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McVeigh - it's over....
June 11, 2001 5:32 AM   Subscribe

McVeigh - it's over....
Mass murderer executed by lethal injetion.... I'm not sheddding any tears over it...
posted by tomcosgrave (223 comments total)

 
Interesting that you were the first to jump on this Tommy as your listed location is Ireland. I'm only curious about the interference of the video and audio transmissions. Select hackers dissent? Will it go unreported - likely.
posted by roboto at 5:42 AM on June 11, 2001


It's at times like these I like spending hours listening to spectators' detailed accounts of minute details such as McVeigh's clothing, the color of the tubes stuck in him, etc. instead of simply watching a video recording of the death. Yep, it's great that the govt really protects me from this horrible influence. Thanks govt.
posted by fleener at 5:49 AM on June 11, 2001


If you're asking if I hacked into the feed, of course not.
I read news websites that stated the begining and end of the execution.
posted by tomcosgrave at 5:50 AM on June 11, 2001


Well, now that he's dead, I feel MUCH safer than I did before. Whew. I'm glad to know that he won't be a danger anymore.

(Until, of course, some other nut job from Bumscrew Missouri decides that McVeigh was framed, and gets "revenge" by planting a bomb at the FBI's headquarters.)
posted by Grum at 6:03 AM on June 11, 2001


Nutjob or not, this was a human being. I could say i AM shedding tears over him, but that's not actually true. I think i force myself not to think about it too much, or the enormity of this whole mess would get to me. But still, but still, even this person who killed so many was precisely that: a person.
posted by schoolie at 6:12 AM on June 11, 2001


Good riddance.
posted by holloway at 6:15 AM on June 11, 2001


Schoolie; you are hugging the wrong person.

He killed 168 people. That is 168 people who had a right to live their lives, and he took that away. People that do this type of thing forfeit their own rights in my opinion. It is not possible for you to have the rights that you took from someone else.

He's gone and that is good. Now they should get started on the rest of the death rows across America.
posted by a3matrix at 6:17 AM on June 11, 2001


What I find interesting is that people expected him to have "something hateful to say." He lacked compassion for the victims, but people shouldn't presume he "hated" the victims. He was a terrorist. His anger was directed at the government.

My concern is that any discussion of why he did it is immediately turned around and snuffed because "this is exactly what McVeigh would want us to do." That approach is like sticking your head in the sand, refusing to acknowledge that the govt does sometimes do bad things.
posted by fleener at 6:26 AM on June 11, 2001


I'm against the death penalty. It serves no purpose and is, to me, morally wrong, problematic in the extreme, and useless.
posted by Calebos at 6:27 AM on June 11, 2001


He's gone and that is good. Now they should get started on the rest of the death rows across America.

McVeigh and the people who killed him, two sides of the same coin.
posted by lagado at 6:33 AM on June 11, 2001


The world is just a smidgen of a better place today.
posted by owillis at 6:34 AM on June 11, 2001


If any case can be made for capital punishment, McVeigh is it (admitted guilt, no remorse, 168 dead), and on those grounds I support what took place this morning. However, McVeigh is also an exception -- dozens of death penalty cases are defended inadequately or incompetently and prosecuted on the basis of race -- and I think that distinction won't matter as McVeigh is followed by the next 20 federal inmates, 18 of whom are minorities.
posted by rcade at 6:35 AM on June 11, 2001


''Now they should get started on the rest of the death rows across America.''

Ah yes, let's do that, a3matrix. And while we're at it, let's carpetbomb all the ghettos in America as well, since that's where most of the inmates are from. Will save a lot of money in the future.

And let's please not start hugging people, for they may be the wrong people.
posted by schoolie at 6:35 AM on June 11, 2001


The death penalty is wrong. An eye for an eye......WRONG. The State should never have the right to take a mans life, no matter what the crime.
posted by twistedonion at 6:37 AM on June 11, 2001


He's gone and that is good. Now they should get started on the rest of the death rows across America.

Why yes! The government has never executed an innocent person and the power to take life should be extended to even municipal courts. Get everyone in the station wagon, there's gonna be a hangin'!
posted by skallas at 6:37 AM on June 11, 2001


He was a terrorist. His anger was directed at the government.

That's right, he was a terrorist who (quite willingly) showed a complete and utter lack of regard for human life, and who, until recently failed to show any remorse for those lives. And when he did, he referred to them as "collateral damage".

One who takes life in that fashion forfeits the right to live, in my opinion.

There are ways to protest against the government. Blowing a building to smithereens is certainly not one of them.
posted by tomcosgrave at 6:39 AM on June 11, 2001


As an outsider it confuses me that America has a long history of democracy and equal-rights and still practices punishments from the middle-ages.
posted by Armarius at 6:45 AM on June 11, 2001


In a system where there is even the slightest chance for error, the death penalty is wrong.

And, yes, I know he admitted guilt. But this isn't a subject where you can pick and choose which situations apply.
posted by goto11 at 6:51 AM on June 11, 2001


It's not over. Everything is exactly the way it was. The US government has just knocked off another defenseless, messed-up guy. His messed-up pals, wherever they are, will certainly not be put off, and probably will be encouraged, by his much-publicized life and death. All the other major nations of the world (except for who? China?) still think the US is barbaric. Maybe it is. Millions of people, many of whom are violent and dumb enough to believe it and even to act on it, have just been told that killing for revenge is good. The world is worse now.
posted by pracowity at 6:56 AM on June 11, 2001


"He had a look of defiance and that if he could, he'd do it all over again," [witness] Whicher said. "I don't think he gave himself to the Lord. I don't think he repented and personally I think he's in hell."

"He was able to look up in the sky and see the moon for the first time in a number of years"

I dont care if he had killed my mother, I just think it's sad. Spitemongers will find another topic soon enough.
posted by jessamyn at 7:01 AM on June 11, 2001


Wrath is alive and well in America.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 7:04 AM on June 11, 2001


...who (quite willingly) showed a complete and utter lack of regard for human life, and who, until recently failed to show any remorse for those lives. And when he did, he referred to them as "collateral damage". One who takes life in that fashion forfeits the right to live, in my opinion.

Like high-ranking military officials?
posted by turaho at 7:08 AM on June 11, 2001


An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind...and a martyr out of McVeigh for whack jobs across the country...
posted by magellan at 7:11 AM on June 11, 2001


he referred to them as "collateral damage"
Where do you think he picked up this terminology Tommy? Has anyone considered that we [our gov't] created this Rambo?
posted by roboto at 7:13 AM on June 11, 2001


turaho, you took the words right out of my mouth.
posted by binkin at 7:14 AM on June 11, 2001


This guy should've been put in general prison population. Then we wouldn't have been having this conversation, because he would've been dead within 24 hours of arriving.
posted by jbelshaw at 7:14 AM on June 11, 2001


He killed 168 people, including 19 children who will never be able to experience life of any sort. A majority of our society has decided that when someone does something of such a reprehensible quality that they have forfeited their right to a life, the same right he took away from 168 people. I wouldn't want to live in a world where Timothy McVeigh was still breathing.
posted by owillis at 7:16 AM on June 11, 2001


I'm not sure how far this thread is going to go (OK, I refreshed, at least 15 comments appeared, I get the picture....), but I'm in trouble.

McVeigh was, without doubt, a man who undertook an abhorrent act, the likes of which will never be forgotten. As a result of what he did, 168 people lost there lives.

But here is where I start to hit problems.

I was raised a Quaker, therefore I am fundamentally against the death penalty.

Yet, for the first time in my life, I am unable to speak out in defense of a man's right to live.

This may not seem a big deal to some, but this challenges nearly every belief I have ever held true.

