For a nation of misanthropes, we certainly put a lot of faith in juries. Most of us wouldn’t trust twelve complete strangers to give us gardening advice, but a majority seems to take no issue with them assigning guilt and doling out punishment. Not me. If I’m ever accused of a crime, there’s a good chance I’ll stand before the judgement of six Republicans, three Evangelicals, two anti-vaccination nuts, and some loony tune who wears a tin foil hat and thinks the judge is a skin-changing reptile from the planet Klaatu. It may be the best system we know of, but I’ll be fucked sideways with a morningstar before I’d willingly let any of these clowns decide my ultimate fate.
But I don’t have much choice in the matter. We, as a country, have a hardon for the death penalty. We love it so much, we’re willing to keep it on the books even when we know for a fact innocent people are going to wind up on the chopping block. Even when we know those innocent people could be us. And in our usual clumsy way, we rationalize this shit in much the same manner we rationalize dropping daisy cutters on residential neighborhoods: “Oh, well. If you want an omelette, you have to break a few eggs.”
That’s the problem in a nutshell: Americans still think the death penalty actually accomplishes something, when criminologists and sociologists have known for years the death penalty serves no social utility whatsoever. It doesn’t teach criminals a lesson. It doesn’t bring the dead back to life. It doesn’t even deter crime.
In other words, there’s no fucking omelette. So why are we breaking all these eggs? No one seems prepared to answer this, least of all the conservative types who, whenever this issue is raised, grumpily complain the death penalty just isn’t painful or public enough to be effective.
Just yesterday, when Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee declared a moratorium on executions in his state, Republican leaders fired back with their usual litany of non-arguments. “It’s what the people want”, “It’s the way things have always been done”. Not a single one of them has come forward with a substantive reason as to why the death penalty is so fucking important that we should risk killing innocent people to preserve it.
Let’s be clear: I don’t give a flying fuck in a hurricane what people want, least of all in a country where American Idol is the most popular show on television and Firefly gets cancelled before the end of its first fucking season. Most people mean well enough but nobody is smart enough to understand the nuances of every issue put before them and not everyone is collected enough to put emotion aside to make objective decisions.
And some people are just antisocial fuckheads who want shit like segregation, slavery, and the right shoot people who text in the theater.
Thankfully, we live in a republic and not a direct democracy. Governance isn’t about what is wanted, but what is needed. The hallmark of a good governor is the ability to make that distinction, even it if the situation necessitates unpopular decisions. Gov. Inslee seems to recognize this, even if his Republican opponents do not.