All Three Candidates for Capital Punishment!

Unhappily all three of our presidential candidates still support capital punishment. One assumes lingering anxiety about offending the law and order nuts who see killing as a solution for crimes — or at least for soothing the bruised feelings of friends and relatives of murder victims.

Ironically the lex talionis (“eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”) biblical source for capital punishment in the Hebrew bible was actually borrowed from a Babylonian commercial code (ancient religious texts are all too often composites put together from borrowings from nefarious sources).

I was curious to learn the positions of our candidates following Hillary giving a rather strangled answer to a direct public question on this subject. She, Obama, and McCain should be ashamed of holding these positions. They are well enough informed to know that:

1) capital punishment does not deter murder. It all too often incites it (getting rid of witnesses, death by cop, etc.)

2) capital punishment is all too often imposed on innocent people.

3) capital punishment is imposed vastly unequally — on the poor, on minorities, etc.

The Talmudic tradition and strict rabbinical positions today reject capital punishment — with the rarest exceptions. Israel has executed only one murderer in its recent history — Adolph Eichmann, Nazi war criminal. It is, thus, sad to witness its all too frequent assassinations of enemies without judicial procedures. What becomes obvious from such behavior is that capital punishment serves no positive social function — it is an expression of the revenge motive, of pure human hatred of real or imagined enemies. Capital punishment displays us humans at our very worst. And despite the various appeals against it by religious authorities — Popes, rabbis, other clergy — the revenge motive prevails.

Our 3 candidates mutter things about reforming capital punishment — can’t be done. But it can be abolished here in the U.S. as it is in all civilized countries in the world — a good number of them now — 92: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment

As a teacher I would encourage students who favored capital punishment to do research papers on it. Almost without exception they were persuaded that capital punishment was wrong after all. See the Death Penalty Information Center for details: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/

If you happen to have an opportunity to ask a candidate about capital punishment, frame it with the fact that 92 countries have abolished it — why not us? Only two years ago we stopped executing juveniles — we were among a handful of the most vicious nations in that practice.

Maybe one of the candidates will show a little courage on this subject. Who knows what lurks in the hearts of men (and a women)?

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
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