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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Thoughts on Capital Punishment

What follows is a letter to the editor printed in the Omaha World Herald and my response printed a couple days later. Certainly the issue cannot be satisfactorily covered in 200 words or less, but I did what I could. Enjoy!

Killing Breeds Killing
An Associated Press story in the Jan. 6 World-Herald discussed the financial benefits of banning the death penalty. But, of course, death-penalty advocates will just say that we should do away with the appeals.
The argument I prefer to make is about setting an example. For instance, a father who smokes has difficulty preventing his children from smoking because he has weakened his own authority on the issue by setting a poor example.
When the government says killing is against the law, except when it does it, the government weakens its own authority with this hypocrisy.
This is why homicide rates can go up during times of war. The atmosphere created in a country at war is inherently more tolerant of killing, just as the atmosphere created by a country with the death penalty is inherently more tolerant of killing. Perhaps this explains the high homicide rate in some states.
When the country stoops to the level of a criminal, it elevates crime to the level of normalcy. There can be no compassionate conservatism in such an atmosphere. A moral government demonstrates moral leadership by example.
Andrew White, Shelton, Neb.

Depends on Authority
A letter from Andrew W. printed on Sunday entitled "Killing breeds killing" stated that any government who uses the death penalty as a punishment for murder "weakens its own authority with this hypocrisy". Is it also hypocrisy for a country to have a prison system and yet consider kidnapping a crime?
White used the illustration of a father who smokes and the difficulty he would have in preventing such behavior in his kids (and his hypocrisy in trying). However, this analogy really only serves to cloud the issue around two differing acts.
Keeping the parent-child imagery, a better analogy would be that of a mother telling her son he cannot punish his sister when he is angry or feels mistreated because he does not have the authority. If he tries to spank her or send her to her room (either out of anger or revenge), he is in the wrong and is deserving of punishment himself. The mother has parental authority to do things the son cannot.
Talking of murder and the death penalty as two identical actions serves only to blur the difference between taking a life for selfish reasons and taking a life as punishment under the proper authority.
Jared Totten, Omaha, Neb.

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