Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Good-bye Tookie

On a more somber note, today's funeral of Crips street gang founder Stanley "Tookie" Williams gets me thinking about the death penalty again. Though I am absolutely opposed to the death penalty, I was a little disturbed by the reasoning many of Tookie's advocates gave for clemency, primarily that he had "reformed" and become an outspoken opponent of gang violence. In other words, he deserved to live because he had made up for his crime--though he maintained his innocence to his death.

But let's be honest: You can't "make up" for killing four infinitely valuable people, and even if Williams himself was not the trigger man, he shares moral responsibility for the violence committed by the gang he founded. No reform can restore what has been lost; the best we can hope for is some kind of reconciliation, the healing of wounds whose scars will always remain and the restoration of human community. But by the same token, the death of one guilty can no more restore the loss of four innocents than a mountain of good deeds.

The possibility of conversion is a fine side benefit to eliminating the death penalty, but it's not a good reason. Who is to judge a conversion? Only God, in the end. Soon we'll be distinguishing the guilty who deserve mercy and those who don't. Talk about playing God.

No, the best reason for eliminating capital punishment is that it's simply wrong to kill any defenseless human being--guilty or not. It's a violation of human dignity, an act of blasphemy committed against God's image, even in those who have committed the foulest offenses. We should bring it to an end.


At 8:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I also do not believe in the death penalty. However I,by the grace of God, have never lost anyone to violence. I have not had to go to a funeral of a child or parent who has been taken away because of drugs or just for the hell of it. I do not know how I would react. People who know me think if anyone hurt one of my sons I would probably want some kind of punishment for the guilty party. However I would prefer life without parole as I feel that living in a 6 by 9 space is a terrible fate ! Only God knows the truly guilty and sometimes I wonder what he or she would think.
Thank you.
Peggy Cones

At 6:00 AM, Blogger Robert J. Moynihan said...

Well said, TO THE LEFT. The death penalty is wrong and allowing family members of victims and the media to watch it is barbaric.

Your point about conversion not being a good reason to waive the death penalty is a good one.

Part of conversion is admitting we were wrong or in the case of "Tookie," admitting guilt.

Watch for the lifting of the Illinois executive order placing a moratorium on the death penalty to be a political football in the 06 gube run. My friend, George Ryan, that great reformer and walking conversion story was a conservative pro-death penalty pol who had the good sense and leadership to put the brakes on the death penalty in the Land of Lincoln.


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