In the end my principal rage against the death penalty is not reserved for those, innocent or not, who occupy a six-by-eight concrete cell on death row. I fight the idea of killing killers because we irreparably tarnish ourselves and scar our children. We were all born in utter innocence. How we grow — into the beauty of our potential, or into the failed product of hate and vengeance is a matter in which society has a profound interest.
Studies universally show that we cannot put an end to killing by killing. In fact, states without the penalty have fewer murders than those with the highest number of executions. Texas, for instance, whose homicide rate is among the highest leads the nation in executions. One need not be a statistician to intuitively know that if a killer lives in Texas he will, to avoid the death penalty, go to Michigan, a state without the death penalty, to commit the murder he contemplates. Killing, among lesser factors, is the product of the environment in which the killer was created. If the state kills, don’t we understand that killing is acceptable human conduct – that whether it is right or wrong simply depends on who is in control?
So if the function of the death penalty is not to prevent killing, what is its function? If the death penalty does not make us safer, what benefit does it provide society? I say its only legitimate purpose is to reveal the psychic makeup of its proponents. Those who yammer and scream for the death penalty do so out of a need for vengeance. In the end, it serves only our darkest sides.
For me, I would hope that we can learn that hate and retribution, that suffering and killing are not the vision of a more enlightened people nor the role model for the innocent child. How society sees itself predicts how the child will see itself – the potential killer or the enlightened citizen.