Now that Dzokhar Tsarnaev has been found guilty on all 30 counts for his role in the Boston Marathon bombing, the next decision the jury makes might prove more difficult: life in prison or death. While that particular punishment was banned in Massachusetts in 1948, Tsarnaev was charged with federal, not state, crimes.
This isn’t a column on the merits or cruelty of the death penalty. However, Tsarnaev’s case got me thinking about one champion of that cause: Texas Governor Rick Perry.
As of last September, Texas had executed 278 prisoners in Perry’s first 14 years in office — he holds the record for overseeing the most executions for any U.S. governor, ever. Two years into his first term, in 2002, he vetoed a ban on killing mentally ill inmates.
He’s also quick to defend the current system of execution, which has been plagued with problems over the last few years — so much so that Utah reinstated death by firing squad. The American Pharmacist’s Association recently urged its members to discontinue providing execution drugs, which it says is against the goal of health care: providing life, not death.
Which leads to Perry’s elephant in the room, one that needs to be addressed by many of America’s religious: abortion. While Perry is quick to defend the death of adults, he’s mortified that fetuses would ever be terminated. Last July he cut the number of reproductive health facilities in Texas in half; now, due to a law requiring unnecessary renovations, that number could drop from 17 to seven — all, it should be noted, in more affluent areas, such as Dallas and Houston.
The economic reality of abortion is important for a reason. While no one wants to use abortion as birth control, the reality is that mistakes happen, regardless of economic circumstance. But when a pregnancy occurs to someone who cannot afford it, the chances that that child will suffer — economically, emotionally, physically — greatly increase. And we don’t have to debate the link between a lack of resources and the potentiality of eventual imprisonment. We have too many examples of that in our country today.
This is where the logic (or lack thereof) of anti-abortion activists has always failed: Force the mother to have the child, but don’t offer any support once it’s born. It’s a wicked system imagined by those who want to inject their religious beliefs on society without offering any actual empathy or charity to those in need.
Therein lies the hypocrisy: If all life is sacred and the domain of their god, how is it a human duty to kill anyone?
I am not defending the actions of murderers. Barring mental illness, which we have enough trouble as a society addressing — like senior citizens, we default to throwing them into clinics that don’t have the infrastructure or means to support them — there is a constant passing along of responsibility in this process. Troubled youth are put on pharmaceutical cocktails that exacerbate feelings of isolation and depression; social services are overstretched and underfunded. A lack of compassion surrounds the disturbed, the very quality that should be invoked in any religion.
That life that was so sacred in the womb becomes too big a burden to bear. Better to end it before its cancer destroys anything else.
I’m honestly confused as I sit searching for an answer on Christian websites. The consensus seems to be that the unborn baby has not had a shot at life, while the death row inmate messed up big time. They earned their death.
Turn what other cheek?
Oh yes, an eye for an eye.
Wait, that makes the whole world what? Never mind — Gandhi is no Matthew.
And then there’s that whole thing about original sin floating around in the background. Once that sacred life breathes in the outside world, it has sinned. Perhaps that’s the rub: The only life that’s truly sacred is unborn.
What a terrible way to live.
If the question of life or death resides in the hands of a deity, then the death penalty is a sin against that god. Yet if it’s in our own hands, a woman deciding whether or not to bring a child forth should not be made to feel guilty, or worse, that she herself has sinned.
Until we can make sense of the world that we’ve created, I’m not sure how anything metaphysical will ever hold any meaning to anyone. We’ve always been making up the rules as we go along, but this one really has to be addressed.
Image: Everett Historical / shutterstock.com