I decided not to post an entry into my blog yesterday. I was looking at what I had written and realized that I have gotten into a rut when it comes to my writing. I was covering the same things every day because I have been writing about things that are happening to me and it is time to either do something different on the personal level, or to start writing about things that aren’t directly involved in my day-to-day existence.
When I heard yesterday that the Aurora theater TERRORIST was going to spend the rest of his miserable life in prison, I was ambivalent, at least initially. I am not a death penalty supporter. Nothing that the justice system can do will restore the lives he took, but adding another death to the tally won’t do any good either. I know that this will probably be a very unpopular opinion, but I have found that the truest test of one’s beliefs is how well we can resist the urge to change them in order to suit the opinions of others.
To put is bluntly, if killing the killer would bring the victims back to life I would support the death penalty. It sounds childish and naive, but that is how I feel. The crime is done and yet we always seem to be focused on punishment rather than prevention. Groups like the NRA refuse to allow genuine public discussion and policy debate on the problem of gun availability in this country, and that is itself childish and naive on their part. We have a system in place now that simply addresses the tragic results of crime and not the causes. I suppose that the real reason behind this is that the people and groups in power don’t want to allocate any resources to deal with the problems of crime prevention. The fault in this lies with all of us. We get what we voted for.
If we are ever to progress, we have to take a long, hard look at our priorities. The easy choice is to do nothing, just wail and complain about these tragedies after they happen and attempt to extract some measure of punitive revenge afterwards. Just remember that Justice and Revenge are two entirely different things. Justice is supposed to be impartial, revenge is always an emotional response. Justice is supposed to provide a means for ALL to solve their grievances. Revenge has nothing to do with a sense of community or social well-being. Justice is actually supposed to improve the community by making the playing field level for everyone. Revenge is too often the preferred method for those in power to protect their privileges.
These are some deep thoughts. Nothing that I have said here is new but it might seem revolutionary to some. We need to determine what justice is supposed to mean for us. Is it a means for protecting property and privilege only for those who enjoy having those things? Or is justice a means to improve society as a whole community? Justice is a powerful concept, but it has become very meek and muted in our society today. We only have to look at the news to see that this is true.
If the death penalty were such an effective deterrent, why do we still have the tragedies like Aurora happening on a weekly basis? Whether or not the Aurora shooter lives or dies is not the issue. The deterrent of the death penalty is a joke. It assumes that everyone is rational and sane and will weigh the pros and cons of their actions in advance. Deterrence is a cold war concept that depended on deeply rational thought to avoid destruction. The death penalty fails in this regard.
The best thing that we can do to honor those who have perished is to take steps to prevent these things from happening again. Do we have the will to do so?