Do We Hold Life Sacred?

I’ve published an essay on about my personal experience with the death penalty and what it taught me about human nature.

Follow the link to the full piece. Here’s an excerpt:

“I’m here to watch because I can, not because my editor insisted. I told myself I volunteered because I think attorneys and trial courts are fallible, while death is permanent. Also, it seemed, and still does, that if the state is going to kill killers, the public has an obligation to test its commitment to the law by personally observing and absorbing the moral impact: Do we like the reality as much as we like the theory?

This drama of ethics, orchestrated by Wells and celebrated by hardline crime fighters, had begun to confirm my most comfortable prejudice: that we all lack the seriousness to make defensible life-and-death decisions in noncombat situations. It’s one thing to see a threat and save a life by taking the life of an attacker. That’s instinctual. But when the predator has already struck, what is gained by methodical state extermination?

They’re killing a man right in front of me, and all I’m going to do is watch, and on purpose? I know the law of self-defense protects those who kill to rescue others from harm. Doesn’t that mean there’s a concomitant obligation to defend those in harm’s way? I sit there, taking notes instead of taking action.