Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Trendwatch: Death is the new black!

Maybe I'm just a little sensitive when it comes to killing people, but the rabble-roused reactions to the death of Donald Beardslee and death IOU of Scott Peterson in the past month kinda creep me out. Strike that. Really creep me out.

When the death verdict for Peterson was announced, many outside the courtroom cheered. (God knows how many people at home exchanged high-fives.) Members of Peterson's family were jeered by complete strangers who had no connection to the trial.

In the aftermath of the sentence, jurors became instant celebrities, offering television interviews and "behind the scenes" accounts of the moment they decided Peterson deserved to die. Twelve people became valorized for their ability to put someone to death.

My disgust has nothing to do with the fact that Peterson was convicted on completely circumstantial evidence, or that police arrested Peterson before any other suspects had even been considered. I'm not sickened by the public's bloodthirst because Peterson is disputably not guilty.

Donald Beardslee is most definitely guilty of killing two women 23 years ago. Yet his guilt does not make his death or the media frenzy around his excution more palatible.

I don't understand the appeal of having reporters in the execution viewing room, nor do I see what the public can gain by knowing the source of his last calories. The hours leading up to his lethal injection were treated by local news as if they were the hours leading up to the dropping of the new year's ball in Times Square.

I could discuss at length the constitutionality of the death penalty, or whether or not Beardslee was mentally stable enough to comprehend his actions, or whether Peterson was treated to a fair trial, or how two wrongs don't make a right for God's sake. But instead right now I want to rant about how screwed up in the head humans are.

I can be accused of being very simplistic and maybe even child-like in my thinking when I say this, but to the day that I finally die I will never understand how a culture can celebrate death in any capacity. Death! The most scary thing in the whole world. And we cheer.

People who murder are bad people. They have committed the most definable affliction on society. They often have destoyed the lives of the victim's loved ones in ways immeasurable. People who have without dispute murdered other people should be put into prison, sometimes for life. I ain't soft on murderers.

But somewhere down the road Americans (and others, of courrse - but I write what I know) learned that in some circumstances killing someone against his will is a-okay, and that death is worth celebrating if it was "just." Then again some (not me) would argue that this attitude is inherent to the human psyche. Either way, it's alarming and, in the latter case, worth correcting.

This discussion doesn't need to be political, but I can't help but ask if the proponents of the "culture of life" are the same people who push for the death penalty. Actually, I don't need to ask. I already know the answer. Sorry.


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