Friday, December 9th, 2016

The needle and the damage done

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When putting pen to paper, sometimes it’s helpful to remember that when Whittaker Chambers became an anti-Communist he was convinced he was joining the losing side. I know I will probably be on the losing side on the death penalty referendum this November, but in my Waukesha Freeman column this week I didn’t shy away from the “hard cases” as Mark Noonan once complained those of us opposed to the death penalty are wont to do.

Unfortunately, given the company I’ve chosen, it would sure be nice to see a few people on the political right take a stand, too. As I heard the other night at Drinking Right, one of the biggest disappointments locally was when Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker reversed himself and declared he was in favor of the death penalty right before he dropped out of the race for governor.

Of course, I don’t expect there to be a sudden outburst against the death penalty from the right for the reasons Jonah Goldberg gave in an article on Tookie Williams:

It’s fine if Bianca Jagger or Mike Farrell wants to claim that Williams was redeemed, even though he refused to admit his crimes. But a nun should know better. Sister Helen Prejean told NPR that Williams didn’t need to confess his sin to find redemption. “One way to show remorse is just say, ‘I am so sorry I killed those people.’ Another way to show remorse is with your life, what you do with your life. And look what he’s done with his.” That’s good p.r. but bad theology.

Morality isn’t the only thing that gets spun. Death-penalty opponents – with the help of a sympathetic media – hone their statistical legerdemain, suggesting that everyone who’s gotten off death row in recent years was innocent, when in fact many just had flawed trials.

And, of course, there’s all the America bashing from a crowd that can cheer Yasser Arafat’s Peace Prize but also can call Schwarzenegger a murderer with a straight face. Indeed, it’s difficult not to conclude that, for many, the Tookies are merely convenient props to put the United States on trial. And, as we all know, props aren’t responsible for their actions.

I find it revealing that a significant number of conservatives I know (and even work with) either oppose the death penalty on moral grounds or are inclined to. But they are consistently put off by the radical chic crowd, which has grown deceitful, narcissistic, and married to agendas no conservative would ever sign on to.

It would be nice if the most vocal opponents of the death penalty pondered that during this teaching moment. But they won’t, because they think they’ve got nothing left to learn.

Maybe if a few more of us on the political right were to openly express our opposition to the death penalty, we could teach the political left something about the culture of life rather than let them wallow in revolutionary nihlism masked as morality.

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