Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Hypocrisy of Capital Punishment

In terms of how much I did today that was different my normal routine, today was pretty ordinary. The content, though, of my classes was very interesting. In my first class, we went over 5th, 6th and 8th Amendment rights, as determined by the Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainwright, Miranda v. AZ, Furman v. GA, McClesky v. Kemp, and Payne v. TN. While I found each to be interesting, the cases involving the death penalty (Payne v. TN, McClesky v. Kemp and Furman v. GA) particularly interested me, as I have been strongly against the death penalty for years now. In Furman v. GA, the Supreme Court was asked specifically whether or not the death penalty was a violation of the 8th Amendment, and disturbingly (but unsurprisingly), the Supreme Court ruled that killing a man as punishment for him killing a man is not a cruel or unusual punishment. Of course, for someone to receive the death penalty, they must have done something sick; it is almost entirely reserved for murderers (and sometimes rapists, although I'm not sure). Yet, is that justification for murdering them back? While the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional in this case, only two of the judges agreed that it was unconstitutional under all circumstances.

I strongly disagree with the Supreme Court on the matter of the death penalty. The death penalty, as we discussed in class, is based entirely off of the principle that two wrongs make a right. Punishment for crime, I would like to think, is to deter the criminal from committing the crime again and to deter others from committing crimes as well. The death penalty, though, is no difference from a life sentence in deterring a crime. Instead, the death penalty relies solely on the principle of retribution (basically, "you did bad, so you deserve to have bad done to you"), as if one wrong can be undone with another wrong. It is complete hypocrisy for the government to tell society that if a man kills another man, it is murder and it is wrong, but that if the government kills someone, that murder is perfectly acceptable. Complete hypocrisy. And going back to the "two wrongs do not make a right" argument, I hate to use this quote because it is used so frequently and seems a little cliched, but as Gandhi once famously said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." In other words, retibution takes us even further away from our original vision. I kind of had a variation of these views in my head before this class, but today's lesson allowed me to put them onto paper in a way that they show up as a clear argument.
For the most part, capital punishment is acceptable in America.

After class, I went into my usual midday routine: an hour-long nap, lunch, and then about a 30-minute session of work. That session of work will involve different work every day, sometimes an early start to my blog, sometimes debate prep, sometimes a start on the night's reading; but today, I was studying for my quiz. I reviewed all the cases we had read, and felt pretty confident when I entered class. I ended up doing very well on the quiz, and after the quiz, we moved on to a game of Constitutional Jeopardy, which, if you didn't read the blog a few weeks ago, is basically Jeopardy with categories like "Justices," "Search and Seizure," "Death Penalty," etc. I didn't do nearly as well as I did last time we played, but I still did my part to help the team, racking about a fifth (team of 5) of our team's 3199 points, good enough for 2nd place.
After class, the rest of my day had nothing too out of the ordinary; I joined some friends, once in the afternoon and once at night before curfew, for a game of this frisbee-golf like team game. I ate dinner and lunch. I went to one of those friends' dorms to play some 2K12 (basketball), which I sucked at because I don't own video games. I also left campus for a while to go buy some postcards to mail to my family. Aside from that, though, my day was pretty routine. Not that I'm not having fun; I am having a blast. However, I'm actually very sad because I'm still meeting new people every day, and all these friends I am slowly becoming very close with are about to be friends living 3000 miles away, or across the world from me. For a number of reasons, I'm very sad this program is ending; these three weeks have passed so fast! And only two days left! I'll make sure to make the most of them.
The view from our 7th floor classroom

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