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Barbarians Inside the Gates: California's Death Penalty
November 24, 2012
by William P. Meyers

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Proposition 34, which would have abolished the death penalty in California if it had passed, received 5,550,896 Yes votes, or 47.8% of those who voted on the issue. No voters prevailed: 6,061,701, amounting to 52.2% of the vote.

Compare those results to the Barack Obama win in California: he received 7,262,836 votes to Mitt Romney's 4,580,933, or 59.8% to 37.7%. While neither Obama nor Romney made an issue of the death penalty, presumably most anti-death penalty voters were Obama voters, excepting the 78,123 who voted for Jill Stein, and the 49,981 who voted for Roseanne Barr, who both belong to parties (Green and Peace & Freedom, respectively) that oppose the death penalty. I point this out because it shows there must be a substantial portion of Democratic Party voters who are for the death penalty.

While the death penalty is the legal practice of barbarians (primitive, violent, uncivilized people), it is an ancient and comprehensible practice. None of us are too far removed from barbarism. I am tempted to approve of the death penalty if defined to my liking. I might impose it on war criminals, including the present and most past Presidents of the United States.

I see no reason to impose the death penalty on common murderers. War is the greatest crime of all. No American war criminal has ever suffered the death penalty (although U.S. soldiers many have been executed for refusing to obey orders), and only a few have ever been reprimanded.

In war, it is a war crime to kill a soldier who has surrendered or been captured. After World War II the U.S. executed hundreds of Japanese soldiers for this war crime, among others. It is a strange contradiction that the penalty for killing a prisoner of war (POW) involves the victors killing POWs. More notable is that the preponderance of evidence is that far more captured Japanese soldiers were killed by American soldiers during World War II than the other way around. At least partly this can be explained by the fact of U.S. victory; a lot more Japanese soldiers were captured than the reverse. No American soldier was prosecuted for war crimes resulting from World War II actions.

If a captured soldier, who may have already killed hundreds of his opponents in war, is sacrosanct, why is an ordinary California murderer subject to the death penalty? It is ass-backward thinking. It is barbarian thinking.

If you voted to retain the death penalty, you are a barbarian. I am not sure what would civilize you. Maybe you have some deep-seated anger, and need to work on replacing it with a greater understanding of humanity.

I thought California was a progressive state. We are not even qualified to join the European Union, which prohibits the death penalty. Even Turkey is considering abolishing the death penalty as part of the process of joining the European Union. But then Turkey has been civilized a few thousand years longer than California.

We think of radical Islamists who interpret Sharia as requiring the cutting off of thieve's hands as being barbarians (most interpretations of Islam do not subscribe to this). We think of England, or Great Britain, as civilized, but just two centuries ago petty thieves were sentenced to hanging there. Civilization is a process. It is also a balance, because there may be barbarians outside the gates. In California, the barbarians are already inside the gates. We need to civilize them, to help them understand that their primitive gods and culture are no good here.

Hopefully some day soon California will catch up and join the ranks of civilized governments. Canada abolished the capital punishment in 1976. They seem to be doing well without it. Perhaps some day the United States of America will become as civilized as Canada, Europe, Mexico and other nations that have abolished the death penalty. Meanwhile we are in bed with Saudi Arabia and China, as well as Pakistan and North Korea.


This article originally appeared as Barbarians Inside the Gates: California Keeps the Death Penalty at Mendoday.com. This version has been changed to be less Mendocino County specific.

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