For this reason (as well as the 168 deaths and the suffering he caused to the victims' families), I will never forget this man.

I hope no one else does either.
posted by davehat at 7:20 AM on June 11, 2001


Anyone catch it live? Not only was the video feed initially corrupted, but NPR's live audio feed was lost. Anyone else experience _live_ media outages?
posted by roboto at 7:20 AM on June 11, 2001


Without purporting to take sides, I'm curious: for those of you who didn't want McVeigh to die, what would be a suitable alternate course of action?
posted by hijinx at 7:21 AM on June 11, 2001


tomcosgrave: "There are ways to protest against the government. Blowing a building to smithereens is certainly not one of them."

It's child psychology. Why do problem children act out? To get attention. Even negative attention is craved by a neglected child. Why do terrorists kill people? Not to get their demands met - that never works. They kill to draw attention to their cause. Maybe it's just me, but when a guy kills a bunch of people to get attention, I want to talk about why. Ignoring the cause just encourages more people like him.

Armarius: "As an outsider it confuses me that America has a long history of democracy and equal-rights and still practices punishments from the middle-ages.

Don't fool yourself. That's just good PR.

jessamyn quoting a victim's family member: "I don't think he gave himself to the Lord. I don't think he repented and personally I think he's in hell."

Ahh, pop Christianity brought on by the medieval Church. Biblical scholars will tell you Jesus taught that we go into a state of non-being (stasis/limbo), until the "end time" when all living and dead are judged. So according to the Christian view, McVeigh is just hanging out with the rest of the dead until judgment day.
posted by fleener at 7:25 AM on June 11, 2001


fleener: actually, while driving to a baseball game with my sister the other day, we were listening to NPR and they had a story on McVeigh. He apparently was most influenced by a book called the Turner Diaries, written by a (former?) American Nazi, in which the bombing of the main FBI building in Washington DC is the catalyst to a nationwide revolution of people like the main hero of the story — in this case, McVeigh. It didn't happen, of course.
posted by moz at 7:33 AM on June 11, 2001


I'm a bit surprised more people haven't jumped all over the fact that the concept of people as "collateral damage" was taught to McVeigh by the U.S. Army. Is anyone concerned that millions of current and former soldiers have also had this idea instilled in their brains?

Also, everyone jumps all over capital punishment as "government sanctioned murder." I can see that as a problem in China, but here in the US, it is supposed to be government for the people by the people. The people have spoken.
posted by quirked at 7:34 AM on June 11, 2001


hijinx: life in prison. high security. no parole. period. make him do manual labor or something.

but the thing is, while you can decide punishment on an individual basis, you *can't* decide the legality of the death penalty on an individual basis. as much as mcveigh is a case in defense of the death penalty, and as much as you might think he deserves to die (I don't, but I'm against the death penalty in all cases), that doesn't make up for the innocent people that have been executed. or may be executed in the future.
posted by rabi at 7:39 AM on June 11, 2001


At the moment I feel quite sad. Timothy McVeigh should not have been executed. It was wrong.
posted by wdeep at 7:43 AM on June 11, 2001


I don't really believe in a life-after-death, but if there were one, I'm very, very sure Tim McVeigh would be laughing his scrawny ass off at America, right now... He's accomplished precisely what he wanted to accomplish. He struck a major blow against the US government, he caused a major debate to start - and continue - about the proper role of goverment in citizens' lives and he has demonstrated to the world once again just how backward and parochial the US really is. We are, even now here on MeFi, perpetuating the legacy of Tim McVeigh. I have no sympathy for his message, I absolutely and unequivocally deplore his method - but in the end, the last laugh's on us, I think.
posted by m.polo at 7:45 AM on June 11, 2001


I am always amazed why so many people involved directly in such matters always point out that so and so showed "no remorse." If he had? Would they have let him go? Showing remorse is sort of like punsihing a child and asking him or expecting him to say "I'M sorry." That remorse thing would then show that We are Right and he is Wrong. But since we have convicted him and sentenced him we already assume that we are right and he is wrong. What does the remorse thing do that is must be commented upon. And McVeigh aside, I note this often happens in ;crimes not of that magnitude. A judge will often note that a stiff sentence was meted out because the accused "showed no remorse."
posted by Postroad at 7:49 AM on June 11, 2001


Without purporting to take sides, I'm curious: for those of you who didn't want McVeigh to die, what would be a suitable alternate course of action?

A better question is, who should have the responsibility to determine who lives and who dies? As many cases go, the probability of reprieve increases as more people are aware. This is mostly to retain votes, as it's a better safe than sorry scenario when letting someone off of the death penalty (especially if there's uncertainty). With this individual, the intent was clear and the responsibility was established. Should he die?

There's a wealth of different opinions there.

To figure out why we feel either way, we should understand what it is we are afraid of in a moral sense. If he is allowed to live, it is because we (to the scope of those that are aware) feel that it is wrong make judgement on human life, no matter what the circumstances are. If we decide that he should die, it is because we fear that his prolonged existance will cause continued pain and present danger to the victims, coupled with the resentment involving feelings like, "He has no right to live and is going to hell."

The discussion goes both ways, but who bears the responsibility? It would seem that everyone that has passing knowledge feels somewhat responsible for what happened to him, only because of the surrounding debate on capital punishment. IMHO, it was the least "cruel" action we could have taken.
posted by samsara at 7:49 AM on June 11, 2001


Quoting myself:
"...but I was sort of sad that it had happened. I was sad for two particular reasons: 1) the idea of killing someone seems as bad as being killed, and 2) lethal injection, especially since they also use numbing medication in the first step, causes no pain to the victims [of the injection]..."
posted by GirlFriday at 7:51 AM on June 11, 2001


You know, until this morning, I didn't really give a crap. I'm not really in favor of capital punishment (although I do have to nod my head a bit when my dad complains that these death row inmates live better than so many innocent people across the world, all on a taxpayer dime), but then again I'm not vehemently opposed to it, either. I considered McVeigh to be the scum of the earth and I did want to see him suffer for his crimes.

But then when I read online about him eating his last meal, and that it was 2 pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream (and not a big bloody side of beef, or even human flesh), he was suddenly humanized for me. I had to think about what it must have been like for him to sit there eating it, knowing he was going to die... Or even what it must have been like for the person they sent out to get the ice cream- what must it be like to carry something a dying man wants to be one of his last experiences in the world?

I've done a lot of misguided things, and I've known a lot of misguided people, and maybe, really, he's no different- he's just misguided in a way that really counts. I don't expect anyone to forgive him- I don't think I do, myself- but I can't really dance on his grave. Maybe this is something we had to do to keep our society safe, but I can't feel good about it, or even think, "good riddance."

Somehow, I don't feel like killing him was the answer, but then I don't really know what was. I'm starting to think that not having the answer is what makes me human.
posted by MonkeyMeat at 7:53 AM on June 11, 2001


Collateral damage is a byproduct of war. Blowing up an office building in a metropolitan environment in your own country is murder.
posted by a3matrix at 7:53 AM on June 11, 2001


rabi: what innocent people have been executed? i want names.

we certainly know that innocent people were killed by the criminal. But for some reason all you hear people whine about is how an innocent person might be executed.

I wouldn't be so in favor of the death penalty if prison, and life in prison weren't such bullshit. Its not about rehabilitation, its about punishment. Everyone is too damned concerned about the rights of the criminal.
posted by jbelshaw at 7:54 AM on June 11, 2001


Davehat, you may do well to put "Bud Welch" into google. He is the father of one of the victims and campaigns against the death penalty now.

The question is not whether McVeigh had a right to his life but whether the victims had any right to take it in vengeance. They would do better to try and let go of those feelings of revenge than to kill McVeigh and still feel anger.

