Recently, the death penalty has been in the news following the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, where it took him over forty five minutes after being injected to die. Witness testimonies can confirm that his death was not peaceful, and many called it “inhumane”. Yet, the overall public disgust regarding this botched issue appears to be centered on the time it took to execute Mr. Lockett, rather than the actual execution itself; this is the current state of the death penalty issue in America.
I have always been puzzled on the lack of discussion on the death penalty in social. The issue clearly crosses paths with the Constitution and morality, so it would almost seem inevitable to be center stage in the social debates along with very vocal factions such as the Tea Party and the Pro-Life Movement, both of whom should be adamantly against the death penalty. Rarely though is the issue discussed, and surprisingly the conservative sweet hearts of America such as Rick Perry whole heartedly endorse the death penalty as a power that the government should have. My only question is why?
The death penalty is a Constitutional issue because it directly challenges the eighth amendment, stating that “cruel and unusual punishments” shall not be administered onto any U.S. Citizen. Often I think we forget that the inmates on death row are still Americans and deserve their rights, despite being some of the worst members of our society. That is why we have prisons and life sentences though, to protect our communities from these villains. The Constitution does not give the government the right to kill its own citizens, regardless of the severity of crimes committed. If the Tea Party movement wants to gain any form of legitimacy once again, one of the issues it must overcome is the contradictions it consistently makes. One of these contradictions would be to stop supporting pro-death penalty candidates, since this is a direct threat to our Constitutional rights.
This isn’t just a Constitutional issue though, it is also a moral dilemma. How could anyone truly be pro-life unless they acknowledge that the death penalty takes life? It is difficult not to cringe when Governor Perry identifies himself as “pro-life” but continues to allow the execution of Texans each year. Since the legalization of the death penalty in the United State in 1976, Texas has executed over 500 individuals. That is over 400 more deaths than the state of Virginia, which is second place in the United States for the most deaths. It is difficult at times for the pro-life movement to gain momentum, as the abortion issues tends to stagnate at different times in the political world for one reason or another. Other issues in the morality faction such as drug legalization is actually beginning to sway the opposite way. The death penalty wouldn’t be like these issues.
Even I, a proud liberal, oppose the death penalty. I have both a Constitutional and moral objection to it. The practice makes us no better than a third world country in this regard, and the idea of the government having the right to execute its citizens does not sit well with me. If you could get me and a member of the Tea Party Movement to agree on anything in principle, it would be this issue. Principles don’t translate into reality, however. There is currently a disconnect from the rhetoric being said and the actions being taken.
“As an American, I am calling on my fellow patriots to stand together to uphold their Constitution.” This could have easily been an excerpt from a Tea Party rally, if their principles were also their actions. “Murdering an evil individual doesn’t bring a good person back.” This is a line of the pro-life movement, if the movement was truly pro-life. The death penalty is both unconstitutional and inhuman; that line is from me. It doesn’t matter how far left or how far right you are, the case against the death penalty draws points from all ideologies. Despite the evidence that factions that normally would never cooperate would be able to find common ground on this issue is encouraging. So why not have the debate front and center? Let’s go back to the table and discuss this, and perhaps put an end to such a cruel and unusual sentence, before it becomes appropriate and regular. To me, it already has.