Playing God

I do not agree with the death penalty. Killing goes against our humanity and I think it is foolish that we believe it’s right to decide to ‘play god’. The actions of Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old American mass murderer and white supremacist, are vile and hateful. I believe he should be punished for his crimes and pay for the lives he took, not have his life taken.

I concluded my opinion on this after my visit to The Whitworth Gallery to see the Andy Warhol exhibition. In 1968 Warhol was shot by Valerie Solanas, but was revived after being pronounced dead and lived on for the next 18 years. The exhibition focuses on the works he made after this traumatic event: his preoccupation with death, perception on politics and the failure of the American Dream.

The subject of death surface in his work before his encounter with Solanas. In 1963 Warhol began making silkscreens of an empty electric chair, at the time when the ethics of capital punishment were being hotly debated in America.

Andy Warhol’s Electric Chair collection, 1971

Warhol’s use of bright colours can be seen as irreverent due to the subject matter. This has been stated as a critique of the mass media’s use of explicit imagery, encouraging the public’s desensitisation to this type of material. This desensitisation has been allowed to grow over history, where people are so quick to make a decision and not think about the consequences. We should continue to debate capital punishment across the world, questioning its reflection of us and if it serves true justice.

Considering this I believe Roof should be allowed to keep his life. Using the opportunity to educate him on his actions and beliefs during his prison sentence will serve as powerful example to others and increasing our capability to overcome these kinds of attacks. I cannot say how many years he should be imprisoned, or if he should be given a life sentence. But what I can say is by attempting to educate his warped perspective on human beings is something we have a responsibility to do; for the sake of his victims and their families, and other around the world who have heard about this story. In my opinion this would be a much more beneficial step forward in tackling this ideology and inequality.

Just as the task of sentencing someone like Dylann Roof is tremendous, the prospect of educating him could be seen as greater. However, despite the finality and ease of the death penalty, it is still a short term fix. A system worthy of its purpose would be one which the perpetrator feels and understands the impact of their actions, not for their actions and being to simply cease.