Saturday, August 02, 2008

Barry George And Life

For years I was of the view that, yeah, the death penalty is morally wrong, but it should be left to the people to decide whether or not they want it; but cases like that of Mr. George's provide conclusive proof that, at all times and under all circumstances, the judgments and of men are too frail, too weak, to be entrusted with the responsibility of deciding whether or not another man should lose his life.
To say that 'the people want it' doesn't cut it. Some ancient Romans might once have wanted to see the early Church persecuted in the arena. To my mind, and I am more than willing to stand correction, saying that 'the people want it' as far as the death penalty is concerned is to put yourself on the same moral level as those who once bayed for blood as the martyrs were led in. Both the modern death penalty and the persecutions served the same purpose - the satisfaction of human appetites. One appetite was naked bloodlust, the other the more slightly rationalised desire for justice to be done and be seen to be done; but both have the same result. Both comprise the state-sanctioned killing of those deemed undesirable according to fallible laws, themselves often the product of no motives higher than expediency and whim.
We should celebrate Barry George's vindication as proof that sometimes we do get it wrong - and hail it as an opportunity to learn from our mistakes; such as mine, that believing we can assume for ourselves the power to decide for ourselves whether or not another man will live or die without incurring the risk of devastating consequences.


Blogger neil craig said...

As a supporter of both his innocence & the death penalty I cannot deny that Barry George might have been hung. However there is an opposite possibility - perhaps the jury would have been less keen to take the responsibility, it was after all a hung jury, if they had known their choice was permanent. Perhaps the press would not have bayed for blood if they were literally doing so.

I grant it is only a perhaps. But if you accept the penalty is a deterent then there will be innocent deaths either way & not having it may just be the moral cowardice of a society refusing to take responsibility.

05 August, 2008 17:11  

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