We recently published one of the most powerful articles we have ever carried. Ronnie Convery reacts.
The idea of capital punishment has always horrified me. My revulsion may have been the result of a documentary I saw as a child, or articles about the hellish reality of botched executions. It is only exacerbated by reading about the gruesome liturgy which accompanies state-sponsored execution, all those hateful stages which precede the killing, as if to give it a semblance of legitimacy.
The tragic solemnity of the last meal being delivered for the prisoner shortly to be electrocuted to death; the early morning knock at the door for the man or woman to be hanged by the neck until he or she stops breathing; the banal horror of the banked seating set up to allow witnesses to see a human being writhe on a gurney as he or she is injected with powerful poisons to bring about death in front of an audience … all of it fills me with dread and profound sadness.
This practice is one of the most powerful cultural chasms between the US, Japan and China (among others) on one side, and the nations of western Europe, Canada and 100 or so others (the most recent being Sierra Leone) which have abolished capital punishment, on the other.
Whatever foul deed any human being has done, the society which decides it is appropriate to deliberately kill said human being has, in my opinion, failed in its duty to uphold the most basic standards of humanity, and the most basic scriptural commandment – Thou shalt not kill.
When religious believers signal their support for what the poet Robert Burns memorably called ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ it is all the more galling, whether that be in public stonings ordered by a Muslim cleric or a placard held by Bible bashers of the southern American states demonstrating outside prisons for the execution of a condemned prisoner.
Religion cannot and should not be used to defend brutality, cruelty and acts of utter inhumanity.
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