Oklahoma was revenge for Waco. McVeigh was revenge for Oklahoma. Who will avenge Mcveigh?
posted by MrImpossible at 7:59 AM on June 11, 2001


rabi: I think life in prison without manual labour would be worse. I suggest life in an oubliette as a non-person: A cell just big enough to turn around in. No natural light. No exercise except the sit-ups and push-ups you can do in the cell. You eat in the cell. No outside communication. No paper or pens or books. No right to sue or privacy. Just sitting there, getting rubbery until you die of old age. Do you think McVeigh would have preferred that to death? After a year or two, I don't think I would.
posted by Yogurt at 8:07 AM on June 11, 2001


I agree comletely with Tom Cosgrave and owillis. McVeigh was quoted as viewing the situation as "168 to 1". He attacked the government, he got 168 of us, and we got him.

If there was a third person, it's obvious McVeigh won't be talking. Keeping him alive for another 40 years would cost money. And yes, when a person does something of this magnitude, he gives up certain rights. You won't see me shedding a tear for "another human life."
posted by tomorama at 8:07 AM on June 11, 2001


The world is just a smidgen of a better place today.
Bullshit.

So, I kept seeing stories about the impeding execution talking about how victims' families and the community needed this for closure. Anyone feeling any closure right now? Thought not. They're all still dead, folks.

Nothing was accomplished. The world is still a bleak, nasty place. This is weak justice.
posted by norm at 8:11 AM on June 11, 2001


jbelshaw, you must understand that even convicted criminals are people. Human people. People who cry at sad movies, and eat cookies and hug doggies. It is a horror and a tragedy that we can take these sweet souls trapped in sick minds and destroy them; never to eat another Nilla Wafer - never again to pet little rover. WHERE IS YOUR HUMANITY!!!!??

Wait a minute... I'm tearing up.

All right... I'm OK...

We cannot bring back the victims of these tragic events; we cannot heal the scars of the dead and wounded. But we CAN forgive the momentary transgression of a very sweet human soul who, in his confusion, almost accidentally set this regrettable incident in motion. He did not deserve death, but forgiveness. He did not deserve our hatred, but our understanding. He deserved - like all criminals - to go free.

People are born free. The barbaric custom of locking these poor misunderstood fellows away does nothing to redeem them, and is a great burden on the nation and the taxpayers. Free-range criminals would show the world that we truely care for the feelings of the inner child of muggers, murderers, rapists, forgers and maniacs, lost and alone, trapped deep within these hurt minds. In addition, the great number of innocent people wrongly imprisoned would no longer be burdened by the horrific cost of Justice's mistakes.
posted by Perigee at 8:11 AM on June 11, 2001


Postroad: I am always amazed why so many people involved directly in such matters always point out that so and so showed "no remorse." If he had?

Yup. Just like the families describing the steel remorselessness of his stare into the video camera before he died. By another account his eyes were glossy, so someone could just as easily say he was deeply remorseful and very sad. It's all a bunch of hoo-haa. In the end, lots of people are dead and the govt is running business-as-usual.
posted by fleener at 8:25 AM on June 11, 2001


> Its not about rehabilitation, its about punishment.

If what you want is punishment, why aren't you in favor of giving such guys at least 30 or 40 more miserable years in prison instead of a few seconds of painless injections? Why aren't you pushing to have them work for pleasantries such as food, water, plumbing, a bed, light, heat?
posted by pracowity at 8:27 AM on June 11, 2001


I shed some tears over this. - rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 8:31 AM on June 11, 2001


Noting personal Pedigree, but your post strikes me as a pretty disturbing opinion on how things should be done.

If the United States ever operated on such a basis, I'd be the first to move out.
posted by tomorama at 8:36 AM on June 11, 2001




Look at Manson. If they killed him, his cult probably would have martyred him - perhaps been inspired to go on and on. Laungishing in prison, interviewed by Geraldo every couple of years. the guy's become a joke.
posted by brucec at 8:36 AM on June 11, 2001


As someone who works in a federal building in DC, I'm quite sorry that the fanatics now have a martyr to avenge. It would have been much better, I think, to let him fade into obscurity, a ward of the very state he despised so much.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:36 AM on June 11, 2001


tomorama: Perigee's post would be considered sarcasm to illustrate a point.

I think to me, it comes down to basic fairness. It would not have been fair for Tim McVeigh to take the lives of those people, yet continue to live himself. I consider life to be very, very precious. That is why I believe if you take a life, you forfeit your own. This will not bring anyone back, or relieve grief, or make the world a better place, but it is the closest we can come to making things right and fair.
posted by quirked at 8:41 AM on June 11, 2001


But then when I read online about him eating his last meal, and that it was 2 pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream (and not a big bloody side of beef, or even human flesh), he was suddenly humanized for me. I had to think about what it must have been like for him to sit there eating it, knowing he was going to die...

All of this kneejerking, touchy feely sentiment for a mass murder is enough to make me vomit.

Who gives a good damn what he was feeling as he sat there and ate his ice cream? He was a cold-blooded killer, and whatever he was feeling he deserved because he earned those feelings when he decided that he had the right to bomb a public building, whatever the cost.

Instead of wasting time worrying about the humanity of an inhumane man, why not think about those 168 people who were just going about their daily lives, those little children in the day care center, the people just trying to do their jobs or get a new social security card who never had a cchance to think about their final moments. They didn't get a chance to say goodbye to anyone, they didn't have an opportunity to sit and enjoy a final quart of ice cream, they had nothing. One second they were here and with no warning, the next second they were gone through no fault of their own. They didn't choose to engage in an act that would cost them their lives -- McVeigh did. Have sympathy for the victims here, not the victimiser.
posted by Dreama at 8:41 AM on June 11, 2001


tomorama, I think his name's Perigee, and I think he was being sarcastic.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 8:42 AM on June 11, 2001


Collateral damage is a byproduct of war. Blowing up an office building in a metropolitan environment in your own country is murder.

Tom-a-to Tom-ah-to. In McVeigh's mind they are the same. In the minds of the Balkan parents whose children were bombed to death by the UN, they are the same. In the minds of the families of Chinese citizens killed by the same bombs in the Chinese embassy, they were the same.

McVeigh's actions were unconscionable, horrendous, absolutely unjustifiable. He's as horrible a criminal as this country has ever seen. I don't suggest for a second that his actions could be justified. Instead, I argue that the stuff our military calls "collateral damage" can be justified either.
posted by jpoulos at 8:44 AM on June 11, 2001


pracowity: I'm all in favor of it. But it currently isn't necessarily miserable years in prison. All you have to do is watch a video of Richard Speck in an Illinois supermax prison, with his taxpayer provided hormone induced breasts, snort coke off of the back of one of his prison buddies, all the while being videotaped by another inmate. It makes me ill.

Perigee: i'm hoping that you post was sarcasm. If not I think i may be sick.
posted by jbelshaw at 8:46 AM on June 11, 2001


Has anyone considered that McVeigh has gotten off easy? By killing him, we've prevented him from a lifetime of thinking about the enormity of what he did as well as the opportunity to work himself to the bones to atone for it. Alternative to the death penalty and life in prison? Assign him a guardian, who will stay with him 24/7 and watch as he spends 18 hours a day working to help other people - community service, habitat for humanity, pick a damn charity - and that's the rest of his life. No choices, no personal freedom - just paying back with his own life, in the truest sense, for the lives he took - and by god, making a difference.
posted by gsh at 8:52 AM on June 11, 2001


dreama, some people obviously feel that murder is occasionally justified (when the case of a mass murderer, for example); some feel that it is never justified. don't complain just because some people hold a different opinion than you.
posted by moz at 8:52 AM on June 11, 2001


Have sympathy for the victims here, not the victimiser.

