Pecan Pie

Social Anxiety from the South

Because it Says More About Me Than it Does About Them

We have a new follower! Woot! My new pal and fellow Georgia Tech fan, Jesse, had some poignant comments about my death penalty critique following the Troy Davis case.

I’d like to respond to that, but didn’t want it to get lost in the comments and I’d also like to respond by point so that I don’t meander too much.

A couple of thoughts, late though they may be. Don’t be so quick to jump on the north’s ad-wagon of equality or civil/moral rights. Boston, New York, DC, Chicago, etc. have some of the worse racism issues in the country. Some cover their tracks well (*cough* Boston) and some are just pure false advertising. I speak on this after having lived, worked, and known many from those areas and have had some first-hand encounters, especially in DC. Georgia, as well as the other southern states, surely has it’s issues, but it’s not any different than any other place.

Indeed. I would never say that the South is alone in its “isms”, certainly not racism. Racism is systematic in the justice system of the entire country, it just happens to be more overt down here. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, I think I’d rather know when someone is being a chauvinist pig outright, but I am not a person of color, so I can’t speak to that.

As for your other issue, I have to disagree. First, there are some seriously sadistic SOB’s out there who will provide nothing to society, ever, period. To not have the death penalty means that you are okay with having society provide these individuals with a better living than homeless veterans (and as a veteran, that makes me sick), because it will undoubtedly come from all of our pockets for however long these people are incarcerated. You only other solution is to do what the jail system is supposed to do currently and attempt to rehabilitate them and then release them back into society, which unfortunately there is a extremely small sample size of that every working compared to thousands upon thousands of cases where it never works. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to release child molesters, murderers, and rapists just so they can do it all over again, except this time they understand the system and what not to do so they can evade capture and continue doing these things for longer. Sorry, but imo, there are certain ones that should be done away with.

First, I reject that this is an “either/or” situation. Plenty of other countries have much more humane criminal justice practices and in turn, have much lower rates of violent crime. Doing away with the DP=/=doing away with justice.  I also reject that because I am anti-DP automatically means I am pro our current veterans policy.  My fiance is a vet, as are my grandfather, my uncle and all of my great uncles…and my adopted sister is an Army reservist.  Let’s not make straw men or red herrings, okay?  There’s plenty enough to discuss about this without bringing in other issues that certainly need addressing.

Second, this is where I think I am the most misunderstood. I absolutely agree that there are some people who don’t deserve to walk the Earth. Currently, Sandusky is coming to mind (Did you hear the interview? The lies. I learned some of the tells of a liar from a Ted Talks video, watch it and see if you can come up with the same ones I did.)

(I also think certain types of people should have more children and certain others should have zero, bringing me dangerously close to eugenics, which is fine for a personal ideal, but I would never support that as public policy. Let it never be said that my personal idealism is predictable.)

This is not the point and I’ll tell you why.

When Muammar Gaddafi was captured, his would be captors immediately began to exact revenge, sodomizing him with weapons and dragging him through the streets.

Did he deserve that? Absolutely, he did. By all accounts the man was a sociopath with a psychotic pathology coupled with far above average intelligence; a horrible combination that terrorized an entire nation for more than 40 years.

However, I stopped to think about what I would do. What if Sandusky had touched my child? What would I do? I certainly understand vigilante justice, but does that make it right? For me, it doesn’t. Because if I can harm someone in the same way (or worse) than that person has harmed another, then that means I am just as capable of horrible actions as that person. It means that we are more similar than I am comfortable with. Just because something is legal or sanctioned or understandable does not mean that it is right or good or just.

It’s about my character (which my country represents when it carries out justice in the name of its citizens), it is about what I am capable of and it is about who I want to be.

In short, it’s about me…not about them.

Now, where does that line get drawn and who makes that decision I have no clue. As it currently stands, I think the death penalty system could use some serious revamping and in cases such as the one stated in your post above, it probably should be removed from the table of options. I’ve read through as much info as I can from that case, and my opinion there’s enough room for doubt not to convict, but it’s not up to me.

