Death to death penalty argument

The Editor,

Re. Face to Face (The Tri-City News, March 29).

Face to Face columnist Andy Radia’s argument for capital punishment is poorly thought out and it is almost as ugly as the people he condemns. In opposition to columnist Jim Nelson’s humanism, we witness not just a form of anti-humanism but Mr. Radia’s pervasive mantra of the market metaphor, as if the most miserable of lives were best damned by the almighty dollar, a not-so-sound variation on Puritanism.

There are a number of flaws in Mr. Radia’s argument. First and above all, it reveals lack of familiarity with the nature of death and dying. As the French Renaissance humanist Montaigne first pointed out, capital punishment will only help our worst criminals die painlessly while the rest of us have to get on with aging, illness, infirmity, pain and quite possibly diseases like cancer and treatments like chemotherapy. Does Radia really want to save notorious criminals from dying without these experiences — especially natural pain?

Second, Mr. Radia presupposes that capital punishment will act as a deterrent by raising the climate of fear. Changing environment is supposed to change thinking (which is why deportation is also being considered). To this sort of argument, Montaigne asks: “Do you really think he will be sorry for it once we shot him through the head.”

Third, by no fault of his own, perhaps, Mr. Radia offers an impoverished understanding of the impact of prison life. If we turn to Winston Churchill’s short experience as a POW during the Boer War, the future British prime minister conveys the following impression: “You feel a sense of constant humiliation in being confined in a narrow space, fenced in by railings and wire, watched by armed men and webbed about with a tangle of regulations and restrictions.” Put simply, prison life supplies “constant humiliation” and it makes every day endlessly the same. Is this not enough punishment?

Finally, capital punishment only adds to the powers of the state over its own people. This appears to me in contradiction to the (once) conservative idea of placing limits on state action. In other words, the real reason behind the argument for capital punishment is to justify more authority for a state that has pretensions of power. Similarly, the climate of fear around capital punishment is meant to justify “the state” — not deterrence, which is a ruse.

Joerge Dyrkton, Anmore




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