Unsolicited Political Opinion: The Death Penalty

June 13, 2001

There were quite a few letters to the editor in Tuesday's Post Gazette about Timothy McVeigh. A few more people arguing with a columnist saying we shouldn't kill him than agreeing, but that's to be expected -- ol' Timmy really hit a nerve.

So I'll just come out and say I'm for the death penalty, but not for the usual reasons.

I don't believe in that "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" nonsense. Back in Biblical times when it was customary to stone a man to death for looking at your ox wrong, that was a much-needed dose of civilization.

But times have changed. Now people hold up the Bible as a means of justifying their blood-lust. Granted, this is nothing new, but that doesn't make it right. Those people will say that McVeigh deserved to die because he didn't show remorse. Sounds like something straight out of the Salem Witch Trials, doesn't it?

I feel that as long as there is the slightest chance of the accused becoming a useful member of society that he shouldn't be put to death. Then the question becomes, was Timothy McVeigh redeemable?

Tough one. The humanitarian in me believes that anyone can change, provided they truly want to. But my inner humanitarian saw a man who didn't want to change. A man who went to his grave thinking that if he had it all to do over, he'd do it again.

In that case, the most humane thing to do is to put him to sleep, like you do a sick dog. And that's what happened here. They even used the same chemicals. Timothy McVeigh went to sleep and didn't wake up. The human race was served, not vengeance.

The thing that bothers me as I'm writing is this: Am I somehow more enlightened than those who called for McVeigh to be tortured and killed -- electrocuted, shot, even drawn and quartered? Or am I just trying to hide my own blood-lust behind a thin veneer of humanity? Is the only difference between the masses cheering on the executioner and me just my choice of words?

What scares the hell out of me is that I don't know.

June 12, 2001June 14, 2001