Thursday, September 22, 2011

Capital Punishment: Talk About Confusing

I listened yesterday to three bits of news that had folks up-in-arms for very different reasons.  I believe all three news items--although different--all point to one obvious conclusion: people are very confused about what they believe.

First thing I heard was the news that Clifford Olson is near death.  Second bit of news I heard was that we can now screen 8 celled in-vitro human embryos for over 300 possible genetic deficiencies and allow the "donors" to decide if they want to then implant the "embryo" and carry it to term or flush it down the toilet.  Third bit of news yesterday was news that Troy Davis had been executed.

The reactions to these events has left me puzzled.  The execution of Troy Davis has been almost unanimously (at least outside the US) decried as inhumane and barbaric; the detractors say that it puts the US in the same category as North Korea, Iran and the usual suspects.  The announcement that serial killer Clifford Olson is on his death-bed however, has been met with jubilation, with the suggestion that the more painful and drawn out his suffering in these last days, the better.  And, the last bit of news regarding "designer babies" has, for the most part, been met with a resounding indifference.

I find this interesting.  The opposition to Troy Davis' execution is not simply because there appears to be a reasonable doubt as to his guilt, but it stems further into a belief that capital punishment "period" is barbaric and cruel.  Is that why we chose not to execute Clifford Olson?  Is it more more civilized to lock someone in a cell for 30+ years or to end their life?  Is justice served by keeping a serial killer alive and allowing him, from time to time, to make headlines with news of appeals, requests for parole, letters to victims families?

Or, do we in Canada not subscribe to capital punishment because we value all life?  And, if we so highly value life, why are we willing to so easily subscribe to embryo testing whereby we get to decide who lives and who dies?  Or, is embryo life akin to the life of an ant whose life we can snuff out with the casual step of a foot?

If we are so keen to prevent the suffering (whose is the question) presented by the possibility of genetic abnormalities, why when they present themselves in the person of a Clifford Olson are we so opposed to dealing with them at that point?

What is it?  Is it "life" that we value?  Is that why we don't have capital punishment?  And, if so, why aren't we affording ALL life the same protection?  It's confusing to me how we celebrate the impending death of one criminal while condemning the practice of capital punishment for convicted criminals yet at the same time condoning capital punishment for human life under the guise of pre-implantation testing of genetic abnormalities. 

To throw another fly in the ointment, is it possible to value human life and still support capital punishment?  Often times, opponents of capital punishment mock those with such a view as being hypocritical.  Are they perhaps mistaking two competing values; the value of human life and the value of justice? 

If human life is important--are there different degrees?  If there aren't, then ALL life is important.  If there are, then would someone please explain to me how Clifford Olson's life is more valuable than that of an unborn baby full of potential?

This post is now up for discussion.

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