I have a confession. Until I was about 30 the sorts of things people are saying regarding the impending deaths of these two young men in Indonesia used to come out of my mouth too.
I used to say things like ‘they knew what they were risking when they went’. I’ve said ‘they were pushing drugs, so they deserve it’ and ‘the country can do whatever it likes’. I have even said ‘I’d flick the switch myself’ for some of the more inhuman acts people sitting on death row have committed.
But I have changed my mind.
Let me ask you a very simple question: Do you think it’s okay to kill people?
This, I think, is at the heart of the whole death penalty debate because that is what we’re talking about – killing. Who or what they’ve done isn’t the issue. I’m not even saying you can’t wish them dead. I’m saying it is morally wrong to actually kill someone in cold blood.
Some people say it isn’t our business how other countries govern themselves. How very naive. We’re all a part of the global community.
Let’s simplify things a bit. Let’s look at countries as houses in your street.
The owners of each house can make their own decisions about what vehicle they drive, be it Ford, Holden or Vespa. That’s fair. If they want curtains or blinds, carpet, furniture, meals, bedtimes, internet supervision and footwear – I think we’d all agree it’s up to them.
You can’t, for example, go to your neighbour’s house and tell them to upgrade their kitchen.
Additionally, each household has its own rules, and that’s fine. If your kids go to that house to play, you expect them to abide by the rules of that house, yes?
So what happens if they break the rules?
Can they be called into line? I think most of us would agree they can. Can they be yelled at? Demeaned? Belittled? If the standard punishment in that house is the naughty corner, is that okay with you? A smack? Do you think you have the right to stop that person from smacking your child if your kid misbehaved in their house?
Even if your kid knew the adults there smacked as a punishment for misdemeanors?
What about a belting? With an actual belt? Harsh, but those are how things are dealt with in that house.
Do you think you have the right to be upset that these people belt their own kids? Should you step in? Do you have that right? Do you have a responsibility?
My goodness there’s a lot to get your head around, and this is just the house down the road. And we’re just talking corporal, not capital, punishment.
Look, that was an over simplification of the issue, and I know that, but I hope it also illustrated why I feel our government should step in and protect even our most wayward ‘children’ from punishments so out of the park excessive to our own.
Which brings me to another point – have you ever wondered why we don’t have the death penalty in this country anymore? We’ve certainly had our share of criminals I wouldn’t miss, like Ivan Milat.
But there’s an issue here we need to consider. On Q & A last night Alan Jones, who I disagree with as often as I applaud, said, “If we had a death penalty here Lindy Chamberlain would be dead – and she was innocent.”
How many innocent people being put to death by the state would you see as acceptable?
If you say none and you still believe in the death penalty as an okay punishment, you are a hypocrite or, at best, deluded.
I’m not saying there are Hollywood style conspiracies here to shove innocent people in jail all the time, but the odds guarantee it will happen. People make mistakes, even well trained police and prosecutors. Evidence isn’t always as watertight as it’s made out. People lie on the witness stand. The fact that this very thing has happened so often – look to all the documented cases in the USA – is proof that it is still happening.
I’m not even saying I think these boys in Indonesia are innocent. I actually don’t care about that. Their plight has brought the issue to my attention and I’m focusing my attention on the most heinous part of the story – the death penalty itself.
When I posted the above comment on this blog’s Facebook page I received a shit-storm of disheartening comments basically about how okay people are with the death penalty. Not everyone – obviously – but enough.
Someone even accused me of grandstanding on a current issue because why aren’t I upset about all the other people on death row? The fact is, I am. Someone said why haven’t I contacted all the other countries who have the death penalty and told them I disagree with it.
That actually got me thinking. Why haven’t I? Well, now I’ve started to. And if anyone else wants to as well, here’s a list (countries which have capital punishment).
The people in support of capital punishment who really confuse me are those purporting to be Christian because that’s how I was raised. While I know there’s a lot of that eye for an eye stuff in the bible, the Commandments are pretty clear on Thou Shalt Not Kill and I thought the Commandments were the be all and end all of Christianity’s holy doctrine. That’s how it was taught to me at my Anglican school. Maybe I missed the bit where the exceptions are listed. Maybe I missed where so long as I didn’t do it myself, and had someone else pull the trigger or whip the horses or hit the switch, that it was alright to get excited by the idea of someone being killed.
Of course, there were also some wonderful comments on the post from people who seemed to understand why my knickers are so knotted by this issue that my vasectomy seemed like a waste of time and money.
Here’s my favourite from Jane which I think I’ll leave you with because I couldn’t have put it better myself:
What has never made sense to me, and never will, is the idea that if killing is wrong, and justice is there to stop killing, then how does it make sense to kill people as ‘punishment’?
Through all this, I have to remind myself that it took me a while to get there as well. I have had to give it some serious thought and stop thinking about how great it could be if serial killers and kiddy fiddlers were all removed from society, and realize that in prison, they are.
I confess, I really hope a lot of people who are either baying for blood or shrugging dismissively start to see this as well, because if they don’t our neighbourhood will continue to be a very scary place to explore.
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“Raising a family on little more than laughs”
My two favourite Youtube vids on the topic in the hope you’ll watch them.