June 9, 2001

Justice?


I don't think I'll want to watch the news on TV for the next few days.
The media frenzy surrounding the impending execution of Timothy McVeigh is just too much for me.

I don't believe in the death penalty but even if I did, I'd find the coverage beyond tasteless.

Judging from previous times when executions made the news (notably that of a woman in Texas two or three years ago) the networks will be broadcasting from as close to the death chamber as they can get, live, at the actual time; not to mention almost constantly for days beforehand.

Ratings are one thing; news is one thing; but this is just plain gross, and only one step away from holding executions in a public square.

Barring some really important development elsewhere (such as another Republican crossing the floor, as we call it in Canada, or a satellite falling into downtown Chicago) the execution will be the topic of every news, opinion, and call-in show from now until a day or two after it's over.

CNN, for example, has a reporter who likes to ask the surviving relatives of children who were killed, what they would say to them (the children) if they could. I saw this happen twice and both times the interviewee dissolved into tears.
If I want exploitation and raw emotion, I'll watch Survivor, thank you.
Really, is this necessary?

The execution should, and must, be reported; it's the manner and degree of the reporting that I object to. It plays right into the agendas of maniacs such as McVeigh - he becomes a martyr and a rallying point to those of similar dispositions. Committing so much airtime to this person, analyzing and discussing his background and his point of view, implies that he and his ideas are worthy of this much study and analysis.

The crime McVeigh committed was important; he is not. Coverage such as this does nothing to deter others; it merely glorifies his life and actions.

It must also do something positive to the ratings, of course, and that makes any reason not to do it, insignificant.

Anyway, that's not what I intended to rant about.

In some ways I've grown more conservative with age; certainly less bleeding-heart liberal and probably less tolerant.

I've tried, I really have, to justify the death penalty in my mind.

I just can't.

Sure, if someone murdered someone I love I'd want to pound his head into the cement. I might even do it if given the opportunity. But I think that's irrelevant.
That's an emotional response. A valid, human emotional response.

Courts and the law aren't supposed to be emotional. That's why we have them, to seek dispassionate justice.

An eye for an eye? Maybe.
A murderer deserves to die? In my own mind, maybe. In this case, I'll even venture to say probably.

But.

That's not a decision that any human being should make. (Isn't that the whole point of outlawing murder?)

Who's going to do the killing?

One of the family members of one of the victims?
No, although they might get to watch.

An execution is a murder in cold blood. It's at least as much of a crime as the one that the murderer committed, but this one is committed by a normal person, not a homicidal maniac. This one is committed by a normal person, who has to do it on schedule and even gets paid for it. It's government sanctioned murder and places the employee in question on the same moral ground as the murderer.

That's just barbaric.

It may be "justice" for Timothy McVeigh to die; but the cost to the rest of us is too high.

Agree? Disagree? Comments?

Just want to say hi?

It's time to revive the forum!

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