly allow felons generally don’t have much overlap with Corporate America. Yet, exceptions can always be made.
Exceptions, for example, such as for The Boss’ buddy Stuart’s son, Mark, who got into that “little scuffle” with his girlfriend while he had a touch of cocaine in his pocket. I mean whatever happened to “boys will be boys”, am I right? Geez. Fucking libruls. But that’s okay because in this instance Stuart knew the DA, they went to school together and had their own “boys will be boys” experiences, and he made those little dalliances just disappear. All of that sits with them just fine though because unlike other “thugs”, Mark was just a young man when he made those regrettable life choices and as such wouldn’t be expected to suffer too harsh a consequence. He’ll grow up one of these days…
Then Mark grows up to be another rich shithead and the cycle continues. Alternatively had his neighborhood had poor people, a halfway house, working class, middle class and the rich truly integrated and living in a dynamic, interactive community then maybe he’d have a shot at understanding the plight of the working single parent. Maybe he’d have seen that just because someone committed crimes, even brutal crimes, doesn’t mean they’re a lost cause or less of a human than himself. He would have had the opportunity to befriend those in a lower economic bracket and come to value them as people.
Asking for the death penalty is society’s way of hiding its head in the sand when it comes to dealing with those among us that gave in to behaviors that are traditionally associated with survival. And that’s what generally drives those into the circumstances that most death row inmates face, survival. Every human has the potential for horrible levels of violence. It comes with being an animal on Planet Earth but most learn to control it. To harness it and only let it off the leash in the most dire of circumstances. The majority of death row inmates have significantly less education than the average person, they have higher rates of mental illness and the majority all have prior convictions. What can be extrapolated from this is that in the majority of death row cases, the probability of society having let this individual down on multiple key fronts of development is quite high. We failed as a group and in a final act of betrayal we have the audacity to ask for the destruction of our manifest failure.
Yes, the individual bears responsibility. I’m not saying invite the guy (and statistically it’s near guaranteed to be a male) straight from the handcuffs to your house but what I am saying is let’s take an honest crack at solving recidivism. Address the problems earlier, with integrity. Actually try. Not try to make money, or try to sate the public’s grosser urges for revenge. Do what experts for decades have told us. It starts with education. Teach the willing. Give them a chance to better themselves and when they prove themselves trustworthy once again, not only allow, but welcome them back into our societies. Recognize their accomplishments and do not ostracize them as individuals or a group.
Yes, you will have tougher cases. Assign social workers and psychologists. Do the work and in the end if everyone left standing says this poor soul isn’t fit or compatible with everyday life then provide a humane and comfortable environment for them to live out their days. After all, isn’t it only God’s place to judge? What we do to the least amongst us, we would do unto the Lord himself.
No matter what you believe and how you came to that belief, if you advocate for a state implemented death penalty, you’re wrong. It doesn’t address any of the actual problems it is supposedly intended to solve, is a cowardly society’s idea of a solution at best and at worst systematically kills innocents and the disabled in some sort of twisted form of eugenics.