Is the Death Penalty Conservative?
My reverence for life is as unshakable as any conservative who "believes with perfect faith" that life begins at conception.
But what about death?
How can I fight for the sanctity of life while I condone the premature death of even the most evil among us?
While I may be part of a small minority in our Republican Party, I, too, "believe with perfect faith" that there is a blanket of life which ought to surround all human beings from conception to a natural conclusion. This means that just as I oppose the killing of the unborn, I must also oppose the killing of those already born when society takes revenge in the form of a death penalty.
Yet, as a conservative and constitutional originalist, I do not base my opposition to death upon religion alone. It would be just as wrong to establish my religious beliefs as the "law of the land" as it would be to forbid the free exercise of those whose religion differs from mine.
No, my opposition to death is based on more practical conservative principles.
I believe in law and order. The most heinous crimes deserve the toughest penalties. And the death penalty is not nearly as punishing as a life condemned to a cramped concrete cell 20 hours per day.
Capital crimes are committed by persons who believe that their lives are superior to those of the ones they kill. The murderer sacrifices his victim so that he can receive benefit from that death. It is a grossly exaggerated concept of self-worth that drives the evil of murder.
Yet those sentenced to death are given our attention for years after their trials are concluded. We give them appeals through the state court system, only to begin again with writs of habeas corpus to the federal bench. We segregate them on "death row" with special treatment in honor of their state of condemnation.
And then, if the criminal makes it to the death chamber, we hold vigils outside the prison. The prisoner is honored with a "last meal"; and we make sure that his death is as peaceful for him as it was torturous for his victim.
Those who commit evil ought not be honored with recognition. They need to be rendered obscure and irrelevant. Each day of their lives needs to be long, boring and as robbed of purpose as the victim was robbed of his purpose in life.
Moreover, the life of a murderer must be as arduous for him as it will continue to be for the family of the victim. The capital criminal must know that he will never again celebrate a Christmas or a birthday with those who love him, regardless of whether he loves anyone.
Life in prison without the possibility of parole means that for a capital criminal, life until the natural end of his days must be more heinous than the peace that painless injection brings to an evil mind. The criminal should not be given an easy way out. He should be forced every day to contemplate his actions and ask for forgiveness from his victim and his God.
I have always been fascinated with the concept of "purgatory," that place between death and final judgment where sins are fully exposed and divine forgiveness is finally decided. I believe that serving in prison at hard labor, kept away from the surrounding world, forms a purgatory on Earth. It is where a capital criminal is left destitute with only one way to escape certain hell, that being a lifetime of repentance in living conditions that make him as small as the acts he committed.
Most of the time, life is a gift as wonderful as the potential for good that is the prognosis of those conceived but unborn. Yet it can also be a punishing burden for a murderer wallowing in the hopelessness and humiliation of prison stench.
Death, either by abortion or lethal injection, serves little, if any purpose to promote the good of society. Yet in both cases, life has its purpose.
For conservatives who recognize the "blanket of life," we must acknowledge both ends of the cloth.
Robert M. Levy is chairman of the Moore County Republican Party. Contact him at Law52@prodigy.net.
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