There’s been quite the focus on the death penalty lately. The drugs used to execute criminals by lethal injection are no longer available. The manufacturer doesn’t want their product used for such purpose. Maybe it’s the first line of the Hippocratic Oath, “First, do no harm.”
The reaction? Try another group of drugs that might work. Bring back the electric chair, the gas chamber, the gallows and the firing squad.
I’ve struggled with the topic, but the most clarifying statement I’ve ever encountered was from the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Gandalf has told Frodo that the creature, Gollum is following them.
Frodo: It’s a pity Bilbo didn’t kill him when he had the chance.
Gandalf: Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.
Add to that the ever growing number of convicted people being cleared by DNA evidence, and you begin to doubt how just the justice system actually is.
So, if it’s not for justice, what is it?
Capital punishment seeks to accomplish the same thing as a gangland hit or a drive by shooting. “You hurt me, so I need to hurt you back.”
I’d like to believe that we’ve progressed beyond the 3rd century Roman Coliseum mindset; beyond the public beheadings and burning at the stake of the middle ages; beyond the gunfights and lynchings of the 19th century.