It is actually possible to have sympathy for both, believe it or not. It is always stunning to me when those who most forcefully decry the intrusion of government into private lives step up and cheerlead when it comes to killing one of its own citizens.
posted by Skot at 9:01 AM on June 11, 2001


Collateral damage is a byproduct of war. Blowing up an office building in a metropolitan environment in your own country is murder.

Both are murder. The army tries to sanitise it's murder by calling it 'Collateral damage', just as your government sanitises it's murder by calling it execution.

All murder is criminal, ocassionally it is necessary (such as in war), but it should never be justified. Taking another persons life is evil, it doesn't matter who does the killing.

I just don't understand why the killer must be killed. It is not justice, and if that is the reason the USA gives then it is no better than China or any other country that still holds onto the belief that they have a right and duty to kill the offender.

Surely it would have been better for McVeigh to have lived his full life behind bars, made to work for the government he hated. A life behind bars is surely worse than instant death.
posted by twistedonion at 9:03 AM on June 11, 2001


jbelshaw: how about roger keith colman? jesse tafero? in the case of the latter, he was convicted along with his wife of killing a state trooper based on the statements of an ex-con who the state let off from his death sentence in return for a perjured accomplice testimony...he later recanted the testimony and confessed to the murder himself. tafero was dead at that point, but his wife was released from prison.

vogurt -- I agree; what you describe would be a lot worse than manual labor. but I don't think it should be necessary to threaten the physical health of the inmates either. besides, forcing someone to serve the government that he so abhored is punishment as well. just because I'm against the death penalty (and, I admit, something of a bleeding heart) doesn't mean I think people with life sentences should be afforded any sort of luxury; why they are given basketball courts and cable tv is beyond me. I would like to see some way for them to provide some benefit for society, that's all. make them work their asses off. that way, instead of them living off our tax dollars, maybe we could live off some of their hard work.
posted by rabi at 9:10 AM on June 11, 2001


Just like the families describing the steel remorselessness of his stare into the video camera before he died.

You must have seen some of the same interviews I did on ABC. The woman who harped the most on McVeigh's alleged "evil glare" was also hawking some kind of documentary video, which she mentioned several times instead of answering questions from the media. Now there's some class.
posted by rcade at 9:10 AM on June 11, 2001


He's dead?
I thought I felt a slight weakening in the force.
Oh wait, no I didn't.
I can't believe I did not know this was happening this morning. Regardless, it is a beautiful day, I can't wait to get home from work, light up the grill, and do a little weeding.

Assign him a guardian, who will stay with him 24/7
Doesn't that sound like a great job.
posted by thirteen at 9:11 AM on June 11, 2001


Very Freerepublic here today.
posted by Mocata at 9:11 AM on June 11, 2001


McVeigh decided that it is acceptable to kill for an idea, and that the flaming Branch Davidian compound represented such an idea. He was willing to take the consequences, and he killed to defend his idea.

The U.S. government believes that it is OK to kill for an idea, and that the crumbled Murrah building represented death that could not go unanswered. There will be no consequences for the killers, and McVeigh behind bars posed nobody a threat, but in some twisted kind of manual karma, the government had to get its satisfaction.

The U.S. government, in taking its vengeance, has justified McVeigh's.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:14 AM on June 11, 2001


(Giving a Bugs Bunny take into the camera. I know; but sometimes, it's just too much fun...)

What is so hard to believe that I believe, like so many other brave posters here, in the words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.

"We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Our current mistreatment of those we arbitrarily choose to mistreat as a society flies in the face of all three of these supposedly 'unalienable rights'. We feel justified in taking their lives, their liberty, and their pursuit of happiness. How can we claim to be a truely advanced culture, if we cannot even hold to our own principles?

Just today, reading through our editorials, I noticed a letter that illustrates my point completely. It was from the aunt of a poor gentleman who died while trying to escape police.

She attacked our paper for bringing up his past, and the events that led to his sad demise. He has young children, and nieces and nephews who didn't need to hear such things about their departed kinsman. Now they would have to deal with this horrifying aspect of their father's background: because of our insensitivity, they would now be scarred for life.

I broke down, right there at my desk. She was right. He was only pursuing the happiness his government had promised him - yet, we did not allow him his due. Now he is dead, and his poor children must face shame and lack of self respect. Would it have been so wrong for the policemen just to not take cover? They would have died heroes, and their children would have been proud.

We are far too hard on the predators of our society. In all of nature, there are predators, and there is prey. What we are attempting is an ambomination to nature itself. Do we kill the hawk, to save the mouse? Do we kill the bear to save the fish? Do we kill the wolf to save the sheep? We did once, but no more - happily we learned that the delicate balance of the ecosystem requires both predator and prey. We should appreciate our predators. They have family and friends and feelings, just like we do. My heart bleeds for them. I weep for the loss of every murderer, I beat my hands bloody on the hard stone walls that enclose the strongest of our race. The bible says that we should turn the other cheek, and that vengence is not ours to take. So release our brethren, and enfold him to our breast; for nothing is truely ours, and God will surely give us satisfaction for our raped women and children, murdered and wounded friends and family, loss of property and sense of security. The Lord says that the meek will inherit the earth.
posted by Perigee at 9:18 AM on June 11, 2001


Am I the only person here who has never read Freerepublic?
posted by thirteen at 9:18 AM on June 11, 2001


War is murder.
posted by Calebos at 9:19 AM on June 11, 2001


each to their own...
but when i read this and see people call this guy human

....and that it was 2 pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream (and not a big bloody side of beef, or even human flesh), he was suddenly humanized for me - monkeymeat,

... i just think it would take a lot more than two pints of ice cream to catagorise him as human for me after all he's done.
posted by monkeyJuice at 9:20 AM on June 11, 2001


Okay, I was wrong about that Perigee guy. Whoa.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 9:21 AM on June 11, 2001


i just think it would take a lot more than two pints of ice cream to catagorise him as human for me after all he's done

Unfortunately the guy is more human than any of us want to believe. Murder for the sake of it is pretty much an exclusively human trait.
posted by twistedonion at 9:24 AM on June 11, 2001


I just find it arrogant and wrong that one entity (either McVeigh, the government, or a jury) supposedly possesses the knowledge of who should live or die.

Besides the death penalty being disproportionately applied to minorities and the poor....besides the fact that many of those on death row have inadequate attornies/attornies with too heavy caseloads....besides the fact that you can't bring someone back to life if they are found innocent after an execution...I am very frightened that a government can kill its own citizens.

Christiane Amanpour said on CNN today that 88% of executions in the world occur in the US, China, Iraq, and Iran. The EU requires a country abolish the death penalty prior to acceptance into the union. European countries are horrified that the US continues to execute, and some say that Bush's past (as governor of the state with the most executions in the US) prevents him from having clout on the global stage in human rights discussions.

This morning I went to church and prayed for the comfort of the families and victims, for the forgiveness of McVeigh and the government. McVeigh was a horrid, horrid man. But I believe that we committed murder as well. Vengence is not justice.
posted by jennak at 9:27 AM on June 11, 2001


pretty much an exclusively human trait.

That really is not even close to being true.
posted by thirteen at 9:29 AM on June 11, 2001


((Psst.. BFT: Both posts are just a magnification to the ultimate of the arguments applied in these cases. What's REALLY frightening is that all of my lunatic logic is being taken as even possibly serious.))
posted by Perigee at 9:30 AM on June 11, 2001


That really is not even close to being true.

