Friday, February 27, 2009

The New Abolitionists

Diann Rust-Tierney, the Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty posted a wonderful article on The Huffington Post. In it, she made an interesting connection between the Abolition of Slavery movement of old, and the Abolition of the Death Penalty of which she is the leading spokesperson.
The late A. Leon Higginbotham, the first African American judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, elaborated on the death penalty double standard in his book, "In the Matter of Color, the Colonial Period." If a slave killed his master or another white person, or raped a white woman, the penalty was automatic death. If a white person killed or raped a slave, the punishment might be imprisonment or a fine. Most crimes by whites against slaves went unpunished.

Recently, when we discussed this issue, I mentioned how Ms. Rust-Tierney had helped me realize something. The idea that capital punishment is wrong just doesn't work for many people. For me, it's the chief reason for opposition, but for those who don't agree with that, the racial disparity in its application, the possibility of executing an innocent person, as well as the exorbitant cost involved can be persuasive. What do you think about that? If you believed capital punishment is acceptable, could you be swayed by these other considerations?

In the HuffPo article, there's a Martin Luther King quote, which I found delightful. Of course I would like it because it perfectly supports my view. The death penalty is just plain wrong.
In the 20th Century, death penalty abolition was embraced by major civil rights movement figures. Ebony Magazine quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1957 as saying, "I do not think God approves the death penalty for any crime -- rape or murder included. God's concern is to improve individuals and bring them to the point of conversion. Even criminology has repudiated the motive of punishment in favor of reformation of the criminal. Shall a good God harbor resentment? Since the purpose of jailing a criminal is that of reformation rather than retribution - improving him rather than paying him back for some crime that he has done -- it is highly inconsistent to take the life of a criminal. How can he improve if his life is taken? Capital punishment is against the best judgment of modern criminology and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God."

What's your opinion?


  1. Nice dodge on EVERY QUESTION I RAISED about your views and intelligence.

    Well done, Mikey!
    We shall put a gold star in your notebooks!

  2. You say that like you're surprised that Mike only wants to badger the issues rather than actually discuss them.

    He also seems to be the only person who will wait 24 hours between posts (despite being online) turning the spreading of ignorance and dodging of questions into an endurance race.

    I guess you were right all along, Tom. I guess I owe you a beer and some pickled eggs!

  3. Tom said, "Nice dodge on EVERY QUESTION I RAISED about your views and intelligence.

    Well done, Mikey!
    We shall put a gold star in your notebooks!"

    Yours was the first comment on this thread, so what the hell are you talking about? Were there questions on another thread that I missed? I'll bet I know why. I was probably laughing so hard at your Neanderthal posturing and macho bullshit that I honestly missed them or thought them to be rhetorical. I'll check.

  4. Mike,

    Is it morally acceptable for a person to kill in defense of his life?

    Is it morally acceptable for the police to kill to stop a crime in progress?

    I say that both are morally acceptable.

    I'm trying to understand when it becomes unacceptable for a person to be killed.

  5. Bob, First question, yes, second one, sometimes depending on the crime and the circumstances.

  6. Mike,

    I can understand and agree with your conditions on the police killing.

    So let's move on to a more difficult question:

    Why is it morally okay to kill someone?

    By that I mean what are the justifications that make it acceptable to take someone's live.

  7. Make your point, Bob. Stop pretending you're the teacher and I'm the slow student.

  8. Mike,

    I'm not trying to make a point, yet.

    I'm trying to understand the philosophy and morality of the death penalty as you see it.

    If I can legally & morally shoot someone standing over my bed about to stab me, then I can shoot the same person in my door way coming through to stab me. But at some point everyone's "line of death" is different.

    So, what are the moral and legal reasons to kill someone?

    To protect yourself, to protect your family, to protect a neighbor?

    Some people argue that it is immoral to kill in war because that person wouldn't be there if you were, etc.

    Have you thought out your ideas on when you would be willing to kill someone? When a person starts examining that, it has an impact on their view of the death penalty.

    Not trying to be adversarial, more trying to sit around the coffee table and discuss the issue, to find out where a friend stands.