The Politics of Horror: Deciding Who Dies

Whatever you think about whether Troy Davis, whom the state of Georgia executed last night, was guilty of the crime for which he was convicted, it is unconscionable that the United States Supreme Court fails to have the courage to declare the death penalty unconstitutional.

We must declare that the United States does not believe in playing God by deciding who lives and who dies.

I will not here go into the well-established arguments about the racism, classism, and stark arbitrariness with which the death penalty is applied, though a great deal of information about this can be found at the Death Penalty Information Center's website. The same is true for the vast numbers of Death Row inmates whom DNA evidence has exculpated.

What does it tell us that the U.S., which many have claimed to be the world's moral Superarbiter, is in company with oppressive countries including China and Libya (see in retaining the death penalty?

There is a wealth of evidence that Troy Davis did not commit the crime for which Georgia executed him last night. But the death penalty should be abolished for all, even the guilty.

It is ironic that those citizens and politicians who support the death penalty are also often the ones who claim that government interferes too much in people's lives. Then how can they condone the inteference - in fact, the total control - of government in deciding who dies?

For our states and our nation to allow official killing is simply a horror.

© copyright 2011 by Paula J. Caplan All rights reserved

About the Author

Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D.

Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D., a clinical and research psychologist, is an associate at Harvard University's DuBois Institute and former fellow in Harvard Kennedy School's Women and Public Policy Program.

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