This is exactly the legal reason why it should be abolished. Because we can’t seem to carry it out in a way that even remotely resembles justice. My philosophical reasons aside, it is expensive, it is carried out in a systematically discriminatory way, it is NOT carried out for the worst crimes (but often for crimes that seem quite mundane, really), there’s lots of evidence that it is unduly cruel (and if we are to maintain we are ‘civilized’ humane euthanasia should be of the utmost importance) and once you kill someone, there’s no recourse. They’re dead and if it turns out you’re wrong, what then? As Rick Perry said, “Oops?”

Either way, I hope that none of my personal opinions on this matter divide us from our mutual love of GT. THWG!

Anyone who knows me knows that agreeing me with is far down the list, as in, “not anywhere on it”, of requirements to be my friend. Long live football and To Hell With u(sic)GA!

Written by thelittlepecan

November 15, 2011 at 10:53 am

Posted in atheism

6 Responses

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  1. You’re right, there’s no direct correlation. There’s an INdirect correlation (inverse affect), which means as more humane criminal policy is enacted, violent behavior decreases.

    There’s no causal relationship, but unfortunately, in the social sciences, we don’t DO that, actually CAN’T do that because of the number of factors impossible to control for. But, if you’re interested, I can probably seek out a number of studies on the impact of criminal justice policies on non-violent society.

    You did not come across as accusatory at all. 🙂

    Ah, the point from emotion. I’m a mom, like I said, I get it. And, I’m not much on morality, but I am a lot on integrity…and I think you are, too. While I think it is really easy to say, “Yes, this is what I would do…or this is what I would want done.” When the time comes what we do may haunt us forever, or what is done on our behalf might as well.

    I am certainly of the belief that each of our rights stop at the end of our nose, but I don’t think anyone’s “right” to kill another for revenge (because at that point, it ceases to be “justice”) supersedes a right to say, “Hey, are we sure this is the right, best, just, humane way to deal with problems?”

    Most people are not born killers. And I’m of the belief that since our society seems to turn out SO many of them, comparatively in the developed world, it is wrong to say, “We helped create this mess, but the responsibility is all on you, you fucked up, now hope up in that chair and hold out your arm for the needle.”

    It’s barbaric.

    It’s also part of a great problem of individualistic, narcissism in this country that prevents us from working for the greater good…because we’re more concerned with getting ours and fuck everyone else. But, I digress…

    I just find that on a number of levels; our reputation on the greater world stage, the impact on society of a violent criminal justice system, and the fact that the “overhaul” we both seem to think is important is, in fact, not coming, makes it impossible to implement the DP in any type of decent and honorable way. I have reasons both concrete (such as the economic) and reasons that are purely philosophic, which are highlighted in the article below.

    (Feel free to send me your link and I’ll be happy to put it up.)

    I’ll leave you with this, and if it doesn’t tell you I’m a dirty, hippie, socialist, nut-job liberal…nothing will!

    My Take: If Rwandans can forgive killings, we can forgive the waitress

    By Jeremy Cowart, Special to CNN

    Would you forgive the bully that tripped you in 3rd grade? What about the terrible service from that lazy waitress? Or the guy who cut you off on the interstate?

    What about the man who murdered your children? If he asked you for forgiveness, would you grant it? Would you agree to spend time with him – maybe one day call him your friend?

    That’s what some in Rwanda are doing: Forgiving and reconciling with murderers who killed their children, friends, siblings and parents during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

    I recently met some of them face-to-face.

    My journey to them began a year ago, when I attended a conference for young Christians called Catalyst. A filmmaker named Laura Waters Hinson presented her documentary “As We Forgive,” about a pair of Rwandan women on a journey to reconcile with the men who slaughtered their families.

    The 1994 genocide had seen tens of thousands of Rwandan Hutus, provoked by extremist propaganda, kill roughly 800,000 Tutsi neighbors. Hinson had been showing her film across Rwanda to encourage reconciliation in schools, churches and villages.

    After she spoke, I presented “Voices of Haiti,” a series of photos I captured in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

    At the conference, Hinson and I discussed combining our projects into a “Voices of Reconciliation” photo series. We wanted Rwandans to have an opportunity to make their own statements to the world. Nine months later, I was in Rwanda, working with Hinson and her team.

    I grew up in the church and am a practicing Christian. I’ve heard “love your neighbor” and “forgive others because God forgave you” my entire life. But I don’t recall my church ever discussing the idea of forgiving killers.

    Our culture certainly doesn’t promote the idea. The terms we discuss are “death penalty” vs. “life sentence.” We expect full justice at every turn.