Surely most animals kill for a reason - survival. I don't know of animals that kill their same species for the hell of it
posted by twistedonion at 9:31 AM on June 11, 2001


It would be really nice if people could start recognising that there's a difference between killing and murder.
posted by Dreama at 9:33 AM on June 11, 2001


It would be really nice if people could start recognising that there's a difference between killing and murder.


Sorry Dreama, I'll rephrase

Surely most animals kill for a reason - survival. I don't know of animals that murder their same species for the hell of it
posted by twistedonion at 9:35 AM on June 11, 2001


Yes, this is definitely the time to argue over semantics. That will solve all of our problems.

You might as well say, "It would be really nice if people could start recognizing that my definitions are the correct ones."
posted by Skot at 9:36 AM on June 11, 2001


Not survival, for the hell of it. Or genetic dominance. Start with cats and gerbils, and after another 5 examples I will start on species that I don't keep as pets.
posted by thirteen at 9:36 AM on June 11, 2001


This is a really bad idea... but:

I consider life to be very, very precious. That is why I believe if you take a life, you forfeit your own

Does the hypocrisy in this statement stand out to anyone else?

All of this kneejerking, touchy feely sentiment for a mass murder is enough to make me vomit

All of this kneejerking, unfeeling, hateful, vengeful, bloodlusting sentiment towards a human being is enough to make me sick.

Have sympathy for the victims here, not the victimiser.

I do, but I'm not sure what that has to do with the death penalty.

Killing McVeigh isn't going to make the victims' lives better or happier or safer. It doesn't fix anything. McVeigh may have felt no remorse, but perhaps after some time he could have come to regret what he did and to understand how his viewpoints were wrong. Maybe he never would have, but he has absolutely no chance to do that now. Obviously you don't think he deserved that chance. I think everyone deserves that chance.

It would be really nice if people could start recognising that there's a difference between killing and murder.

Of course there's a difference. Murder means "to kill another human unlawfully," so by definition the government was not committing murder when it executed McVeigh. That doesn't mean it was right.

some other nut job from Bumscrew Missouri

Hey! I know people from Bumscrew, Missouri.
posted by daveadams at 9:37 AM on June 11, 2001


Even so (or if), we're not animals.
posted by jennak at 9:38 AM on June 11, 2001


Perigee: Nice one. I missed that part about Bugs Bunny.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 9:39 AM on June 11, 2001


The predators in our society are coddled and preened and given much more rights than the people they prey on. In our quest to rehabilitate everyone, we seem to forget that there is true evil in this world. Not shades of gray, but evil. And its the duty of the people to decide how evil should be dealt with. In America's case we choose to have the evil eradicated.

And for those of you who contend that we should lock McVeigh up in some prison to "think about what he's done", do you realize that that damn baby killer never showed one ounce of care for anyone but himself for the 6 years he was in jail? Keep him in jail and he becomes someone who can write screeds to the media and his followers, who can poison our society with his sick, sick thoughts.
posted by owillis at 9:40 AM on June 11, 2001


Actually we are animals. Many problems arise from thinking that we are not
posted by thirteen at 9:40 AM on June 11, 2001


It would be really nice if people could start recognising that there's a difference between killing and murder.

One is a subset of another. That doesn't necessarily mean there is a difference.

Actually we are animals. Many problems arise from thinking that we are not

Truest words in this thread. If we humans would just get over this massive complex we have in thinking of ourselves as Special, we might make some real progress.
posted by norm at 9:43 AM on June 11, 2001


Perigee: impressively weird posting. Did you write it yourself?
posted by Mocata at 9:44 AM on June 11, 2001


Without purporting to take sides, I'm curious: for those of you who didn't want McVeigh to die, what would be a suitable alternate course of action?

How about placing McVeigh in a special cell with the photos of all his 168 victims to stare at for the rest of his life. For an added measure, place speakers in the cell (which he has no control of to turn off/on) on which he has to hear biography of each of his victims along with any messages the families of the victim have for him. Every day. For the rest of his life.

And oh yeah, every so often, allow the general public to view him in his cell, both as a reminder of the tragedy and to let people have a close look at genuine evil. Of course, I don't know if this would pass the Constitution's "cruel and unusual punishment" muster....
posted by Rastafari at 9:46 AM on June 11, 2001


In our quest to rehabilitate everyone, we seem to forget that there is true evil in this world. Not shades of gray, but evil.

Really? And how do you know something is evil? Do you know it when you see it? What if I disagree with you? I suppose I'm wrong.

Keep him in jail and he becomes someone who can write screeds to the media and his followers, who can poison our society with his sick, sick thoughts.

I think that vengeful, hateful screeds like the many pro-killing comments in this thread are just as poisonous to society, just as sick.
posted by daveadams at 9:48 AM on June 11, 2001


Watching the news this morning and hearing the descriptions of the procedure of the execution made me sick to my stomach.

If the thought of actually ending someone's life deliberately, no matter what he's done, does not disturb you, even a little.... that makes me feel even more sick.
posted by daveadams at 9:52 AM on June 11, 2001


Rastafari - i'm with you on this but i dont think something like that would rattle this guy - but i'd like to think it would....
posted by monkeyJuice at 9:52 AM on June 11, 2001


And how do you know something is evil? Do you know it when you see it? What if I disagree with you?

I think it's safe to say killing 168 innocent people is evil. Pro or con death penalty, if you can't see that as evil, you're beyond help.
posted by owillis at 9:52 AM on June 11, 2001


I've been reading some posts, and there are so many emotions that are running through these voiced opinions. I can understand how it wouldn't be possible for some to fathom how I can feel the way I do.

I think it's important to note that there are some who are against the death penalty in most cases, but are okay with horrid, evil people like McVeight being executed. I can understand that, but don't concur. There are some who say kill them all; there are some who say that there should never be a death penalty. This is not a black and white issue for most; especially when one has a personal/emotional stake in the issue.

I just want to reinterate though, that the death penalty opponents are not heartless folks. We just have different opinions. We all agree, however, that this was a horrible crime that must never be repeated.
posted by jennak at 9:53 AM on June 11, 2001


I think it's safe to say killing 168 innocent people is evil. Pro or con death penalty, if you can't see that as evil, you're beyond help.

For those of us on the slow side, could you tell me how many people I'm allowed to kill without being evil? I have a few acquaintances that I'm kind of sick of, but y'know, I don't want the death penalty or anything. Am I cool if I bump off five of them or so? Or is that still evil? Or am I beyond help?
posted by Skot at 9:57 AM on June 11, 2001


I consider life to be very, very precious. That is why I believe if you take a life, you forfeit your own

Does the hypocrisy in this statement stand out to anyone else?


Yes.
posted by binkin at 9:57 AM on June 11, 2001


I think it's safe to say killing 168 innocent people is evil. Pro or con death penalty, if you can't see that as evil, you're beyond help.

So what do you think of the military, owillis?
posted by binkin at 9:58 AM on June 11, 2001


168 becomes 169. That's all I have to say.
posted by holgate at 10:00 AM on June 11, 2001


I think it's safe to say killing 168 innocent people is evil. Pro or con death penalty, if you can't see that as evil, you're beyond help.

Oh, I agree with you (despite your rude "you're beyond help" tag... was that necessary? did it increase the value of your post?) that McVeigh's killing of 168 people was evil. I also agree with you that we should try to stop (you said "eradicate") evil. The thing is, it's too late to eradicate McVeigh's murder of 168 people. He's not going to be able to hurt anyone else in prison, so what's the point of killing him, besides vengeance? Is McVeigh innately evil? Maybe so, but the real question is, who gets to decide if a person is evil in such purity that there is no value in his life? Do you? Do I?
posted by daveadams at 10:14 AM on June 11, 2001


Justice and vengence are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

The squeamish that many of you exhibit about death comes across like a loud bleat of fear. Death is a normal, inevitable part of the life cycle: it comes to all, and rather quickly. Nature and most societies throughout history have understood this and accepted it a lot better than our society today, when we live such protected and spoiled lives that we become irate and outraged when we can't eradicate death completely from all spheres of our lives (war, work, automobile travel, etc.).

I question the morality of those of you who loudly proclaim how you have (and we should) forgiven McVeigh, and any other mass murderer, terrorist, serial killer, human disaster we wish to point at. Bully for you, that you are such enlightened and forgiving souls! Of course, his sin against you was small, and remote, and you wouldn't have even been aware of it had not television informed you--but nevermind! You are such big-hearted, caring, self-actualized people! You are no doubt right to spend so much time congratulating yourselves...

Talk to me when someone kills 168 of your family and friends, rather than shades on the television. Then let's see how quickly your self-righteousness withers into hypocrisy...

Being an adult means accepting and shouldering adult responsibilities, even (especially?) when they may be burdensome, difficult and unpleasant. If you feel ill-equipped to carry the weight of deciding what constitutes crimes the commission of which forfeits one's right to continue in society, or in life, then very well. But do not interfere with those of us who do not shirk the difficult task.

I think that Timothy McVeigh understood responsibility better than some of you do. He made his choices (which I would judge to be poor ones), chose to take certain actions (which I would call reprehensible), stood by them after the fact (no hypocritical tearful renouncement on national tv to garner sympathy and reprieve--or even, the national addiction, attention), and ACCEPTED THE CONSEQUENCES. You should accept them as well, for to refuse to do so is to deny that actions have consequences, to attempt to escape cause and effect, which is, I think, the trait of our current society that causes us more problems than any other single thing.
posted by rushmc at 10:17 AM on June 11, 2001


Personally, I feel just one murder (not in self defense) is evil. But that's why we have a jury of peers and not Supreme Commander Owillis.

I said "beyond help" because your comment led me to believe that you thought McVeigh wasn't evil. To my mind that line of thought would be beyond help.

So what do you think of the military, owillis?
I think it's even more evil when a military kills innocents, because a military usually does it under the guise of nationalistic fervor.
posted by owillis at 10:18 AM on June 11, 2001


Am I cool if I bump off five of them or so? Or is that still evil? Or am I beyond help?

Would I also have to bump them off directly? Or can my actions indirectly cause pain, suffering, and even death. I am reminded of the pleasant book Good Omens where one of the many side-plots involve the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse variously identified as persons who bring about famine by encouraging eating disorders, war by selling weapons, among other methods.

My point is that there are certainly people out there responsible for more destruction than McVeigh, yet they have not been executed or even convicted of any crime. It's relatively simple to call him the personification of pure evil because it allows us to glorify ourselves (saying all the while, "We are nothing like him.") and not really examine our own actions or the small ways in which we all create death.
posted by Avogadro at 10:20 AM on June 11, 2001


On of the things that really irritated me this morning was when one of McVeigh's lawyers was saying "we" were at fault for killing him this morning. Well, actually, no, McVeigh was - he didn't listen to his attorney's and stopped the appellate process to overturn his punishment for the crime that he admitted to and took pride in committing. He knew the punishment for the action and he still chose to go forward with it - he became the one at fault on April 19th, 1995. (and just as a clarification, he was put to death for killing 8 law enforcement officers - he was never put on trial for the 160 other people - luckily D.A. Macy is stepping down and not putting OKC through unnecessary expenditure and psychologically taxing trials locally - the Denver trial was enough).
posted by thatothrgirl at 10:22 AM on June 11, 2001


If the thought of actually ending someone's life deliberately, no matter what he's done, does not disturb you, even a little.... that makes me feel even more sick.

Of course it's disturbing. A lot of things are disturbing, even moreso than the execution of someone like McVeigh. That doesn't speak at all to their necessity, their correctness or their appropriateness for the case at hand.

I think it's interesting that all of these death penalty opponent's alternatives are so clearly psychological torture. An IV in the arm to send McVeigh off to the big sleep is cruel and hideous, but systematically destroying someone's psyche by assaulting them with inescapable images and sounds for the express purpose of causing mental anguish isn't? Hello, pot, this is the kettle again. . .
posted by Dreama at 10:22 AM on June 11, 2001


The predators in our society are coddled and preened and given much more rights than the people they prey on.

That's just bullshit, O. They are given equal rights by the government under the Constitution. Governments give people rights, not individuals--and governments, not individuals, take them away. When an individual kills someone, it's murder. When a government does it, it's a human rights (and Constitutional Rights) violation.

In our quest to rehabilitate everyone,

Huh? What quest to rehabilitate? Is life in prison without parole some sort of rehabilitation process? If there's one thing our justice system doesn't do very well (or try very hard to do) it's rehabilitation.

we seem to forget that there is true evil in this world. Not shades of gray, but evil.

Evil is a relgious concept, not a legal one. You want to start bringing religion into our government now? Our justice system sees the difference between "right" and "wrong", but buzzwords like "evil" only cloud the issue. To argue that in certain cases, crimes go beyond "wrong" into something altogether different ("evil") is a bogus argument. I haven't "forgotten" that evil exists, I don't believe it does--and neither does the US Constitution.

And its the duty of the people to decide how evil should be dealt with. In America's case we choose to have the evil eradicated.

It is the duty of the US government to follow the Constitution, and to protect the rights contained therein. Capital Punishment violates several of those rights. While I'll never agree that it's morally OK, I'll gladly agree that CP is legally OK? As soon as you pass an Amendment.

(I won't even get into the fact that, by your arguments, a disproportionate number of Evil people in this country are black. How's that work?)

Keep him in jail and he becomes someone who can write screeds to the media and his followers, who can poison our society with his sick, sick thoughts.

Right. And no one's paid any attention to him at all in the last 5 years. Now he's a martyr. The anti-McVeigh sentiment is pretty high right now, but give it a couple of years. Just let the Legend of Saint Tim grow in the minds of the wack-job militia men. You think this is over now? Not a chance.
posted by jpoulos at 10:28 AM on June 11, 2001


I think it's interesting that all of these death penalty opponent's alternatives are so clearly psychological torture... Hello, pot, this is the kettle again. . .

I forget who said it, but somebody here made a good comparison with Charles Manson; by keeping him alive, we would do more to render McVeigh toothless and ineffectual (waiting for the inevitable person saying that the killing of 168 was the effect) than his execution. Perhaps it's not a matter of death-penalty opponents (like myself) being hypocritical. Instead, it is the difficulty of reconciling being against further killing while still acknowledging the heinousness of his actions.
posted by Avogadro at 10:28 AM on June 11, 2001


Oh, and by the way, McVeigh's "screed" is available at your local bookstore. Killing him didn't stop that, now, did it?
posted by jpoulos at 10:33 AM on June 11, 2001


Talk to me when someone kills 168 of your family and friends, rather than shades on the television. Then let's see how quickly your self-righteousness withers into hypocrisy...

No, rushmc, you talk to me when that happens to you, and I'll listen to your berating, down-your-nose accusations of self-righteousness. Until then, your arguments are just as on-the-face bullshit as you would have ours be.

But do not interfere with those of us who do not shirk the difficult task.

Oh, dear. Would it help if I said that I thought you were just the ballsiest of all humans? You stud, you.

This is sheerest bombast. In your strange universe, I'm sure that you don't realize that it is very, very difficult indeed to look at someone like McVeigh and say, "No, I will not cave in to raw emotion and spite. I will not kill him. No matter how much I think he may deserve it."
posted by Skot at 10:34 AM on June 11, 2001


Shucks. Just one more example of how TV and the news turn everything in life into a freakin' show (anyone remebers the Gulf War?) That's what McVeigh wanted anyway (and everyone else followed).

"The TV is my sheperd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures....."
posted by betobeto at 10:35 AM on June 11, 2001


Huh? What quest to rehabilitate?
People in prison get therapy, and religious counseling. They are coddled and tend to become more effective criminals when released. On the other hand the attitude towards the victim tends to be :"screw you".

Capital Punishment violates several of those rights.
The American people and the Supreme Court disagree with you.

I haven't "forgotten" that evil exists, I don't believe it does--and neither does the US Constitution.
My argument is not religious. It's a question of right and wrong, morals, or whatever you want to call them. There are certain things that we as a society have decided that it is just wrong to do, "evil" happens to be my word for it.

disproportionate number of Evil people in this country are black
A disproportionate amount of black people commit crimes. Should we not punish them because of their skin color?

And no one's paid any attention to him at all in the last 5 years.
Are you kidding? He has a bowel movement and its covered on every network.
posted by owillis at 10:37 AM on June 11, 2001


Holgate, hear hear
I wonder if they'll add another empty chair?
posted by Octaviuz at 10:48 AM on June 11, 2001


In your strange universe, I'm sure that you don't realize that it is very, very difficult indeed to look at someone like McVeigh and say, "No, I will not cave in to raw emotion and spite. I will not kill him. No matter how much I think he may deserve it."

The difficulty or ease of such a contortion is irrelevant. The fact remains that it is perverse.
posted by rushmc at 10:49 AM on June 11, 2001


I question the morality of those of you who loudly proclaim how you have (and we should) forgiven McVeigh

I hope you aren't referring to me. :) I haven't seen anyone saying that in this thread, but maybe I missed it. Quotes/permalinks are appreciated.

If you feel ill-equipped to carry the weight of deciding what constitutes crimes the commission of which forfeits one's right to continue in society, or in life, then very well. But do not interfere with those of us who do not shirk the difficult task.

Skot said it better than I can, but this is completely the wrong way to look at the problem. You're assuming that there exist any crimes for which death is a suitable punishment. I don't agree. I'm not shirking responsibility. Rather, I'm taking it, and saying we don't have to kill to get vengeance. Instead of taking the easy way out of killing the guy who made us mad, I say we take the hard, difficult path of giving him the chance to redeem himself. Maybe he never will, but we shouldn't take away that chance.

all of these death penalty opponent's alternatives are so clearly psychological torture. An IV in the arm to send McVeigh off to the big sleep is cruel and hideous, but systematically destroying someone's psyche by assaulting them with inescapable images and sounds for the express purpose of causing mental anguish isn't?

When you say "all" do you mean "one" or "a few," because I never suggested this punishment. However, if we're going for hypocrisy, I find it interesting that "all of these" death penalty supporters are in favor of such a quick, easy death, when if you really wanted him to suffer (which you clearly do) you should be in favor of the psychological punishment. You know, I don't think the people who suggest that kind of punishment are totally serious about it, but rather they're appealing to the supporters' lust for vengeance. In other words, they're presenting a "why don't you like this, then?" argument.

The American people and the Supreme Court disagree with you.

And I disagree with them.

Are you kidding? He has a bowel movement and its covered on every network.

Are you kidding?
posted by daveadams at 10:49 AM on June 11, 2001


The difficulty or ease of such a contortion is irrelevant. The fact remains that it is perverse

Strangely, the "difficulty or ease" was not "irrelevant" to your original argument. Which is it?
posted by daveadams at 10:50 AM on June 11, 2001


Transformation is possible even in people who have committed the worst of atrocities. The human capacity for reflection on our existence is what separates us from animals. The pathway for transformation should be left open to be taken or not, out of respect for human potential and for life in general.

It's sad because I understand the message intended, but I always think of electric chairs when I see that memorial.
posted by mblandi at 10:53 AM on June 11, 2001


One should never allow FEAR to motivate an action, or an inaction. It astounds me how many of you have argued that McVeigh should not have been put to death because such an action might trigger further repercussions from various hypothetical nutballs out there. Please! Justice (and practicality) is not about hedging your bets or covering your ass or pussyfooting around so as not to antagonize or alienate some fringe element of the population (that's what politics is for). Rather, it's about doing what's right, in a heads-up, forthright manner with the courage of one's convictions. This whole idea of negotiating with or seeking to appease imagined future criminals strikes me as preposterous and sickening.
posted by rushmc at 10:54 AM on June 11, 2001


I haven't seen anyone saying that in this thread, but maybe I missed it. Quotes/permalinks are appreciated.

I don't recall who made the statements, and I don't particularly wish to call attention to them; they made the posts, I will let them speak for themselves. But if you read back, there were several people with this perspective. Personally, I could care less who said what; it's the IDEAS I'm interested in discussing. The people stating them are chimeras whom I will never know.
posted by rushmc at 10:59 AM on June 11, 2001


jpoulos: Evil is a relgious concept, not a legal one.

There's a term in legal context called mala en se, meaning wrong(evil) in itself. Most of our legal premise is founded on christian and greek/roman influences.

Also, who cares if he influences a nutjob? As if they didn't have enough things influencing them already...the difference will be subtle among those that consider themselves "sane" anyway, and nothing has changed. We still haven't figured out to this day who bears the responisibility of taking one's life. We haven't learned that closure doesn't truely come in the form of vengance. We just have another reason to side off on an issue that is easy to understand. I personally don't feel any responsibility for McVeigh, as that was in the hands of the courts and prision. We do get included however when politicians are called in, for then it's our time to make a change from popular demand.

To mull over him is pointless however....his life was taken, supposedly, because we, as a society, do not tolerate the mass killing of civilians to get attention. So now we have retaliation in the form of defense for those that fear him causing further harm.

And also, when you really think about it...his stand was completely hypocritical. I would assume that building a bomb would take considerable time and patience, in which he could have wondered whether someone in that building had the same views as him. I would have written letters to local reps if I was upset over Waco, it's the more "civilized" thing to do and doesn't get you executed as much as it did during the 16th century.

Also, to say you're for or against the death penality is way too vague. You really have to take it on a per incident basis if you feel that you need to make a decision.
posted by samsara at 11:00 AM on June 11, 2001


I find it interesting that "all of these" death penalty supporters are in favor of such a quick, easy death, when if you really wanted him to suffer (which you clearly do) you should be in favor of the psychological punishment.

I can't speak for anyone else, and it wasn't my post that you were replying to here, but I for one have absolutely no interest in making McVeigh or any other human being suffer. I simply want him to cease to exist. I find all the suggestions of torturing him as abhorrent as you no doubt do.
posted by rushmc at 11:02 AM on June 11, 2001


The phrase "innocent victims" has been used quite frequently in this thread. Are we implying that if the 168 had been "guilty" of something, than McVeigh's actions would be justified? If McVeigh had blown up a prison, would we all be happy?

Of course not. The idea of giving someone the authority to kill someone else based on their own criteria (or even a majority-supported criteria) is a little too extreme. Thus it follows that our government, which as a democracy is run by the people, should not have that authority either.

No one questions a parent's right to discipline a child, but no one would permit a parent to kill a child. Why do we want our government to have both the right to discipline AND kill?

(And pardon my bleeding heart-ness, but while it is shocking and saddening that prisoners have access to more services [counseling, food, shelter] than many Americans, the solution is not to take away these services from prisoners but to ensure them for all Americans.)
posted by turaho at 11:03 AM on June 11, 2001


Also, to say you're for or against the death penality is way too vague. You really have to take it on a per incident basis if you feel that you need to make a decision.


