Monday, December 19, 2005

Killing time in California or California Uber Alles

Pealbear wrote on her blog:
Until yesterday, I'd been quite taken with my newly adopted state of California. The Bay Area seems to be a fun place to live. On my trip down to Santa Barbara for Thanksgiving, I had a real appreciation for the beauty and landscape of California.
Living in California is different. Tookie Willams was executed 15 miles from where I live now.

Like the man said, "California is a Garden of Eden. A paradise to live in or see. But believe it or not, you won't find it so hot, if you ain't got the do-re-mi."

More than once I have driven a visitor across the Golden Gate Bridge or across the Richmond San Rafael bridge and had someone ask about that buidling over there across the bay and seen the confusion in their eyes when facing the death row of "liberal, anything goes" California.

In my childhood down below what is either called the Orange Curtain or the Manson-Nixon Line, the shock to my visitors was the checkpoints on the highway where La Migra look in on your cars to see if you are white enough to drive from San Diego to Orange County or Riverside. From the San Clemente checkpoint you can just about see our nuclear power plant as well.

I'm a fourth generation Californian. I remember when the death penalty came back and I have been at the protest vigils for all but two of the executions that have happened since I moved to Northern California.

While I can recognize the desire and maybe even the occasional appropriateness of the desire to kill certain people (my pacifism is not absolute), I do not find it appropriate to let governments get into the business of killing people. Even if I am not sure about God, I will not willingly render unto Caesar the powers of life and death.

It is always intrinsically dangerous when we put the fiction (what James Luther Adams might call idolatry) of nations and states ahead of the reality of life and community.

I do not believe in the inherent worth and dignity of governments. I am a government servant and I believe that governments can sometimes serve human needs and the common good but are only justified to the extent that they do so.

I have served on a jury and appeared in front of judges. I do not delegate to any 12 of my peers or to anyone in a robe the right to decide who should live or die. This is not out of any lack of love for those peers or any potential judges (my attorney brother and sister in law would make great judges for what its worth). As an undergraduate, I studied jury psychology and the problems with eyewitness testimony and questioning (I got my only A+ in Psychology and the Law taught by Ebbe Ebbeson).

We are only human and our institutions are more so.

Rest in peace, Tookie. As we scatter your ashes to the wind may the world build the peace you worked towards. May we all know redemption and reconciliation.


At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, jfield, great to see you back blogging again. Sorry it has to be over such a dismal topic, though.

You have to wonder if the death penalty hardens people's hearts. First you start with the death penalty -- next step, stretching definitions so that you can torture political prisoners -- next step?....

-- Dan Harper

At 5:23 AM, Blogger Bill Baar said...

Jesus's isn't the great teacher for me but I was struck by this anon comment over at Galley Slaves,

Jesus had a perfect "teaching moment" on the cross when one of the two criminals stated "we deserve what is done to us but he is innocent." He didn't say anything about the death penalty, he chose to note that even in death the "good" thief would be with him in heaven. Jesus had every opportunity to oppose the death penalty, like he opposed divorce long established, he did not. In so far as the Church teaches the death penalty should be dealt only in heinous cases, after due process and a chance at repentence in the hereafter it ought to be heeded. This new, "no death penalty" position strikes me as a piety of a dessicated Europe and not a living Faith.

At 5:31 AM, Blogger Bill Baar said...

re: Dan's Comment on hardening of hearts.

Viewing brutality certain can and does harden hearts. It's a foe that finds execution videos useful recruiting tools we fight today. See my link to the recent execution video of Ronald Allen Schulz or my earlier link to Middle East Media Research translation of the Islamist website with a whole inventory of such brutal videos here.

The camera operator botched the beheading of Daniel Pearl so they had to put his head back on his body and repeat it. Then the post this stuff on the net to recruit followers.

So yes, brutality does begat brutality and unfortunately it takes war to protect ourselves from these brutalized folks.

Tookie too was a brutal person. He called his gang the "crips" because they crippled and maimed their foes.

And that really is the tough thing in life, figuring out how to keep the world sane without caving in to the thugs.


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