    No one ever goes so far as to say, “You know, you might consider forgiving the guy that killed your dad.” And who would suggest building a relationship with the murderer?

    But what if we did forgive because “God forgave us?” Christians believe that God offers forgiveness to the worst of humanity. God, via the death of Jesus, traded places with humanity, bearing the punishment for sin that everyone else deserved. For Rwandans, it’s this theological principle that’s enabling a growing phenomenon of radical forgiveness.

    Let’s put beliefs aside. What if our entire culture – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, whatever – forgave everyone, even our worst enemies?

    What if we generously tipped our waitress after terrible service? What if we stopped counting the wrongs of our spouse and gave them a clean slate? What if we forgave the uncle who sexually abused us as a child?

    From what I witnessed in Rwanda, this kind of radical grace is possible. While incredibly difficult to accomplish – especially if the offender has not admitted their wrong and asked for forgiveness, it’s a force that has the power to tear down walls and free hearts.

    Hinson, whose film led to the creation of a Rwandan reconciliation organization, says that “some Rwandans liken unforgiveness to the experience of having acid eat you from the inside out. Others describe it like being trapped in a prison of hatred.”

    “For the victims,” she says, “forgiving their offenders is a way of setting themselves free from the chains of anger and bitterness.”

    On the other hand, I was struck by meeting many perpetrators whose burden of guilt seemed to weigh almost as heavily on them as the victims’ burden of pain. Forgiveness released both ends of the burden. It is perhaps the greatest thing I’ll ever see in my lifetime.

    The guys in the photo above wrote a message on their arms: “Love is the weapon that destroys all evil.”

    It’s hard to believe that the man named Innocent, left, murdered five people, including the brother of Gespard, right. They are standing on the site of the executions.

    After serving a few years in prison, Innocent was released upon confessing to his crimes. He begged Gespard for forgiveness during a reconciliation workshop sponsored by the As We Forgive Rwanda Initiative.

    Like many Rwandans, these men participated in a reconciliation process that involved months of workshops, along with praying and doing agricultural work together, part of an ingenious effort to encourage reconciliation and alleviate poverty at the same time.

    Today, Innocent and Gespard count each other as friends.

    Other messages that survivors and perpetrators wrote on their signs are “Brothers in Forgiveness,” “Truth restores trust” and “We restored our humanity.”

    Maybe we start small and decide to forgive the waitress, no matter what. Maybe if we begin with small acts of grace, we could one day find ourselves practicing radical grace and restoring humanity, too.

    The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jeremy Cowart. Cowart’s and Hinson’s work in Rwanda was funded by a grant from the SEVEN Fund, an organization that promotes enterprise solutions to poverty.


    November 16, 2011 at 10:01 am

    • Sorry, I disagree. IMO, there is no correlation at all, indirect nor direct, between varying degrees of criminal justice and the rate of violent crime. I disagree that we created these individuals in any way as a result of the existing criminal justice system. It’s been scientifically proven that certain individuals are indeed born with psychotic tendencies and that when raised under the right circumstances those individuals are essentially cultivated into sadistic killers and molesters and rapists. I fail to see how telling these groups that they don’t have to fear for their lives is going to make them less inclined to commit these heinous acts.

      I think where we differ is in our fundamental definition of what justice is and where the it becomes blurry and crosses over into revenge. For me, the difference is simple. It’s revenge when it’s personal and on the individual level. It’s justice when as a society we have decided what the punishment should be and it has been decided by the whole, not the individual. Those that are sentenced to death are not done so lightly and it weighs heavily on those that make that final decision. I’m no lawyer and I have no intention in researching this, but I’ve never read about a case where the only option for justice was the death penalty or an acquittal. If that is indeed true, then I have to believe that society is indeed thinking hard about when to dish out the DP and when not too. Otherwise, I think we would see a much higher rate of those cases than we do.

      I’d much rather we stop the next BK killer or Hitler or serial child rapist early on than find out that they continued on because we removed our ability to stop them to begin with. I know exactly where I stand and in concrete cases, I’d have no qualms about flipping that switch. There will always be instance where the facts are just too fuzzy to come to a solid conclusion, and in those I agree that the DP should be removed from the list of options.

