THE DEATH PENALTY

Let’s kick this death penalty thing around some. I’ve got far less issues with positions different than mine, so long as they are reasoned and consistent. Hypocrisy is what irritates me.

Troy Davis was put to sleep recently in Georgia, despite the best efforts of supporters around the world. That same night, Cleve Foster was put to sleep in Texas. Nary a mumbling word was heard in his defense. Most of us have a point of view about the death penalty; we are either for it, against it or still figuring how we feel.

I guess one’s stand has to do with one’s beliefs about the sanctity of life, right? If life is sacred then every life is sacred, right? Then we have to decide how we define life. Does it begin at conception? Is the life of an animal equally sacred? I suspect most of us employ a la carte approaches to this conundrum…meaning some life is more sacred than other life, which would explain anti-abortion advocates that are willing to shoot and blow up the providers of abortions.

That might also explain people that devote themselves to providing shelter and adoptive homes for dogs, cats, etc. There is no shortage of dogs, cats, etc. I like pets…but I’m not conflicted about eating your pet cow or pig or chicken. I just won’t eat mine…or wear mine. I won’t ask why their passion is devoted to animals when so many human beings live lives of equal desperation. That’s their business.

I am passionate about veterans advocacy, in part because I am a veteran. Perhaps your life has been touched by cancer or autism or one of the multitudes of afflictions that come with life, to which you devote your time and energies. So we all understand that my cause may not be your cause. I may feel that my cause is more important than yours…but I understand that it’s only more important to me.

I am comfortable with my advocacy for the death penalty. I get that in this world, clearly some life is valued more highly than other life. So I use my own standards to determine whose life matters more. I think most of us do, apart from a minority that succeeds in holding ALL life sacred…and walks the walk. They are few and far between. I couldn’t have commanded effectively in Vietnam without embracing the premise that combat involves taking lives. Kill ‘em all…let God sort it out.

Did Troy Davis deserve to die? He surely had some involvement in the circumstances that brought his life to an end. Was it just bad luck, the conduct that ended in capture, conviction, imprisonment and death? Lots of people have bad luck, most of us for that matter. Trees fall on us, cars run into us, cells run amok, spouses turn deadly. Shit happens. Try to get it right next time.

But if you decide to take a stand and speak out against the death penalty, make sure your philosophy is consistent. Otherwise it’s not a philosophy, it’s just a pose.

MIXED EMOTIONS

There is a curious convergence of emotions tonite. One the one hand, my NY Yankees just clinched their division. Additionally, two men were executed, one in Texas, one in Georgia. One Black, one white. One guilty beyond doubt…and one condemned to death, perhaps essentially for his proximity to the crime.

So how do I feel? First, I support the death penalty. Yes, most defendants are poor and black, unrepresented by the very best legal teams. There are times in life that any of us may get the short end of the stick.

Whether or not executions discourage capitol offenses, who believes that banning executions discourages capitol offenses? Life to some is precious…to others, cheap. I believe that some actions justify ending your life. If Troy found redemption and faith during his stays, I am happy for him. This is not about who he became after his crime, this is not about who he might have become, had his life been spared.

This is about the consequences of his actions 22 years ago. His victim, by all accounts a very decent man, did not enjoy any time to make his own peace. I pray that he found it.

As for the Texas convict put to sleep tonite, I’d rather he’d enjoyed the same fate as his victim. Tie his sorry, unsedated ass to a pickup and see how long you need to drive before his body begins to disintegrate.

A HERO’S TALE

We all love a good story. And the conduct of Marine Cpl. Dakota L. Meyer, on Sept 8, 2009 that merited our highest award for heroism, the Congressional Medal of Honor is a great story. Dakota is a self-effacing young man from Kentucky, soft-spoken and he displayed uncommon commitment to his fellow Marines, pinned down and dying in an Afghan village one autumn night. He and a fellow Marine drove a Humvee through withering enemy fire to their rescue.

I honor his conduct, make no mistake, what he did was truly heroic. He even has a great name – Dakota! But as I read of his exploits, his meeting with President Obama to receive the first CMH award to a living Marine since Vietnam, I wondered about the other guy. The Marine that was driving the Humvee…

I kept turning pages. “He drove straight into the line of fire…” Wait a minute. Dakota was manning the 50 cal. In point of fact, he was DRIVEN into the line of fire…by (finally revealed on page 11) Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez.

I loved reading about Dakota’s selfless efforts under fire as well as his back story. But I began to wonder about the other guy, the driver of that Humvee, equally under fire, also placing his own life on the line in this effort. In the final column of this story, I learned that Sgt. Rodriguez-Chavez received the Navy Cross, our second highest award for military heroism. I’m pleased that he was so honored.

Perhaps his name lacks Hollywood flair but I’ll tell you what. There’s a great deal to be said for the man that doggedly does his part in a rescue, driving that vehicle into the kill zone. He doesn’t get to shoot back. He just maintains his cool, ignores the incoming fire and supports the mission. Well done, both Sgt. Rodriguez-Chavez and Sgt. Dakota Meyers.

18 Sept 2011