It is with some certain irony that President and Mrs. Obama travel to Texas today to participate in the memorial services for those slain at Fort Hood a few days ago.
For today, we, the nation of the USA are intent on our own killing. And we do it with a certain assurance that we are doing what is right and good.
It does not seem that way to me. I make no excuses or defense of my position. I am against the death penalty. I find it barbaric and inexcusable, occurring in a nation such as ours. We consider ourselves the definition of civilization at its highest. This practice hearkens to a time when civilization was a mere shadow of its self.
I state my feelings honestly. I abhor what these killers do. I do not make charges against the victim’s families for their desire to see “justice” done. I have not walked in their shoes. I can only hope and pray that should such utter evil befall my life, that I would find it in my heart to forgive and accept that there are no guarantees in this life of anything. We, as Christians, hope for what is yet unknown and unseen.
Plenty of non-believers are against the death penalty too. I would never suggest that this is a Christian or Buddhist or Jewish issue. It is not. It is a human issue, and morality is something that humans have developed over a long time. In it, we have been helped immeasurably by faith. Yet, we can also look to the extreme right and find that faith inexplicably can find its way to support this barbarism. We wonder what kind of Christian this is, yet we are clear that they argue for death with the same fervor we wail against it.
John Allen Muhammed is scheduled to die today in Virginia for the sniper killings that occurred some years ago. His accomplice, Lee Malvo, has avoided the death penalty by cooperating with authorities.
Mr. Muhammed dies today because we as a nation cannot spend the time and energy to come up with a better solution to our acted out aggression. It is far easier to kill it, bury it, and move on. It is so much more difficult to confront it, and us and how we have come to this state of existence. We don’t confront the issues that create malformed consciences capable of such horror. We don’t address mental health. Kill it, bury it, move on.
John Allen Muhammed was once a toddler, happy and curious about the world he was just coming into. He lived with all the promise and expectation of any child. He might face more than his share of obstacles in life, but there is no assurance that that is true. Something went terribly wrong somewhere at some time. The wrong blending of life experiences, family, genes, and things yet to be discovered produced a human who could not empathize with his fellow humans.
The same can be said of Osama bin Laden. He too once delighted mother and father with his laughter and antics. He once looked upon the world as a wondrous place to explore and enjoy. He too saw, perhaps, unwittingly, his life spiral into hatred and vengeance.
It was no different for Timothy McVeigh, who slaughtered so many in Oklahoma City, and suffered the fate of fatal injection.
The victims saw their lives, young or old, happy, sad, or however they had developed, cut short in violence. Most, perhaps, never knew what hit them. Others lingered long enough to wonder why and to lament however briefly what their death would mean to others. And in truth, we cannot minimize or trivialize in any way, what the victims and their families has suffered. They cannot be replaced.
The problem is, that killing the killer cannot change a thing. I defy anyone to truly claim that somehow there has been “closure” with the state killing. It is all easy to say that one feels peace, but in fact, nothing changes. If the loved one is in heaven, which so many of us fervently believe, it is hard to believe that they sanctioned or rooted for the death of the one who ushered in this new way of “living” to them.
It is doubly hard to believe that God nods with favor on such actions. For God too is as close as the next breath to Mr. Muhammed this day. He sits vigil with a human being so cruelly made aware of his last moments of being living flesh.
No doubt Mr. Muhammed has had much time to reflect on his life and its tragic turns. I have no idea whether he regrets his actions, or even is aware that what he did was wrong by his or anyone’s standards. It does not matter.
I am diminished by this act as surely as if I had pushed the plunger on the syringe. Or signed the documents, or denied the last appeal. I am a murderer this day. And I am deeply angered that this burden has been placed upon me. I resent that we are so foolish and immature as this. I am ashamed. As I recall, in Europe, in some countries, note is made of every execution that occurs in this bloody country. They wonder what is wrong with us.
So do I.