Even though people believe that there is God’s punishment which is waiting for every person after death and he will answer for all his sins, there have always been cases when people decided to provide that punishment earlier, when a person is still alive. However, in my opinion only God is allowed to provide punishment in the world because he is completely just while people are sinful and weak and thus they have no right for that.
There are no innocent people on Earth and since they are all sinning, it’s another sin of theirs to allow putting criminals to death. One person cannot decide the fate of another person, he simply has no right for that. God teaches us to answer with goodness for bad things which others do to us, this is the law which everybody hears since early childhood. If you answer with crime to somebody’s crime, it will never bring any good to you, it will also transform into some other crime later.
We all remember Fennimore Coopers’ novel The Deerslayer; or, The First War-Path. One of the most remarkable places in this novel deals with Hattie Hatter’s try to convince Indian chiefs to let her Father and her friend go even though they were caught by the tribe when they were trying to kill an Indian girl and get her scalp to sell it to the governor. She shows the Bible to the Indians and tells them that if they want peace and happiness, they have to answer with goodness for the crime which white people were trying to do.
The girl has a very light brain but she adores the Bible and understands only the goodness of the world. When Indians disagree, poor girl cannot understand why they don’t want to forgive and follow what was written in the Bible. Nowadays, those people who support the capital punishment are similar to those Indian chiefs who are incapable to forgive and who think that revenge always has to be taken.
In middle ages, it was a very common thing to perform capital punishment for those who were criminals, according to the vision of that particular epoch. We remember lots of cases in literature when many women were burnt on fire because they were considered witches, however there was hardly any evidence about them every doing any black magic, so most of those women were dying innocent. The same could apply to men if they were considered sorcerers- as soon as it was proved, the fire burnt them, too.
In lots of French novels this topic was covered in details- for example, in a famous historical series of novels of Anne and Serge Golon “Angelique”, the husband is the main character was considered a sorcerer because he appeared to have more money than the King Of France himself and he was supposed to be burnt on fire as a criminal. Another reason for people being put to death at that time was certainly connected with their sins on Earth. There were many cases when people were put to death because of crimes which they were doing or just because they were born noble and if power in the country changed, they were put to death by new winners.
We all remember the tragic fate of Mary, Queen of Scotts who was executed by Elizabeth I and her sufferings were depicted by R. Burns in his poem “Lament of Mary, Queen of Scots, on the Approach of Spring” where he sympathizes to her very much: …Oh! Soon, to me, may summer suns Nae mair light up the morn! Nae mair, to me, the autumn winds Wave o’er the yellow corn! And in the narrow house of death Let winter round me rave; And the next flowers that deck the spring Bloom on my peaceful grave!
There were lots of other examples of execution in literature which are known to the world now. A famous example is depicted in Alexander Duma’s novel “Three Musketeers” where Lady Winter is executed by musketeers themselves because she killed lots of people & her executors understand that with her high position in the society, she would never be put to death by court. They tell her that all the crimes which she did made both God and people lose patience, so they have to put her to death and they consider it the only right decision.
However, middle ages have passed and people have become more cultured, so the problem of capital punishment is not only a problem of some particular person who wants to regard himself as a judge but also of the mankind in general. We don’t burn witches anymore and don’t let people whose family suffered because of criminals be their judges because a more objective opinion is needed. Returning to the present times, we would like to mention that each year there are about 250 people added to death row and 35 executed.
The death penalty is the harshest form of punishment enforced in the US today and there are lots of people who argue that it’s just to put people to death and those who consider it a severe form of punishment and object to it. The technique of putting a person to the capital punishment is the following. Once the jury has convicted the criminal offense they go to the second part of the trial, the punishment phase and if the jury suggests the death penalty and the judge agrees then the criminal will face some form of capital punishment. The most common form of capital punishment now is lethal injection.
If in the Middle Ages people were using ropes to hang people or guns to shoot them or cutting their heads off or burning them, now the means of execution have become milder but does it make any difference for a person who is put to death? It only makes a difference to the politicians who adopt the laws because in their eyes the death of such a person appears not as painful as in the Middle Ages. It seems a kinder way of executing a person because he doesn’t have to suffer as much as centuries ago. But execution remains execution in any case and it’s impossible to ever consider it just.
To support our point of view, we can turn to the opinion of Sherman Alexie who is the author of “Capital Punishment” as well as other books and who argues that even if he or his wife were murdered by some criminal, they would still want him alive after that. No matter how much they would be suffering, they would still not want this person dead because they have no right to punish the person, it has to be done by God. If somebody whom you love is dead and you will never be able to see him or her, the revenge will never do anything, it’s just the waste of your own life.
The death of the criminal will never bring your dear person back to you. Sherman Alexie disagrees with the policy of Bush’s administration: “According to their rulebook, the United Methodist Church “officially opposes capital punishment and urges its elimination from all criminal codes. ” And yet the sacrilegious Bush presided over the executions of 132 convicted criminals while he was Texas’ governor. During a 2000 interview with the conservative journalist Tucker Carlson, W. wickedly mocked Karla Faye Tucker, the only woman to be executed in Texas during the 20th century. When Carlson asked W. ow he felt about pleas for Karla Faye’s clemency, he pretended to be her on death row, and whimpered, “Please don’t kill me. ” Another author who stands against capital punishment is Seamus Heaney. In his poem ‘Punishment’ he shows his tender attitude towards a girl who was put to death because of her betraying sisters and describes all the horror which he feels when looking at her hanging on the tree. Seamus Heaney calls the girl by loving names like ‘’poor scapegoat”, “little adulteress” and he expresses all the grief which the view of the girl put to death gives to him.
He describes what he sees with so many details that even the cruelest reader cannot help dropping tears: I can feel the tug of the halter at the nape of her neck, the wind on her naked front. It blows her nipples to amber beads, it shakes the frail rigging of her ribs… After reading all those words it should become clear to everybody that no matter what a person has ever done, we have no right to put him or her to death. In some cases, it might be even a mistake and an innocent person will be executed.
But even if the person is a criminal, we still have to leave punishment to God because he is our creator and he is the one who decides what punishment each of us deserves. Even if a person doesn’t get a deserved punishment on Earth, he will get it after he dies and we don’t need to speed up that process. Everybody will answer for his own sins but we are not the ones who are supposed to punish him. After we mentioned some authors who are against execution, we cannot neglect famous people arguing for the necessity of capital punishment.
One of them is John Stuart Mille who argues, among other things, that “… the most that human laws can do to anyone in the matter of death is to hasten it; the man would have died at any rate; not so very much later, and on the average, I fear, with a considerably greater amount of bodily suffering…” As a conclusion it’s important to mention that there are lots of arguments for and against capital punishment and some of them are really reasonable. However, since a person was created by God, we have to be guided by the Bible in this matter and it teaches us to forgive and to be good to our enemies. It is impossible to support capital punishment and claim that you live according to Bible, so in my opinion, capital punishment should not be performed our society.
1. Dinner and Auction a Success. Spring Newsletter 2001, vol. 16, #2. 2. James Fennimore Cooper. The Deerslayer; or, The First War-Path. 3. John Stuart Mille. Speech given before Parliament on April 21, 1868. 4. Robert Burns. “Lament of Mary, Queen of Scots, on the Approach of Spring” 5. Seamus Heaney. Punishment. 6. Sherman Alexie. Capital Punishment.