February 6, 2014
Just when I thought I could back on track - reviewing my life in relation to my current beliefs, The Tennessean, Nashville's once bell ringer deluxe, used their headline to declare, "State sets execution date for 10 men." If you have to wonder, this means they intend to reduce the costs involved in maintaining a "death row" for a few of the State's most infamous citizens.
What else could it mean? I have been there, not as an inmate, but as a citizen, concerned for other citizens, regardless of their color or sexual orientation, or other measures by which far too many of my fellow citizens appear to measure the worth of others.
I have heard all of the answers - primarily that these people killed others and therefore, they are to be killed. You know, the Bible says, "an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise". Probably most of the accusers don't really know the rest of these offenses, but they are there in the 21st chapter of Exodus. Most of us can grasp the rationale for such thoughts coming out of the leaders of the newly formed Israel in those times, but to apply them to 21st century America is a stretch. I know, ..."the Bible says" but most of us who have actually studied the Bible are not inclined to respond to it, line upon line, letter upon letter. My own response is that I appreciate the history of the Old Testament, but my sins - and I have to believe, the sins of all my fellow citizens and others beyond our shores, were dealt with on that hill called Calvary.
I have known many of those making the front page of The Tennessean. I can assure you if you were to have met them as I have, you would never even guess that they were murderers. Actually, the man I came to know and claim as more than just a fellow in the faith, killed a man, but as the process continued over twenty plus years, the courts ruled that the original sentence was wrong; that there were in fact, mitigating circumstances, and having served twenty-five years, he is now eligible to go free, dependent on his completion of certain programs established for all capital prisoners.
I know he is now a changed man. I know because I am one as well. I have never been judged as a criminal, but that I attribute to the "amazing" grace of God. Some only sing the song, I know because I know, it is even more real than I might have imagined. It took me almost 45 years to come to such an understanding.
So, I have to wonder why we are want to kill our fellow citizens. Yes, they have done wrong, but if you support the death sentence, I have to ask, how well do you know each of these men and women?
If you do not know them, are you confident that the law is just in every incident in which there is a claim that the people on "death row" are guilty. Would you like to have access to the files that account for all of the circumstances in each case?
Or, ask yourself, are you certain that you know that each of the accused are incompetent; that they can not change, now even want to? I was a teenager in the USAF when a fellow I knew as well as any of the 1600 of us on the troop ship took us to Japan. We were assigned to the same base. We saw each other every time there was a call for inspection. He was a nice guy. I had been transferred to another base when I heard that he had killed another guy, another of those on that same troop ship. He was sentenced to die, but the sentence was changed to life imprisonment by General MacArthur.
By chance, I was driving by the Leavenworth prison where he was serving his sentence. I stopped and made a call to the prison and they, in turn, located him and he called me back at my motel. To make a much longer story shorter, our talk led to an effort to release him because of the skills he had learned that were in demand in California where I was working as a recruiter. In the course of time and rigorous examination by several parties, he was released and went to work for my client. I came to know him well, was best man at his wedding and God father to the two girls he fathered. Sadly the experience ends there. He never learned to drive and coming home from work, he stepped between two cars and was killed, instantly.
Perhaps now, you can understand my interest in abolishing the death penalty. I am not opposed to life sentences, providing the State stops playing political games with our tax dollars and begin to invest them where they could do the most good. Stop playing these emotional games every time they can broadcast another execution would be a good first step.
And all of us might start getting serious about our responsibility as citizens.