by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
June 14, 2001
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- So, are you "healed" now? Have you found "closure"? Can you get back to your "normal life" now that Timothy McVeigh no longer walks (or sits in a jail cell) among us? Doesn't it feel good to= punish? Isn't revenge great?
It's a shame that the feeling doesn't last, isn't it? Blame, punishmen= t and revenge, as sweet and satisfying as theymight be, are drugs. You alwa= ys need more. And once you start, you becomesubject to the law of unintende= d consequences.
If you don't believe me,think about the Bush/Cheney team's boast that they had a two-year plan topunish Sen. James Jeffords for voting against th= e president's first tax bill. I'll bet a lot of pants in the White House we= re a little tighter around the crotch after that -- until Jeffords took hi= s famous walk.
It was never about Timothy McVeigh. However the justice systemdealt with= that sadly demented young man, it wouldn't bring back one singlesoul from the tragedy and insanity of the Oklahoma bombing, or provide morethan singl= e moment or two of self-righteous vindication.
I am sick of all the pontificating, the call-in shows, the screaming tabloid headlines, the conspiracy theories, the death penalty arguments, the pictures of that ugly chair monument, the "I am the captain of my soul" garbage, the regret that McVeigh didn't show "remorse" at the end, and -- in a perfect example of how our country has lost all sense ofpr= oportion -- of Peter Jennings on national television worrying that some of McVeigh's ashes might find their way back to Oklahoma City.
So I'm going to keep it simple: Thou shalt not kill.
The death penalty isn't wrong because innocent people might be executed, although they are. Or because some murderers can be rehabilitated, even though that's true. Or because some are mentally ill, even though that's certainly the case. Or even because one or two of them can paint like Picasso.
It's just wrong. By killing, we lower ourselves to the level ofthe killer. By embracing the death penalty, we degrade and c= oarsen oursociety. An eye for an eye is the law of barbarism.
This isn't the first time I've said all this, but to my surprise, the first time I said it on the Internet, I was flooded with emails condemning me for being soft-headed and liberal (now a punishable offense in the United States), not to mention irrelevant.
The general opinion of my Web correspondents was that while the TenComma= ndments say, "Thou Shalt Not Kill," what they really mean is, "Thoushalt no= t murder." Around the time of King James, I was told many times,something g= ot lost in translation.
Most of my correspondents quoted the Bible as being a passionate supporter of killing in every possible form and degree. Not being a Bible student, I was surprised to hear that the Lord had revised Exodus 20:13, so I checked a concordance for the words "kill" and "killeth." Among the entries:
Still, the Bible was written in another time and for other cultures.= Now we build huge restaurant chains centered around the eatingof shellfis= h. We don't slaughter rams and offer them to the gods when itrains too much= . We rely less on trumpet-blowing and more on tacticalweapons and economi= c sanctions to bring down walls and destroy our enemies.
Thou shalt not kill, however, is timeless. It's good, sound advice. It'= s like "Turn the other cheek," and the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." It's a common-sense way to live in the wor= ld, a philosophy found in every religion, including Judaism, Catholicism, P= rotestantism, Buddhism and Islam.
The need to punish and extract revenge remain real and understandable human emotions, but succumbing to these emot= ions is as pointless as it is base. How much, for example, can we pay the guards who strap down the arms and legs of the condemned to the table? How= much can we pay the nurses who put in the needles, and the men who push th= e buttons that start the poisons flowing down the tubes? How much does it cost for us to turn them into murderers so we can feel validated and also s= leep atnight?
Isn't a lifetime in prison punishment and revenge enough?
But, OK, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's good to kill. Then what are the g= uidelines? How do we rewrite Exodus to eliminate our collective guilt?
Th= ou shalt not kill unless it's in self-defense? Thou shalt not kill unless t= hat person is diddling his daughter? Thou shalt not kill unless that person= has killed someone else, been tried and convicted, and is probably poor an= d black anyway? Thou shalt not kill unless they're gooks, communists or fro= m Iraq? Thou shalt not kill unless you really needthose Nikes? Thou shalt= not kill unless you want to be president of the United States?
I'm sorry= , but in the wake of McVeigh's execution, I can only say one thing: dead c= ountry walking.
Joyce Marcel is a freelance journalist who writes about music,culture, p= olitics, economics and travel.