Today as I was perusing some of the reader comments around articles surrounding the study committee, I saw that one individual had this quote in their signature:
“Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends.”
-J. R. R. Tolkien (The Lord Of the Rings, Book Four, Chapter One)
I hope that this quote isn’t perceived as an anti-death penalty quote…it’s from the Lord of the Rings folks. But the wisdom this quote emanates should be taken seriously. In this modern age of peace and peril, of violence and virtuousness, and of justice and injustice, who are we to decide who lives and dies? Currently, it is the constitution and the law that doles out this justice and lays out the guidelines for capital punishment. However, I highly doubt that the founders of this great nation and writers of such great documents as the Declaration of the Independence and the US Constitution could foresee the problems today’s society faces. Even the wise cannot see all ends.
One issue that comes to mind specifically is lethal injection. The original constitution in the 8th amendment bars “cruel and unusual punishment.” I cannot stress enough that the challenges facing the lethal injection protocols are about upholding the US Constitution. Even in the 18th century (a long time ago–relative to US history at least) our leaders had the foresight to state in our law that cruel and unusual punishment must be unlawful in order to deem the United States a democratic nation. No one can see into the future or travel into the future (unless you are Marty McFly) but we can certainly learn from the past. This is why these challenges are so important–not only to the inmates awaiting execution by an old method (lethal injection protocols have remained virtually the same for 30 years), but also to those that desire to uphold the constitution and what that document means to the country. I hope folks can see that as the primary concern, rather than saving murderers from execution.
Also, the quote holds one other lesson I find valuable in this movement. Violence is pervasive–for that matter death is pervasive. My grandmother recently passed from cancer, would my pain have been more severe if she had been murdered? Perhaps, yes, as murder is an untimely act that is purely dictated by the murderer. However, as time passed, and let’s say that it’s 10 years into the future after my grandmother’s murder (just supposing). My grandmother is still in her grave– would you see any value in those past 10 years to desiring justice for one other actor in her death as a positive force in my life? Would the desire for more violence help me grieve? Would the desire for the execution of one man help me grow as a person? Would the desire for the removal of someone deemed unfit for society, an outcast, help me become a positive and contributing force in my society? It is worth noting though that some folks truly desire retribution for the offender and I respect their desire fully, I just hope they see that there are options other than further violence.
Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give it to them?
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