Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cruel and Unusual

Executions are soon to resume after last week's 7-2 ruling that lethal injection does not violate the 8th Amendment's cruel and unusual punishment clause. However much this ruling may be in line with the framer's notions (after all, we were still dunking witches at the time of the writing of the Bill of Rights), it does not comport with any sane notion of not cruel. The act itself is murder, though sanctioned by the justice system.

But does this state sanctioning remove the moral stain from the act? I would argue that it does not. Not only is this sort of eye for an eye justice barbaric, but it makes us all complicit in the taking of life. For centuries we have accepted that murder is wrong, whether we found the rationale from religious doctrine or from our notions of civilized society. Yet, we have been willing to set our morals aside when it becomes convenient to do so, such as in the cases of war and capital punishment.

Though I am a pacifist, I do grant that war provides an exception to our rules against murder. But I can find no moral support to exclude capital punishment. Not only that, but because this punishment is meted out by the state, which ostensibly acts on our behalf, we are all implicated in these murders.

I fully understand that for many people these criminals are beyond rehabilitation. And that might in fact be true for a good many. I accept that some people are inclined to evil. I do not have an explanation for why or how that happens, but I do feel it to be true. I do not know whether those who do evil are capable of remorse. Perhaps some are, and others are not. Yet, the lack of hope for rehabilitation or remorse is not a reason sufficient to end a life.

No comments: