Why Capital Punishment Is Justified

From a practical point of view, capital punishment works.  It permanently removes vicious criminals from society so they cannot repeat their crimes, and it deters others from committing murder.  But there is more to it than practicality.
From a spiritual point of view, capital punishment is justified for two reasons.  Consider the case of a convicted murderer who is in prison for life with no chance of parole, and who then commits murder in prison.  There have been such cases.  What punishment could be imposed in that situation?  Another life sentence?  That would mean nothing to the convict; it doesn’t change his circumstances in the least.  A literal slap on the wrist would actually be more severe.  The only proper punishment in such a situation is death.  Otherwise, the person can go on murdering, even in prison, because there is no other effective deterrent. (Life in solitary confinement is regarded as cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore has been ruled unconstitutional.)  
That is the first justification for capital punishment:  simple fairness to society, even when “society” is merely a prison population.  It removes an incorrigible murderer from that society, so that he can never again repeat his offense.  Statistics show that about 20% of all murders are committed by recidivist felons.
The second justification for capital punishment is that it creates an opportunity for the condemned person to contemplate death more deeply and thereby possibly gain spiritual growth.  As Samuel Johnson, the English lexicographer, put it, “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows that he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”  
Spiritual traditions use death as a focus for meditative practices, and capital punishment imposes the circumstances where a condemned person is being strongly encouraged to inspect the subjects of mortality, the afterlife and, for religions which hold the doctrine of reincarnation, the wheel of death-and-rebirth.  Thereby society may compassionately hope for a “deathbed conversion”—i.e., true repentance and remorse.  Any growth in consciousness resulting from that will be carried over into the postmortem process by which the deceased is (from a Christian perspective) judged or (from an Eastern perspective) reincarnated for further opportunity to attain enlightenment.  Thus, capital punishment serves the condemned person’s spiritual awakening.
Although capital punishment is justified from a spiritual point of view, it should be imposed only under very restricted circumstances and with the strongest possible safeguards to avoid taking the life of a wrongly convicted innocent person.  The means of imposing the sentence should be humane, such as lethal injection.  Hanging, electrocution and the gas chamber are crude and sensational, inflicting unnecessary pain.  The only exception to that which I see as proper is a firing squad in military circumstances for someone found guilty of a capital crime such as treason or desertion in the face of the enemy.  In such cases, military tradition should be upheld in honor.
 There must be concern about the possibility of executing an innocent, wrongly convicted person, of course; that is of utmost importance for a civil society.  Legislators should therefore require measures to assure that only the guilty are executed.  But if an innocent person is wrongly executed, that is not the fault of capital punishment; that is a failure of the judicial system through which the investigation and trial took place.
Some opponents of capital punishment cite the Sixth Commandment as the basis for their objection.  As translated in the King James Version of the Bible, the Sixth Commandment reads, “Thou shalt not kill.”  However, that is an inaccurate translation which has misled people to conclude that the commandment prohibits all killing.  Biblical scholarship shows that an accurate translation is “Thou shalt not commit murder.”  There is a significant difference.  In Hebraic law of Old Testamental times, murder was defined as unlawfully taking a life—i.e., causing the death of an innocent person.  There were various degrees of homicide ranging from accidental and unintended cases to the worst form of homicide, premeditated murder.  The penalty prescribed for premeditated murder was capital punishment.  (See the entry for “murder” in Harper’s Bible Dictionary.)  So opponents of capital punishment who argue that the Bible prohibits all killing are misinformed (as are conscientious objectors to military service who base their position on the Sixth Commandment).  Actually, the Bible prohibits taking an innocent life.  


True and False America – Part 3

How can we know the true from the false? How can we separate fact from fiction and honesty from lies? How can we discern sincerity from mere lip service and veracity from clever propaganda and disinformation? How can we determine a genuine call to action from a hidden agenda? How can we tell the path of righteousness from the path of iniquity? How can we choose that which appreciates our past, clarifies our present and embraces a future which produces greater opportunity for the pursuit of happiness, with liberty, prosperity and justice for all? How can we reclaim our government and take back our nation from corrupt despoilers? How can we distinguish truthful reporting of the news by watchdogs from biased journalism by lapdogs and “presstitutes”? How can we distinguish the true patriot from the pseudopatriot and global unity from globaloney? How can we affirm our spiritual heritage? How can we keep our patriotism from being exploited to deliver money and power into the hands of plutocrats and oligarchs? How can we pledge allegiance to the American Republic of our Founders without being deceived and propagandized into pledging allegiance to the American Empire of the wannabe MOTU? (See Appendix 1, “The Dark Side of America,” in America, Freedom and Enlightenment for a greater description and explanation of False America. See Appendixes 2, 3 and 4 for commentary about True America.)

My fellow Americans, on the basis of the information and arguments set forth here (in America, Freedom and Enlightenment), it is possible for us to answer these questions clearly and thereby help our nation and the world to rise above its perennial divisions, with all their terrible expressions of man’s inhumanity to man. It is possible to attain a new understanding and mode of behavior which honors the sacred and transcendent source of life in everyone, regardless of their name for that source and the outward condition of life in their society. In other words, in its ideal form the American mind can become the basis for a universal mind of love and respect for the whole of humanity and its home. From that will naturally follow “peace on earth, good will toward men.” That step toward human unity is the purpose of America, Freedom and Enlightenment.

The century just passed has been called The American Century because of our nation’s supreme importance in global affairs. Now, as the world embarks upon a new millennium, I urge all Americans to take action to turn The American Century into The American Millennium. It is, I maintain, humanity’s only hope for a truly free and peaceful world. Thus, America, Freedom and Enlightenment is not about nationhood so much as it is about planethood and global community, and how America can lead us there.

# # #

True and False America – Part 2

The wannabe MOTU are, generally speaking, unconcerned for We the People on Main Street in any benevolent way as they work to build a global empire by controlling the federal government, cunningly turning it away from its Constitutional framework and into support of their own self-serving goals and transnational enterprises. (See America, Freedom and Enlightenment appendixes.) The millions of decent, hard-working Americans who keep the country operating and the thousands of patriotic Americans who volunteer for military service are just fodder for their money mills.

Over the decades, Americans have been “dumbed down” and propagandized into thinking that the federal government has their best interests in mind. Consequently when they are told America has to go to war to protect our freedom, a lot of well-meaning, America-loving but brainwashed citizens start agreeing, when there is no threat to America and the real reason for beating the war drum is to advance Wall Street interests. I know; I myself was one of them.

The wannabes have so subtly intertwined their empire’s interests with traditional aspects of our government’s operations, and also many of our society’s—such as mass communications, education, foreign trade, philanthropic foundations and much of the scientific community—that activities which used to be genuinely patriotic and well-intended now actually work against the best interests of our nation. To a large extent the federal government no longer represents America. It represents the hidden interests and agendas of Wall Street. And to the extent that people accept it passively, without question or objection, We the People have become we the sheeple.

It’s as if there are two Americas existing within the same territory—one holy, the other profane. Discerning one from the other is critically important for our well-being and the future of our nation—indeed, of our world. It is also exceedingly difficult because both True America and False America fly the same flag, both claim patriotism and national interest as their motives and both use rhetoric referring to freedom and democracy to justify their actions.

(To be concluded)

True and False America – Part 1

True America is the America intended by our Founders on the basis of the ideals, principles and values they expressed and embraced. True America is We the People, the citizens of Main Street who work to build a more perfect union and implement the other objectives stated in the Preamble to the Constitution. True America is the good and virtuous folk who cheer for the red, white and blue, say “one Nation under God” and welcome legal immigrants to our shores and our way of life. True America is the land of the free and the home of the brave.

