Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Update: Well, you all know by now. Der Governator has pulled a Pontius Pilate, the SCOTUS has said no, and Tookie Williams will probably be dead in just under two hours. There are your conservative family values, folks. In honor of the holidays, let's kill a man. Which makes me wonder -- are the wingnuts' screams of 'War on Christmas' whenever anyone tries to be inclusive by saying "Happy Holidays" really just a cover-up for their own agenda, which seems to be the "War on Black People"? Hell, if they really want to express their "Christian" values, why don't they just crucify Tookie, instead of give him the needle? You know they all want to, and they'd be fighting over the whip to deliver those thirty-nine lashes.

Now, Tookie may not be exactly the best person to use as an anti-death penalty poster-child -- but cheerleading for his death is just as heinous as the crime for which he's soon going to be murdered.

And let's call it what it is. The State may be doing it, but the death penalty is still murder. And if you can oppose abortion while not believing the previous statement, then you are a raving hypocrite.

The death penalty mystifies me, especially because the folks who seem to be the biggest proponents largely overlap with the anti-abortion crowd. Now, explain that one -- people who get their panties in a wad over what they consider the "murder" of innocent fetuses have no problem pulling the switch or pushing the plunger on full-grown adults.

Don't get me wrong; I do think that there are certain people who do deserve the death penalty. Serial killers, for example, should be snuffed out. But... I don't make the mistake of thinking that the death penalty is any kind of deterrent for future criminals. It isn't, because your typical criminal operates under the "I won't ever get caught" mindset. In reality, the death penalty is nothing more than society's vengeance. The trouble is, it isn't dealt with as such honestly. If it were, we wouldn't have the ol' lethal injection thing, a method of execution that pretends to do everything possible to not make the condemned suffer. No -- if we were honest about the death penalty, then every such felon to be dispatched would be killed in the same way they killed their victims, in public, on TV, by the surviving friends and family of the victim. And we would admit, out-loud, that the killing of convicts has nothing to do with deterrence or justice, and everything to do with naked, raving, pissed-off revenge.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, in certain cases. As an atheist, I think that murder is the absolute worst crime that any human being can commit, because there ain't no afterlife to which the victim goes. And, if you take away another person's life, you've taken everything from them, and deserve the same fate yourself. Mostly.


And then, there's Stanley "Tookie" Williams, and a case I have a lot of conflict over. Now, honestly, I haven't dug into the minutiae of things, so (like most every person commenting on the situation) I'm talking out of my ass. But... on the one hand, he was convicted for killing four people, and there seems to be no doubt there. Also, he founded the Crips, a gang that has plagued LA and the US for years. That action alone should merit death, by firing squad. With Uzis. Lots of Uzis. Like, the penultimate scene in Scarface Uzis.

And yet... and yet... here is a man who seems to have truly shown remorse for his actions. He's won the Nobel Peace Prize from prison, and has been nominated again. He's tried to tell young people, "Don't do the gang thing. It's bad."

And there's the rub. The conflict I can't resolve. Do we judge him for what he did way back when, or for what he's done since? To quote Richard III: "Plead what I will be, not what I have been; not my desserts, but what I shall deserve..."

If the death penalty is truly a deterrant to crime, then Arnold Schwarzenegger should commute Tookie Williams's sentence to life without possibility of parole. Let him, like Charles Manson, rot in prison, at least with the hope that he will use his position to convince another generation not to be like he was early in life.

But, if the death penalty is nothing more than revenge disguised, then Tookie Williams should fry for the four people whose lives he ended.

Honestly, if I were the governor, I'd be delivering that clemency. It's the old two wrongs don't make a right theory. And honestly, ask yourself this: which is more of a punishment to a criminal? A quick end, exit stage left, party over? Or, a life wasted behind bars, locked up like an animal until nature (or a pissed off inmate with a shiv) takes its course?

Truly, if the prison system were about justice (and not revenge), the latter option would be the far worse punishment.

I say let Tookie live, only because, that way, he will not live the unexamined life. And, apparently, he's been doing a lot of examining behind bars.

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