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Published 21 February 2001

The death penalty in the USA

February 2001: While the US presidential race hinged mostly on TV entertainment programs where the candidates didn’t need to talk about serious issues, the execution machinery keeps going through its dirty business. No matter how bungled the trials were, and even though new pieces of evidence have seriously challenged the death verdicts, Bush Jr would rather take the risk of having an innocent killed than of upsetting his spin doctors. Obviously, the life of a man doesn’t have the same value if he’s poor or if he’s rich, and being black seems to be an aggravating circumstance. How can the US claim to be the leading power in the world when cruelty and violence are so deeply rooted in its culture?

Frequent arguments of capital punishment supporters, and my answers:

"Opponents to the Death Penalty are pro-Marxist activists, obsessed with bashing the USA at all costs." WRONG

==> I’m not anti-American at all. It is just that in fact, there are not so many other democracies that have reactivated the Death Penalty in their Judiciary system.. It’s not my fault if the USA has chosen to gang up with some of the worst dictatorships in the world in the choice of its system of retribution and punishment, which would have perfectly suited Stalin’s sense of democratic justice.

"When you are against the death penalty, you care more for the murderers than for the victims. How would you view the death penalty if someone close to you were murdered?"

==> I am not sure about what I would do. I cannot guess how I would react if I were robbed of someone dear to me. I don’t want to know the murderous impulse that you may feel in front of the loathsome pervert that has raped and atrociously murdered your dear little baby. In fact, I may well turn out to be the worst mourner on earth; I may feel thirsty indeed for the blood of that filthy bastard that would have ruined my life. I hope the parents of poor victims feel relieved when they eventually see someone die - much more "humanely" than their kid - for the crime that has shattered their life. It must be far less cathartic than all those films where the hero spills the ugly monster’s guts over the walls, but at least it’s real flesh and blood that pays back for their bereavement.

Nevertheless, if by any chance I didn’t want another killing to happen in my name for the sake of my "rights" of victim over another human being, I know I just would feel badly hurt by those who would claim that the violence of their retributive impulse is the only scale to measure up the depth of my love for my lost baby. I would also be hurt most certainly by the campaigns of those wealthy people who support the death penalty but brandish the second amendment to keep pouring guns over the population. I would hate to think that if the killer was rich, he would have sneaked out of the hands of Justice thanks to the expensive lawyer he would have hired instead of the court-appointed losers most poor get only a few hours before their trial. I would still feel bad in a system that would only find violence awful and despicable when it comes from the "dregs" and the "slums" it has produced, and would rather worship it and nourish it when it takes on the luxurious appearance of institutional or financial power. I would probably be totally bewildered and distrustful towards a form of Justice that would regard executing an innocent as the "macro level price" of its "aggressive" process.

VS, Feb.2001