Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The company you keep

While there is reason for death penalty opponents in Texas to be happy thanks to the Court of Criminal Appeals' stay of the scheduled execution of Marcus Druery, there is troubling news from around the world.

In Mali, an unmarried couple were buried up to their necks and stoned to death for having sex outside marriage. The death penalty was ordered by Islamists who control large swaths of northern Mali following a coup earlier this year brought about by the army's inability to quell a rebellion in the north of the country.

The stoning was witnessed by some 200 people who watched as rocks were thrown at the couple's exposed heads. The woman fainted after the first few blows while the man shouted once and then fell silent.

Over in Iran four men were sentenced to death for their role in a banking scandal that threatened to bring down Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. During the rush to privatize state-owned enterprises an investment bank forged documents in order to obtain loans from various banks. Two other men were sentenced to life in prison and 33 other men were sentenced to at least 25 years behind bars.

It is troubling enough that our government feels the need to satiate the blood lust of the public and kill inmates convicted of murder. The death penalty serves no other function than revenge - and even then it does a poor job. The death penalty brings no closure as the family and friends of the victim are still left with a hole in their lives. The death penalty also eats up precious resources due to the amount of money the state is forced to spend to prosecute a death case as well as to provide an attorney for the accused. Then there is the cost of housing the inmate in solitary confinement in a special unit.

But the state-sponsored murder of someone accused of theft or drug trafficking or having sex without being married is beyond appalling.

The use of murder to enforce religious tenets is the sign of a failed religion. It is also a perversion of the supposed moral underpinnings of religion. Ironically enough it was Jesus who supposedly uttered the famous line "let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

I guess I could get up on my soapbox and write about the ways in which religion is used as a tool by the ruling class to keep the masses subjugated. I could write about how religion is used by the ruling class to keep the masses docile and waiting for their supposed heaven on earth after death rather then fighting for their piece of the pie while they can still eat it. But that's a topic for another day.

Besides, killing a thief or a young couple who slept together violates the tenet most used to justify the death penalty in this country - an eye for an eye. There is no justification for the state-sponsored murder of someone who didn't take another's life (not that there's any justification for it in that circumstance, either). In the case of northern Mali and Iran, the death penalty is being used as a means of keeping the population under control.

And while we don't kill inmates for non-capital crimes in the United States, our continued use of the death penalty puts us in the same category of nations as Mali, China and Iran. Is that really the company we want to be associated with?

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