Saturday, July 11, 2009

the blog of Dec. 12, 2005

Where's the "Reverence for Life" when you need it?

The scheduled execution of Tookie Williams casts a pall over this entire evening, regardless of what one does. Yesterday I finally got around to watching the "Downfall" dvd from Netflix, and that well-made but exceedingly heavy film is still haunting me. After seeing Hitler under a microscope, I can't help but feeling that Schwarzenegger, the other oddball-Austrian-turned-statesman-of-a-much-larger-land, has some nerve to use his power to send a man to his death. It would be much better if he used this opportunity to affirm a culture of life.

The USA treasures capitol punishment as though it were an endangered species. Modern Europe on the other hand forbids it. I lean heavily toward the European position, but I do wonder exactly how they deal with their homicidal maniacs (they do have some). If they have figured out the answer -- life in prison? cutting-edge rehab? -- then the USA should eagerly embrace it. But what specifically the Europeans do with their criminals, apart from running a more civil society that reduces the level of crime in the first place, seems to be missing from the conversation.

The paradox of the European position came home to me while watching "Downfall". While it's great that they've done away with capital punishment, it wasn't that long ago that they had something worse, namely casual and random murder and suicide on a scale that I don't think America has ever seen, even in the Wild West or during the Civil War. Could it be that Europe's centuries of bloodbath have reached a saturation point that enables them to evolve to the next level?


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