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“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, then there is “Turn the other cheek”. The former gives in to human feelings of anger and revenge, the latter transcends these feelings to higher morality and forgiveness.
Capital punishment falls within the first category. When someone transgresses against another to such an extent as to warrant feelings of intense anger and revenge, this becomes the justification for capital punishment. The transgressor loses the most precious thing they have, their life. It is also held up as a deterrent for others. Once a life is taken because of such a transgression, then others would be deterred and not commit the same.
If this was the case then how come we still have murders, rape, child abuse, torture, mutilation, treason and more? Are human beings basically so evil as to be incapable of learning, or even being intimidated into good behaviour? Or are they so stupid that they think that they can get away with such aggression without suffering consequences?
Strongly held beliefs against capital punishment start weakening in the face of some of the cold blooded atrocities committed. Not only have I become desensitised by the number of deaths, beheadings, mutilation and child abuse that I have seen committed by some of the most savage people, but I have also come to see that death is so prevalent, so why not purge the earth from those who commit those crimes by killing them too?
The cruelties perpetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood, like the torture and death of some of the policemen in Kerdassa, the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christian young men in Libya by Daesh, the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot, the enslavement, sale and rape of women and children, have sorely tried my belief in turning the other cheek.
A deep seated anger and disgust is making it very difficult for me not to sanction capital punishment in such cases. Though principles should stand fast, yet in such cases I find myself unable to hold on to the moral high ground, even though I am aware that by accepting the idea of vengeance, or to whitewash it, “justice”, I am descending to their level and am no better than they are. Yet human nature is such that the call for vengeance is very strong. “Vengeance is mine” says God, but we are so weak we cannot leave it up to Him when we have been so sorely tried by the unconscionable number of atrocities perpetrated.
Though capital punishment has been banned in some places, feelings among the people still run high when a crime of unprecedented cruelty is committed. In others where capital punishment is still in effect, it is no more looked upon as a deterrent for others but as a means of “poetic justice” of the most cruel nature.
Capital punishment is society’s revenge. It never wipes out the original act of cruelty, but it gives a false sense of balance, through another act of cruelty. The spilling of blood evokes an equal thirst for mores spilling of blood against the original perpetrator.
The human race does not seem to have advanced one iota beyond Cain snd Able, we are no more “civilised” today than we were then. We just have a longer history and more imagination in inventing new methods of cruelty. Neither religion nor the law has made much difference to our baser selves, for those who transgress or for those who avenge.
27 November 2015