As he has in virtually every single one of his thirty eight years in the unicameral, majority of one Ernie Chambers has introduced a bill to ban the death penalty in Nebraska. Good on him. We are notable for using our death penalty much more rarely then Texas or other southern states. there our some tough guys here who say we should get the death row queue much more quickly but for the most part it hardly ever comes up in conversation, and I'd say that the majority support for execution here is much more abstractly 'believed' as a matter of social conventionalism than passionately felt, more a means of displaying a properly anti-murder posture than instinctive knowledge of true justice.
That, after all, is the point of mantracally proclaiming execution as the 'ultimate penalty' whenever it is publicly mentioned. Its appeal lies in the ritual belief that for the worst crimes there must be consensus on what the one true ultimate penalty entails. But of course the death penalty is no such thing as that. There are many after all who are completely unbothered by their own deaths, but even beyond the pedantic points the death penalty is not so much the ultimate penalty as the ultimate reflection of a belief that morality is a contest to be won.
The appeal of believing that is obvious and need not be elaborated on here too much. every religion has its heaven, every secular ideology its utopia. Both have their own variations of hell where the good guys get to rub the losers face in it. The truth though is that morality is no such thing. The problem with being murdered is strictly the matter of being dead, not the insult of having been killed by someone else.
None of us will ever enjoy the moment when we are proven righteous before heaven and made invulnerable to harm by our righteousness. The pursuit of that moment will turn a good conscientious person into something ugly. They will become convinced that the mere existence of any bad behavior is in itself proof that the behavior is not being punished harshly enough. This might feel good for awhile, to see oneself as a brave enforcer of decency in a world full of cowards. But as one grows older and weaker, and they realize that their moment of perfect safety, potency, and glowing admiration of others isn't going to happen, they will become nothing but shriveled balls of hate and condemnation. I've seen it happen myself. These are the ones who go mad at the realization that the cosmic reward for being good is the same oblivion as the punishment for being wicked.
Then there's the fact that to believe in a contest for moral victory is necessarily to at the very least flirt with victory. We all want to be the heroes in the great moral narrative, but nobody wants to face the possibility of accidentally being the bad guy, and so the impulse to believe that one's own goodness is an automatic gift of culture, ethnicity, or religion becomes very strong. Look at the kind of people on death row. They are overwhelmingly Those Sort of People. The ones we still whisper about as obviously dangerous and untrustworthy fifty years after overt White supremicism became taboo.
When this point is made it is common to dismiss it with the false dichotomy of blaming crime on only either personal morality or, our of some perverse cowardice or self-loathing, upon society. This is total bullshit. Not only bullshit, but the fact that White men are the ones more likely to take offense to the assigning of social causes to crime is a clear case of protesting too much. It is our number who are much more likely to see ourselves as personally owning and embodying society as a whole. Formal law has always been a tribal display of power by the Good & Proper People, a way for the privileged to assert paternal moral authority over the underclass and an innate judiciousness within themselves. I am nowhere near idealistic enough to think this greater ritual can be more than slowly changed for the better in my own lifetime. But we can and should at the very least stop murdering the already imprisoned like a pack of fucking ogres.