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The latest debates and debacles reveal a schizophrenic attitude toward the death penalty in general. On the one hand, the majority is for the death penalty, falsely convincing itself that it works as a deterrent and that the condemned "deserve" it. That works out psychologically to implementing the death penalty as revenge. But we as a society are not willing to state it so bluntly.

On the other hand, we are squeamish about the brutality and so have moved to the lethal injection fantasy as if it were as painless as putting down a pet. But the medical community is unwilling to play along with that self delusion.

The United States is the only society that has moved massively to lethal injection as a means of carrying out capital punishment. That is the result of severe ambivalence toward it. For all the chest-thumping calls for (Texas-like) quick and frequent application of the death penalty, which should not shy from forms like hanging or the recent judicially recommended firing squad, almost all states that have the death penalty now prescribe lethal injection.

This is primarily to try to give the act of killing someone an air of sanitary serenity, like putting a beloved puppy "to sleep." It is, however, really psychologically in opposition to the above mentioned bravado which calls for death even though actual data that it is not a deterrent and that other societies have less violent crime without it are simply ignored in the lust for revenge. Even Texas uses injection and now we are discovering that this supposedly merciful method is resulting in equally gruesome results.

Another sign of society's reluctance is the number of actual executions that take place as opposed to death sentences given. No more is this more apparent that California, whose death penalty was recently declared unconstitutional due to the infrequency and randomness of actual executions, which take place an average of 25 years after sentencing if at all. Such cumbersome bureaucracy is a symptom of our ambivalence as a society--admit it or not--that we are uncomfortable with the death penalty to the point of self-deception.

This will not be solved by resorting back to some more "direct and honest" method, but rather by our facing as a country our true feeling about inflicting this punishment on anyone, no matter how "deserved" it may appear.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Somewhat denigrating of mental illness (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and, that said, symptoms of schizophrenia can be treated and improved. Americans politics is simply fucked.

    The 'disparate"attitudes about the 'death penalty'  come from a mix of rehab and punishment ideologies at work in the prion/justice system.

    I have never understood death as a "punishment'. If it has to be used, its always on people who have done heinous things and will forever be a danger to society. You simply cull them and be done with it.

    However, it is inextricably barbaric and that was what the call for reversion to firing squads is about. People wanted to sanitize execution and even if you wrapped a criminal in saran wrap head to toe and sealed them in concrete, it would still be barbaric, even though nobody saw anything.

    Factor in America's absolutely broken prosecutorial system (innocent people in jail a lot) and it's clear we should just stick with LWOP. Dangerous criminal remain in jail forever and the innocent one - which are being found and exonerated all the time - are still alive.

    Unsure why people want to stick with it.

    Legal means "good".
    [41984 | Feb 4, 2005]

    by xxdr zombiexx on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 03:47:42 PM PDT

  •  maybe not so much "schizophrenic" as passive- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    aggressive denial by corporate people to not carry out the law of the land. It may be time to do away with the death penalty. But until we do- where it is the law it ought to be carried out right. We know "putting to sleep" can be done because we do it on the "animal model" every day. If a corporation sells a product in the public sphere they should have to sell it to everyone, right? Even if said corporation objects to what the buyer will do with it, right? Or is it? Who gets to say, these days?

    We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

    by nuclear winter solstice on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 05:03:11 PM PDT

  •  I prefer Carlin's solution (0+ / 0-)

    You're absolutely right that American society is deeply ambivalent about the death penalty. We seem to want to experience that special feeling you get when exacting the ultimate vengeance, but yet are so squeamish about the whole process. That's just silly -  why not fully embrace and experience the gruesome violence in all of its glory?

    "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

    by quill on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 06:55:24 PM PDT

  •  Did you know that (0+ / 0-)

    schizophrenia is a real disease?  And it has nothing to do with on the one hand this and on the other hand that.

    The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

    by dfarrah on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 10:05:40 PM PDT

    •  Did you also know that the word schizophrenic (0+ / 0-)

      also has a colloquial, non-clinical dictionary definition as:
      "a state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements."

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