However, True America is being lost as We the People drift from our economic, social, political and spiritual moorings. America is declining in civility, morality and patriotism—three primary indicators of health or sickness in the body politic. It is becoming the land of the freeloaders and the home of the depraved. (An alternative suggested by an acquaintance: The land of the me and the home of the knave.) The reasons for that are numerous and varied, but collectively they amount to a radical departure from our foundation. Without understanding and honoring those ideals, principles and values, our nation will continue to degenerate into False America—the corruption of True America which produces ever-larger government, ever-decreasing liberty and sovereignty, encroachment on human and civil rights, fiscal insolvency, economic dependence on government, social divisiveness and decay, intellectual miseducation, spiritual confusion, and, because of the welfare-warfare mentality inherent in it, unhappiness at home and anti-American hatred abroad.

False America is the invention of people who seek to rule us. They reject the bedrock foundation of America. They want to subordinate our free, self-ruling society to uncontrolled government—or, more precisely, government controlled by them. They intend to make government our master and thereby enslave us. These wannabe Masters of the Universe (MOTU) are a relatively small group of superrich banking, financial and corporate elites located mostly on Wall Street—a street which historically and symbolically has been, and largely still is, an honorable and useful part of True America. But the wannabe MOTU have to a significant extent captured and corrupted banking, finance and commerce in the name of their gods, Money and Power. They have changed Wall Street from that which invests in the economy to that which controls the economy. The free market which produces real wealth has been morphed into a casino in which financial processes and stock markets are rigged, inflated, improperly supervised by lax regulators and overvalued by phony credit ratings. And by “owning” the casino, the wannabe MOTU have created a vastly skewed distribution of wealth in America. The rich have gotten vastly richer—unfairly and insanely so, some say—while the middle class has gotten smaller and poorer, and the poor themselves are practically off the low end of the graph of wealth distribution.

(To be continued)

The Medal of Honor Highway will go through Cheshire!

A few months ago I got an idea to designate Rt. 10 through the center of my home town, Cheshire, Connecticut, as “The Medal of Honor Highway.” Cheshire has an extensive relation to the Medal of Honor. Elsewhere around the state and the nation sections of highway are named in honor of individuals, military units and famous individuals and battles.

I pitched the idea to town and state officials (since Rt. 10 is a state highway), and it was approved at the Capitol by the Department of Transportation, thanks to Rep. Mary Fritz, a member of the Transportation Committee.

I said to them: Designate Rt. 10 from Bartlem Park to the Police Station as “The Medal of Honor Highway” and explained why.

Cheshire is probably unique among small towns of America (with population less than 30,000) because we have two residents who were awarded the Medal of Honor. They are Harvey C. Barnum, USMC, who received the Medal for his combat action in Vietnam, and Eri Woodbury, Union Army, who received the Medal for his combat action during the Civil War. So far as I know, no other small town can claim to have two such heroic awardees as residents.

That is why I initiated the Medal of Honor Plaza in Bartlem Park in 1993. That is why I created the Medal of Honor exhibit in Cheshire Library in 1999. These two residents are genuine military heroes and deserve public recognition.

I’d like Cheshire itself to be known as “America’s Medal of Honor Small Town.” And that is why I’ve asked for the DOT designate Rt. 10 as The Medal of Honor Highway as it runs through Cheshire from Bartlem Park to the Police Station. That section runs from the Medal of Honor Plaza in Bartlem Park, past the Cheshire Historical Society where Eri Woodbury’s Medal of Honor is displayed, past Cheshire Academy where Woodbury taught and was Headmaster after the Civil War, past St. Peter’s Episcopal Church where Woodbury is buried, and past the town library where an actual Medal of Honor is displayed.

It’s a simple idea, but carries great educational power. I’m tentatively planning a dedication ceremony on Saturday, September 12, when the Chamber of Commerce’s annual Fall Festival will be held. The director of the Chamber, Sheldon Dill, has offered full support. I’m thinking of mid-afternoon when attendance will be highest. I’ll have use of the festival’s stage and sound system. I think it should last no longer than half an hour. I’ve invited our congressional delegation to attend, and so far it looks like at least two Senator Chris Murphy and Representative Elizabeth Murphy—will be there (since they live in town).

I’ve also invited Col. Barnum, of course, but it’s not clear whether his schedule will allow him to attend. Fingers crossed.