late last week the state of north carolina executed a man named kenneth boyd for the murder of this estranged wife and her father. his sons were there when he shot her – one was trapped underneath his mother’s body. the other one found the gun and grabbed it.
boyd died by lethal injection. the first injection sedated him, the second paralyzed him, and the third stopped his heart. his sons were there, too.
there’s another case in california that’s gotten more attention recently. tookie williams, the founder of the crips gang, got the death penalty for shooting four people at a convenience store robbery. his number comes up on monday. some celebrities and musicians are appealing to governor schwarzenegger (even typing those words together gives me the willies) for clemency. tookie claims to have had a spiritual conversion in prison, and has spent much of his sentence working against the influence of gangs on the lives of children and teenagers. (that, my friends, is a spiritual conversion that means something – if you come to jesus late in life and then lead your country to a war based on lies and greed, whatever points you got with god are so much grains of sand in the wind.) clemency doesn’t look promising – but at least they’re trying.
it's strange - i have a hard time believing the arnie won’t bow to pressure from the entertainment industry. it’s quite possible though, that behind the scenes, the big bucks of the entertainment industry have already made their wishes known – and those wishes are probably right in line with the republican ballot, which arnie doesn’t want to alienate, given that he’s already alienated the liberal half of the state.
so it comes down to politics. and it shouldn’t. this is about ethics.
brian and i were discussing this last night as i enjoyed [sic] a half an hour of hannity and colmes (no wonder i’m in a lousy mood today.)
he said, “it’s a hell of a deterrent.”
i disagree. if a person is in a mindset that allows him or her to take the life of another human being, i can’t believe that person is thinking rationally enough to manage the thought process of “gee, i really shouldn’t gun this fucker down, because if they catch me and i’m convicted, i could die by lethal injection.” i don’t think the rationality is there. and if it were, i doubt that many people, murderers included, have enough faith in the legal system to believe that they would be both a) caught and b) convicted.
so much for deterrence.
what about preventing further deaths? i read somewhere about the concept of one aspect of a warrior bodhisattva – the enlightened being who chooses to assume the negative karma resulting from violence against another, on behalf of the people he or she saves. the warrior bodhisattva enters into this karma knowing that he or she is fully responsible for the death, without making any effort to justify it or escape punishment, because the death was necessary to prevent further violence.
note: the concept of a warrior bodhisattva is much more complex and all-encompassing than this - the reference above (which i can't even find at the moment, although it might have been from thurman) deals with one small aspect of the idea. for a more accurate and complete description of the bodhisattva-warrior, this is a good place to start.
so does the state assume this negative karma? is the state, as an entity, even aware of it? is the person who administers the lethal injection doing so with the knowledge of consequences to his or her own journey to enlightenment? or are they enlightened already, and can take on this duty regardless of the damage to their own soul?
does this make the soldiers fighting in iraq warrior bodhisattvas? i don’t think so – because their training by its very nature prevents them (except for unusual exceptions) from being fully aware of the consequences of their actions. and awareness is the key here – for me, anyway.
for a discussion of military bootcamp, preceded by a chilling description of modern battle, read the Dark Wraith’s latest post, and the comments following.
does this make the bush administration warrior bodhisattvas? because they made the decision to go to war against saddam hussein in order to liberate the iraqi people, right?
yeah, ok. whatever. they went to war in iraq to liberate oil, not people. this war is not about alleviating the suffering of the iraqi people. it’s not about responsibility. it’s about greed and revenge.
and i don’t believe that an administration so steeped in lies can make any claim to enlightenment.
oh, and back to the issue of capitol punishment – well, hell, if you lock someone up for life, isn’t that preventing further deaths anyway?
so much for preventing more violence.
then there’s the question of whether or not killing a murderer is an appropriate punishment. i’m sure that if it were my daughter’s life that was taken (all the gods and goddesses forbid it!), i would want to see the person who did it appropriately punished. but for me, appropriate punishment means that in this life or the next, the murderer would know first-hand the crippling, unspeakable anguish of a bereaved parent. death, in this case, would be entirely too quick. i know that’s probably cruel, to wish that on anyone. but i also know that for the murderer to progress on his own journey, he will have to experience the real consequences of his actions. karma will take care of that all on its own. i am not qualified in any way to determine what a murderer's punishment should be. and i don't think anyone else is, either.
but maybe karma is a myth, too – like heaven or hell. maybe i’m just kidding myself. maybe an atheist would see it differently. feel free to chime in with comments if you'd like to offer your own opinion.
finally, speaking practically, if tookie spends the rest of his life working against what landed him in prison, what will we, as a society, lose by his execution? we’ll lose twenty years of a man’s conscience dedicated to the prevention of violence. that’s a lot of positive results and murders prevented to be flushed down the toilet for revenge.
there is always the issue of guilt vs. innocence, too. but i think that comes after the fact - once a society assumes that it's OK to kill anyone, it hardly matters whether it picks the "right ones" to execute.