      I’ll just have to politely agree to disagree on this, but I do thank you for letting me be a part of this discussion. I love to debate things, even if I really have no dog in the fight. This was fun and I look forward to many more like it. Oh, the link isn’t mine, but rather From The Rumble Seat on SBNation where I write (Jesse28).

      Jesse Gregg

      November 16, 2011 at 8:53 pm

      • There’s no opinion on correlation. It either is or it isn’t. That’s sort of the great thing about numbers, and amazingly, something I find I love after a long time of thinking I hated them.

        It’s statistics, which is one thing I actually do know something about. There is a statistical, significant, indirect correlation between certain types of criminal justice systems and lower violent crime. You don’t have to agree that’s a good thing, but it is A THING.

        If all of society doesn’t agree, then it’s not justice. There’s a large portion of society that doesn’t. If we don’t agree on a method, then it can’t be justice. If I was the lone wolf, I could accept a societal norm and still say it was wrong. There’s too much difference of opinion.

        But, overall, I still think my larger point is being missed. If we can’t carry it out correctly, then we can’t carry it out. If it’s discriminatory, if it’s inhumane, if it’s actually unjust and were killing innocent people, then it must stop.

        The Rumble Seat is over there 🙂

        I hope you don’t have any dogs…in any fights 😉


        November 16, 2011 at 9:05 pm

  2. I apologize for my comments coming across as assuming you are pro- or anti- one way or the other. That was not my intent. I have a bad habit of using the word ‘you’ to represent the whole of society or just as a general sweeping term. I don’t think that it is entirely an either/or situation, there are just too many nuances in this topic to make it that cut and dry. However, your statement regarding other countries’ policies and their lower violent crime rate is also not that cut and dry either. There is no direct correlation between the two and it is surely isn’t a cause and affect relationship. Or rather, I’ve seen no direct evidence of that.

    Again, I apologize if my 1’s and 0’s came across as accusatory. The veteran issue was just an example of the ‘injustice’ of the justice system. If you’ve read my posts over at FTRS, then you know that being a veteran is something that is very important to me, so at times, I find it easier to discuss dicey subjects by relating it to my past.

    I will agree that it is absolutely about each individual and what they would do. Each of us have to look within ourselves and decide where that line is drawn. However, I can’t agree that my line is any more important than your line or yours is more important than mine, and therefore I can’t agree that the death penalty should be abolished because an individual’s edge of morality ends before arriving at ending someone’s life. I know that’s going to come across cruel or harsh or maybe even sadistic, but that’s where I stand. I’m going to use an example, not in an attempt to change your mind because that’s obviously not the point of any good discussion regardless of the topic (and let’s be honest, if hell hath no fury, then certainly no one can change the convictions of a strong woman, amiright!? haha), but merely to illustrate my reasoning. Maybe it’s not needed, but hey, I enjoy a good debate.

    Here in Jacksonville, a few years ago a little girl went missing while walking home from school with her older sister. She took off running and got around a corner out of sight from her sister. Their house was only a few blocks away so she figured she would catch up to her. She came around the corner and her sister was gone and she wasn’t at home. There was a big search, and after a tip or two, and a lucky break, they found her. Unfortunately, it was in a landfill in south Georgia and in multiple trash bags. It turns out the culprit had a past and found a way to get through the system of reporting himself and was living two or three houses down from the girl.

    Now, I can tell you right now, without any hesitation, what my decision would be. Locking this guy up for the remainder of his natural lifespan serves no purpose. There is no rehabilitation for that and no evidence that any attempt has even remotely come close to working. If that’s the case, then that leaves us footing the bill so this guy has a warm place to live, free food, free cable, free clothes, medical (regardless of how limited all of the previous items may be, they are still being provided by the tax payers), and he’ll never contribute anything back to society such as paying taxes or providing free labor. I don’t want that. I want no part is providing this scum a life support system. And let’s say he spends ten to fifteen years in and finds (FSM ftw!) and connives his way into parole, what then? He lays low for a while until the next little girl comes along and we’re right back where we started. No thank you, end the cycle before it begins.

    So, tldr version: you are right in that the system isn’t perfect and it needs a serious update, but I disagree that simply doing away with the death penalty is the solution to that or a solution to the crimes that it’s supposed to deter.

    Good discussion. And, you’re missing something on the right——–>

    Jesse Gregg

    November 15, 2011 at 11:31 pm

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