Friday, April 14, 2006

blinding realization

I just received an email from a person with whom I have been acquainted for several years, someone that I know is a good person, someone who wouldn't hurt a fly, who is kind to children and dogs and old ladies, lives his life honorably, and who I consider a friend.

His clearly pained email was prompted by his reading of the Flight 93 transcript released yesterday, the cockpit voice recording of the last thirty minutes of that doomed aircraft.

In his email, he expressed his anger over the incident and commented that Zacarias Moussaoui, as the living legacy of the perpetrators of that day, should be viciously punished. Without specifically enumerating some of his ideas, suffice it to say that he thought that Moussaoui should not be executed outright but should instead be given to a certain, shall we say, ethnically motivated portion of the prison population in one of our most hardcore penal institutions, a population characterized by indiscriminate racist violence against anyone not like them. This normally good and kind person went on for several sentences about the horrific kinds of retribution that would be visited upon Moussaoui by these aggressive and destructive people, things that honestly made the Abu Ghraib events sound like a trip to Disneyland.

I am sure that if this respectable American harbors these kinds of vengeful fantasies that he isn't the only one. It suddenly occurred to me that a frightfully high percentage of Americans would agree with his statements and probably add some more fantasy acts of vengeance of their own.

I hope people who feel that way will stop and think for just a few minutes about where that train of thought disembarks.

A nation's true honor is measured by the way it treats those who have offended it the most grievously.

I'll say openly that I am no fan of the death penalty. Not for religious reasons (probably obvious to regular readers,) not for any sort of bleeding-heart philosophy, but because it lowers our society to the moral level of those we choose to destroy. I'm not going to quibble about the wisdom of the death penalty here other than to say that in this case, it makes a certain amount of sense. The man wants to die. I see no reason to not provide him with what he desires.

However, the real issue is not whether he is executed or not, it is the manner of his execution.

When we, as a nation, decide to exercise our legal authority to kill anyone, it must be done cleanly. We are, after all, the country that prides itself on being civilized, and we must back up our noble sentiments with actions consistent with our espoused philosophy or we are the worst of hypocrites.

If he receives the death sentence, Moussaoui should be treated fairly and unemotionally and the sentence should be carried out the same way that a rabid dog is put down, with no malice, with no anger, with only the simple understanding that we have exercised a unique privilege against another human. We should make sure he dies as quickly and as painlessly as is in our power to do. His remains should be treated with respect as a fellow human being, one who was horribly flawed, but a human being nonetheless. We must execute him in regret for the necessity of our deed, not in retribution for his. Killing a human is an act of the utmost responsibility of the state and should be conducted with the gravity it deserves.

To go about it in any other fashion would prove us to be flawed in the same way as Zacarias Moussaoui and his ideological brethren.


Blogger Ronni said...

I am usually in favour of the death penalty. I think some individuals, by their actions, put themselves outside the realm of humanity, and your "rabid dog" analogy prevails. I certainly agree that nasty fantasies should not be indulged. It's one of those times when there has to be a stout line drawn between fantasy and reality.

9:33 AM  

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