Thursday, September 22, 2011

Well, an Innocent Man was Probably Executed Yesterday

RIP Troy Davis.

True, real Americans think he was guilty, and I know that there is no higher standard of truth in the universe than that.  Still the lack of any other sort of evidence disturbs me.  Call me foolish. 

Amanda Marcotte wrote a good post yesterday   arguing that those who oppose the death penalty should center their arguments on the possibility of executing the innocent, and not so much on the death penalty being wrong in itself, since this argument will always encourage people to imagine the indisputably monstrous Ted Bundy types growing old with three hots and a cot, and of course good people shudder at the thought of such a thing.  Marcotte's advice will help, but I think her basic concern here is even worse than she states.  People very badly want to focus on the indisputably guilty and getting them to not do so will be very hard to do.  It is painful, and frightening, to accept that there is something in our justice system and in our society itself that is innately unfair.  So the tendency is to point our thoughts to any mental out that allows us to avoid this.  'I will focus on the evil of the guilty, and if you dare try to make me do otherwise I will simply declare that you  are not actually offended by murder.' 

There is a reason why the death penalty, as an idea, was wildly cheered at the recent Republican debate.  Modern conservatism; a populist, instinctively felt, ur-reactionism, is largely premised on the desire to believe that American society is not only innately but mystically just and good.  (At least in its default, Edenic state, before ' the bureaucrats' interfered. )  In maintaining this delusion support for the death penalty is second in importance only to the deification of the free market and the belief that all US military missions are holy wars of liberation. 

Since the goodness of our society is axiomatic, a sacred belief which all Real Americans are duty-bound to hold, we may therefore assume that outside enemies and internal rule breakers are overwhelmingly The reason for why good people ever suffer at all; the only thing standing between us and our normative birthright to guaranteed safety.  Being a good person does not therefore require the ability to accept ones own vulnerability as inescapable and feeling compassion towards those who share this fate.  (Indeed, if you can find some way to convince yourself that to do so is fiendishly wrong, so much the better.) How good you are how eager you are to aggress, punish, and condemn. 

If you are ever unsure about how to measure these traits within yourself, or whether you possess them in sufficient amounts, listen to your gut.  You are an American and your gut is that of a demigod.  It will tell you the truth.  Whatever makes you feel brave and strong is the truth.  Whatever tells you that no one ever freezes or starves without having done something to bring it on themselves is the truth.  Whatever tells you that there is no luxury in your life that you do not indisputably deserve at both the cosmic and objective level is the truth.  Whatever tells you that your own innocence in all things is obvious to all; and that you can never possibly face deprivation, cries of hatred and death for a crime that someone else committed, is the truth.

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