Death and Life in America

I watched this today. It sparked a lot of thoughts in my mind and heart.

Basically this gentleman – the man in charge of “The Innocence Project” – has brought up the fact that capital punishment in our country simply doesn’t work. The cost, the fact that it doesn’t stop people from committing murder, that closure never really comes to the families because the appeals process and such takes an average of 26 years. The fact that keeping someone alive in prison for life – without the possibility of parole – is much more cost effective. The fact that innocent people have been found and proven to be innocent while on death row.

Now please, don’t leave me comments about how “a bullet only costs 38 cents” or how our system needs to be reformed. I agree – the system needs to be reformed. Also, a bullet costs about 50 cents these days for a rifle. It is not the actual cost of the execution (what ever form it takes) that is so expensive. It is the cost of the lawyers, the requisite trials, the keeping someone alive in solitary confinement, on death row. It is much more expensive than keeping someone for life. Death row costs more than general population, and the trials are paid for by us. However, I also think all the appeals are necessary to ensure we have a guilty person on death row.

Google “the innocence project” if you don’t think innocent people are convicted of murder All. The. Time.

I grew up in a conservative household. We were always pro death penalty. In fact, I have been pro death penalty until very recently when my ideas of the death penalty were challenged and I looked into it more. My mother was more than pro capital punishment. I can remember her reading about cases where people killed children, or tortured them, or raped them… I remember her telling me they should be covered in honey and set on an fire ant hill. Or worse. I think she toned it down for me.

Part of me understands this retribution thing. This wanting justice or vengeance, or “closure”… Honestly a big part of me does. I suppose it is human nature.

Part of me can’t understand it. I had a boy friend in high school who went crazy, shot his step mom and brothers, and went to prison. Only his father and mother were left. He took their entire family away, including himself. They didn’t want retribution. They still loved him. And I couldn’t imagine seeing him on death row. Or tossed out to an angry mob. Yes, he was sick and what he did was wrong. He will never leave prison, and hopefully people are safe from him.

What I am trying to say is I have had an opportunity to see both sides of the issue personally.

Which brings me to the point of my post.

I think our feelings about death and life in America are skewed. We have lost our way on this issue.

The majority of our population approves of the death penalty.

We own guns – not just hunting rifles, but guns. Real, manly, kill an intruder if he comes in your house, guns. Riffles, sure, but also pistols, shot guns, sub machine guns. We own guns that we really have no need to own unless there is some kind of insane invasion. We own guns made for the military or the police force. What do we need these guns for? Is the zombie apocalypse really coming?

There is a relatively large part of our population that is anti abortion to the point that they value the fetus’s life over the life of it’s mother or doctors. There are people willing to shoot abortion doctors, bomb abortion clinics, and accost or even kill pregnant women going in to the clinic. How does this make sense?

Our children can’t play “cops and robbers” or “guns and arrows” or any other such things at school anymore, because children bring REAL guns to school and kill their fellow students. Let me rephrase that. We have children KILLING CHILDREN all the time in this country.

In 2008 1,035 children were murdered in America. (it seems very hard to find newer stats – perhaps they are only put out every few years? if you find them please post in the comments so I can look them over.) Of those, one in 5 were committed by other children. That means 207 children were MURDERED by other children. That does not include the accidents that caused death.

We have people walking into movie theatres, the empire state building, schools, colleges and malls shooting other people they DON’T EVEN KNOW!

And THEN we have people (large numbers of people) saying “well, if just one well trained guy in that theater had a gun on him, this would have been stopped much more quickly.” And “this is the reason we need to own guns.” This is not the reason we need to own guns. Owning a gun didn’t change this situation for the people in the Aurora theater. I am willing to bet at least one person in that audience owned a gun, and it didn’t change the situation. (edit – at least 2 of the victims in this theater shooting were trained military members who owned guns. They didn’t have their guns with them and were unable to “subdue the subject.”) So now what? We are supposed to wear our guns all the time? Sounds like hysteria to me.

We have an elderly population kept alive by medicine, sent to nursing homes, uncared for and forgotten. We have seriously ill people who no longer want to live with pain and agony, but it is illegal to help them die if that is what they wish.

I am not anti-gun. My family owns a gun because my husband used it at work for several years driving armored trucks. I am pro choice. I am not anti hunting, anti old people, or anti modern medicine. I’m not even anti war if it is truly in defense of my family and what I hold dear.

I am anti violence, and I simply don’t understand why our country is so mired in it. You can’t turn on the tv without seeing some terrible violent true life act being re-enacted, reported, or broadcast. You can’t read the news without reading about some terrible incidence of violence happening.

I am trying to understand it all, and I have tried to research as much as I can, but nothing seems to answer my queries. No one can give any good answers as to why our country – America – who has the “most freedoms”, the “best life to offer” is so violent and so dangerous to live in.

And it is, compared to the rest of the first world, it is violent and dangerous.

(I say first world, because obviously it’s more violent to live in Darfour or Iran.)

The only answer I have today is that we start with a government that is based on violence. Based on defense of our rights, based on the premise that every citizen should have the right to defend themselves, their families, and their basic human rights – through violence. We have an enormous military system, in order to defend ourselves. We have gun laws, make my day laws, get your ass off my porch laws and every law you can think of to defend our right to defend ourselves. We are willing to put to death people who cross these laws. We are constantly arguing about what life and death and what other violent acts actually “mean”. What defines rape, what defines murder? There are different “levels” of killing someone in our legal system. Manslaughter, homicide, self defense…

It goes on forever.

When will we learn that until we truly value other life, until we truly feel that human life is precious and good and something worth protecting, we will not change the cycle of violence in our country.

When we take that big, scary step toward truly valuing each person, (not just the productive, or the sane, or the healthy, or the children, or the upper class, or the educated, or the white, or the intelligent….) when we take that step in our culture, perhaps THEN we will be able to turn the corner of our violent cycles. Perhaps THEN we will stop the cycles and become a more peaceful people.

It will take all of us, all of us working together, remembering that we are no better or worse than the next guy. It will take all of us to stop the violence and to move on toward peace.


One thought on “Death and Life in America

  1. Pingback: Guns | fishjello

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