Is the way America administers the death penalty about exacting justice, or just winning the next election? And does it live up to the ideals Americans say they hold dear? For France’s Le Nouvel Observateur, Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner, one of the world’s most tireless anti-death penalty campaigners, outlines the mind-numbing injustice of how execution is imposed in the United States. And she knows a thing or two about it, since in the course of her activism she married Hank Skinner, a man on death row in Texas where his case is currently on appeal.
In the land of every kind of bulimia, where over-consumption is the standard of an illusory happiness, the law doesn’t busy itself looking for the real culprits. It finds candidates in the closest proximity and manufactures suspects when a solution is too long in coming. If justice can be bought, it is because what counts above all else in this bloody competition are the voices of the voters. From prosecutors to state judges and sheriffs, there is a singular motive: electoral victory at the expense of all else, including a truth that no one worries about – not even the public.
And what about those governors, whatever their political stripe, who cravenly endorse (when they don’t actively encourage) the waste of several hundred million dollars a year that permits the killing of individuals in order to prove that one shouldn’t kill. And this while at the same time in the U.S., around 40 million children go hungry; where one child in 28 has at least one parent behind bars; where a large part of the population has no access to medical care; and education levels in the southern states is similar to that of the third world?
There is very little difference between Iran, which uses capital punishment as the ultimate tool of terror, and the U.S., which exploits it for political purposes: the lies may be different but the result is identical. What can one say to those who have worked so hard to ensure that treaties and international conventions are signed and ratified, about the strident silence that diminishes the influence of such accords, weakening and making a mockery of the force of their fundamental principles, even when they should definitively govern the civilized world?
The true face of the death penalty is not hard to recognize, because it is the face of every single one of us. In an eternity or in a second, each of us can choose to confront our demons, tame them, rise above them and improve ourselves, in order to make a positive contribution to humanity. The alternative is to let ourselves be numbed by fear, the emotion that reduces human beings to their most basic and ugly instincts.
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