Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Killing Fields
Stan ‘Tookie’ Williams 1953-2005

AT 12:35 A.M. PST December 13, 2005 San Quentin prisoner C29300 died. Stan ‘Tookie’ Williams was killed by the state of California. He is the 1003 person put to death since the U.S. resumed capital punishment in 1977 with the firing squad death of Gary Gilmore. That is roughly 1003 too many.

I object not only on Christian moral grounds but also on humanistic philosophical and political reasons as well. To me the theoretical purpose of government is, “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” The government should do all this while being the least intrusive as possible.

That is a short but loaded paragraph. Its implementation is the practical purpose of government, and is no easy task. Every concept must be defined and agreed upon. Is a more perfect union formed by cutting taxes, or perhaps providing health care for the indigent? Is justice nothing more than the unequal balancing of litigants’ net worth? Is the common defense best met by building an SDI (Star Wars) system or fighting world hunger? Is the general welfare best promoted by loose environmental standards or mass public transportation? Who is to sacrifice to secure the blessings of liberty, the lower part of the American socio-economic scale or everyone? How are we to define intrusive, by sins of commission like collecting a fair income tax or sins of omission like ignoring emission standards? That is what government is about.

So where do government executions fit in to this.
How is society made more perfect by imposing a state death penalty? Study after study details how the death penalty does not deter crime, better living conditions do. The state should not be involved in retribution or revenge on an individual capital level. It should promote non-lethal punishment and rehabilitation if possible. “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” If the government then feels that it has a legitimate right to take a life in its defense, then it legitimizes the taking of life when the people feel the government is failing its purpose. “Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

I do not know if Stan Williams is guilty or not. I do not believe our society is the better for the state of California killing him. I do know that innocent people have been executed. Is there a certain ratio that justifies such a thing? Perhaps one innocent execution for every ten guilty, or hundred guilty, or thousand guilty, I do know the only way to prevent the one is to prevent them all.

The Bush Credo - No Sacrifice Is Too Great For Others To

Well said.

There are many things I do not understand but among them is "pro-life" Christians who support the death penalty. Aside from the whole "playing God" thing, if you kill someone because they did something wrong, aren't you closing the door on the possibility of redemption? And don't Christians believe in redemption? (I do but then maybe I'm just naive about what Jesus was talking about. Could happen). Tookie Williams founded the Crips and even if he didn't commit the murders for which he was convicted, he undoubtedly did bad things for which he needed to be punished. But he clearly turned his life around and spent most of his 24 years in prison working to undo the evil he had created. This is proof to me that it is never too late for someone. Never mind that Scripture is pretty clear about not judging others. Incarceration and consequences for your actions against society - absolutely. The death penalty? Not in a moral, enlightened, progressive nation.
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