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Death penalty.

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Wednesday 12 July 2006

Xavier Waterkeyn, author


Death Penalty

I'm totally fed up with the endless and agonized debate about the morality and the ethics of the death penalty. While I was writing my book, Death Row , I couldn't really avoid the debate - "to kill or not to kill" - that was the question.

Let me give you some facts about state-sanctioned murder, because that's basically what the death penalty is. Let's not pretend that it's otherwise.

Fact. State-sanctioned murder is big business. Retentionist countries include some of the largest and most powerful states in the world, including China, India, Indonesia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand, and of course the United States of America.

Let's for a moment ignore the fact that governments will justify killing their citizens for any number of spurious reasons including drug-running, "treason" or "offences against God." God tends to get invoked quite a lot in Death Penalty arguments.

I tend to think that if God wants to kill people God can do God's own dirty work. An all-powerful God doesn't need proxies.

God doesn't kill people. People kill people.

For me, murder is perhaps, is the only "offence against God", the only crime, that should be punished with the death penalty. Although a good many Australians don't agree with me.

Fact. When the Singaporeans executed Van Nguyen last year for heroin trafficking 47 per cent of Australians agreed with the decision. But I wonder how many of you out there would have been willing to personally put the noose around Van's neck and actually pull the lever, or in other cases, pull the trigger, or push the syringe?

Even if you're squeamish about killing a Vietnamese Australian trapped in crazy situation then maybe you'd be more inclined to kill-for-revenge if you had to deal with a situation that was a little closer to home. Image that your eight-old-daughter disappeared one day never to be heard from again until, one day, you get this letter in the mail, from her murderer.

Quote - "First I stripped her naked. How she did kick -- bite and scratch. I choked her to death, then cut her in small pieces so I could take my meat to my rooms."

That quote came from Albert Fish a child molester, cannibal and sadomasochist who was executed on January 16, 1936.

A couple of days after the execution, his attorney James Dempsey received a letter from Fish, thanking him for his efforts on his behalf.

Near the end of the letter Fish wrote: "I do not wish to die, God has more work for me to do."

So you see, even serial killers invoke God.

When I ask what alternatives there are to killing someone like Fish who revelled in his evil and who would most likely kill again I get answers like "life imprisonment is a much worse punishment than the death penalty. The criminal suffers more."

So scratch many an opponent of the death penalty and underneath you find the same nasty sadism that creates murderers in the first place - sometimes it's the opponents who want the criminal to suffer more. As if that would magically bring back the victim from the dead!

The debate isn't really about to kill or not to kill. It's about taking responsibility.

You see, it's a little too convenient to allow the state to take the responsibility and to foot the bill.

So my position is that if you're in favour of the death penalty - be willing to kill the bastard who did you wrong - with your own hands. And if you're against it, be willing to pay for his life imprisonment personally, out of your own pocket.

Asking the state to take the responsibility for vengeance is profoundly hypocritical. In economies where there is only so much money to go round then I'd rather spend the money on relieving poverty and ignorance, which are the true creators of crime.

Everything else is locking the barn door after the horse has bolted and trampled the innocent to death.

The only appropriate response to evil is to eliminate it with the tragic solemnity that such removal deserves.


Xavier Waterkeyn