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Article: Capital Punishment

I do not like the death penalty, and I make no secret of it. Hence, when I was asked to do an editorial for the school paper, I more than leaped at the chance. Here's the result...


Justice. An eye for an eye, according to Hammurabi. But is what’s just worth what’s right? That is, after all, the question you must face when you speak of capital punishment. You can throw around facts, if you like, but it avoids the issue. You can say executions cost more than jail time, but it’s also perfectly true that prisons are over-crowded. We all know dead men can’t kill, but it’s been proven fear of the law doesn’t prevent murders. They’re all facts, all of easily debatable relevance, and all little more than distractions from the true conflict.

Is justice an excuse for murder?

We all know why murderers are killed. It’s not because we fear they’ll kill again (Less than one percent of convicted killers who are released ever commit another crime). It’s not because the fear of execution will deter crime (People who kill other people are very likely not thinking about the consequences). It is because someone, somewhere, wants revenge. They want blood. They want pure and simple murder.

Mahatma Gandhi said "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." When vengeance reigns, the killing doesn’t stop. Ever. The grief stricken should never be allowed to make decisions, because they will forget what’s right in order to avenge their loved ones. Well, the dead do not cry for vengeance. They do not cry for blood. Dead men do not care if their killers are brought to justice. All we can do for the dead is keep others from joining them.

The goal of all life is survival. Our will to live is the most basic instinct ingrained into us. The greatest common value of humanity is that killing is wrong. Yet we violate that intrinsic part of us, we betray our own humanity, because we seek revenge. The people who die in the name of justice lose what we are supposed to protect. We smile and nod, we say it’s for the greater good, we lie to ourselves. We pretend that it does more than perpetuate the violence, that we have a motive beyond retribution. We forget, in our righteous quest for justice, that some things are wrong. Just wrong.

Imagine never seeing another sunrise. Too big a leap to comprehend? Imagine never again picking on your little brother. Feeling a twinge of anxiety? Imagine never drinking another coke. That’s what death is. It’s the end. When a person dies, they’ll never again do anything, even the little things we take for granted every day. Who is anyone to take a life from another living being? How can anyone bear that kind of responsibility, deciding the fate of the most precious thing on earth? In the end, we all die. Why waste your life on killing?

Killing is wrong. It’s as simple as that. Whatever justification you come up with, killing is wrong. Wrap it up in legality, stick on a bow of the court system, and label it "Justice" and it will still be wrong. One human’s death diminishes humanity, that so-called justice affects us all. When one man dies, people hurt with him, and others with them. Is that justice? No. It’s prolonging the pain. Capital Punishment is wrong. Do what’s right.