Not if you don't believe in killing, regardless of situation.
posted by corpse at 11:03 AM on June 11, 2001


Justice (and practicality) is not about hedging your bets or covering your ass or pussyfooting around so as not to antagonize or alienate some fringe element of the population. Rather, it's about doing what's right, in a heads-up, forthright manner with the courage of one's convictions

Exactly why I can never support the death penalty. Thanks for the great argument, rushmc! :)
posted by daveadams at 11:05 AM on June 11, 2001


...he caused a major debate to start - and continue - about the proper role of government in citizens' lives...
No, he marginalized those who may have had legitimate concerns. Anyone who attacks the government now runs the risk of being lumped in with him as a right-wing, building-bombing fringe lunatic.

...Christiane Amanpour said on CNN today that 88 percent of executions occur in US, China, Iraq, and Iran.
Great, Christiane. Anyone want to dig up what percentage of that 88 percent the U.S. is responsible for? BTW, I can prove that Mary Lou Retton and Adolph Hitler are responsible for almost 100 percent of the deaths related to the Holocaust.
posted by darren at 11:06 AM on June 11, 2001


It's really easy to dismiss someone as being evil in order to dehumanize them. By doing so, you don't have to wrestle with any complex moral issues when it comes to punishing the monster; after all, he isn't a human being.
posted by MegoSteve at 11:07 AM on June 11, 2001


People in prison get therapy, and religious counseling. They are coddled and tend to become more effective criminals when released.

So the therapy and counseling is making them better criminals? More likely, it's the feeling that the system has nothing positive to offer that sends them back to crime.

There are certain things that we as a society have decided that it is just wrong to do, "evil" happens to be my word for it.

But you've been arguing that McVeigh has somehow separated himself from the pack--that he isn't just wrong, but evil. Unless you believe that "evil" makes people rob liquor stores or mug little old ladies. Do you? Because then it's a matter of degree, or those "shades of gray" that you've been arguing against.

A disproportionate amount of black people commit crimes

Owillis: a disproportionate number of black convicted criminals are sentenced to death. This has nothing to do with the general population. If you are black, you are more likely to be sentenced to death than a white guy--for the same crime. By your arguments, black criminals commit crimes out of "evil" more than white criminals (who, I assume, have just made some bad life choices).
posted by jpoulos at 11:08 AM on June 11, 2001


But I DO, I DO believe in killing! It's murder I'm wholeheartedly against. Killing is an integral part of life, it's one of the most important mechanisms of survival, and it's something we all do, whether we are aware of it or not, every day (though not, most of us, on a human scale, tis true). To try to escape and deny the morality of killing is like trying to escape and deny the morality of gravity: both are an inevitable part of the system into which you were born, folks.

Murder, on the other hand, is an entirely different thing, and like the previous poster (who was quickly shouted down for descending into "semantics"--always an easy, if illogical, retort), I wish people would quit confusing the two.
posted by rushmc at 11:09 AM on June 11, 2001


But if you read back, there were several people with this perspective.

Actually, if you read back, there is only one person suggesting that we should forgive McVeigh, and that is Perigee, in his blazingly sarcastic posts.

MonkeyMeat has written, "I don't expect anyone to forgive him," and Jennak wrote, "This morning I went to church and prayed for the comfort of the families and victims, for the forgiveness of McVeigh and the government," which suggests a hope for divine forgiveness, not human.
posted by redfoxtail at 11:11 AM on June 11, 2001


rushmc: I always thought death was an integral part of life, not killing. We will all die. We will not all be killed.
posted by turaho at 11:14 AM on June 11, 2001


Foxy, you're "descending" into semantics.

I just want to know exactly what has been accomplished here today. Is there any objective good that has arisen out of this (or any other) execution?

Oh, and rushmc, I hate to pile on, but in addressing a community of this size, it's best to not assume that the only interaction we've had is by seeing the events on television. I am from the OKC area; I have a friend who lost his dad in the blast; I visited it within days; etc.
posted by norm at 11:17 AM on June 11, 2001


The horrible thing about a crime like McVeigh's is that there is no way to get justice. We could never inflict on one man the same amount of pain that one man could on, say, a federal building's worth of people and all their friends & families. Even if we could, that one man would be protected from it by the Constitution's built-in mercy clause which forbids cruel and unusual punishment, even in the case of cruel and unusual crimes. So don't whine that justice is being served, because that's not even possible.

If you're worried about making the country a safer place, consider that at any time, another McVeigh could pop out of the woodwork as suddenly and disastrously as the first one did, whether we kill the first one or not. We're not any safer for killing him.

Unless you're a federal agent who worked to capture him and build the case against him, or a survivor or relative of a victim, or anyone else for whom this brings closure, then I can see no reason why anyone should feel good about this. Even in those cases, I'd be concerned that one person's sense of fulfillment comes at the cost of another person's life, no matter how worthless that life may be. That's the kind of thinking that got us into this.

I don't know if killing him was or wasn't the Right Thing, but I'm pretty sure it's wrong to swell with self-righteousness when a man dies and bully everyone who has the decency to acknowledge that the guy spent at least a few minutes of every day doing something other than being evil.

He was a dumb kid with a hell of a mean streak, but he might have lived to see the day where he'd regret what he'd done and shown some remorse, or maybe he'd orchestrate another bombing from his cushy cell. Now we'll never know.
posted by MonkeyMeat at 11:20 AM on June 11, 2001


OK; to come back into this with a perfectly honest and straightfoward post, let me say this, and I'd love to have some answers back on your take on it.

For myself, McVeigh and a whole host of others became a societal liability. And, while I am willing to help support the optimism that change can occur by allowing my tax dollar to support the prison system, I do not wish to fund the perpetual care and feeding of 'life-term prisoners'. It's nothing personal; it's not vengence, nor is it bloodthirsty. It's simply my considered moral stance on the subject. I am apathetic entirely to their continued existence, but would, given a choice, not spend a cent to further their continued existence. Further, I feel that I am being forced against my will to do so based on the impassioned feelings of those who, for some moral or ethical reason, feel the need to place all human life as an ultimate right.

If those who believe in the long-term continuation of the existence of 'life-term prisoners' would choose to shoulder the burden of their existence, I would applaud the action. Tremendous that they would stand behind the strength of their moral code, while allowing me the freedom of mine. Further, since the cost of care and feeding would be privatized, none of us "evil bloodthirsty bastards" would have a leg to stand on, as far as trying to 'exact vengence'.

So... what's wrong with this program? Would you check a box on your tax return to surrender $50.00 bucks to house 'life term prisoners? Would you sign up for a Sally Stuthers 'Adopt-A-Con' program? And if not, why should I have to take your moral imperatives as my own?
posted by Perigee at 11:27 AM on June 11, 2001


Murder, on the other hand, is an entirely different thing, and like the previous poster (who was quickly shouted down for descending into "semantics"--always an easy, if illogical, retort), I wish people would quit confusing the two.

You're right, it is an easy retort, especially when you keep opening the door for me. Continuing to wish for understanding when you can't bother to define your own terms seems fairly backwards.

I suppose I must infer from your post that we "kill" all the time, whether it be microbes, spiders, beef, whatever. I must then further suppose that "murder" is more specifically defined as the killing of human(s) by another human, and then yet further suppose that this term is not inclusive of retributive killing of said "murderers."

Is that close? Because it seems a lot more complicated than gravity all of a sudden.
posted by Skot at 11:27 AM on June 11, 2001


I saw where his last meal was 2 pints of ice cream. Wouldn't that have been cool as hell to lace it with rat poison and see the bastard die right before getting that nice little death sentence?

Have fun in hell McVeigh. Even though I'm pro-death penalty, they still should have saved the money and let him out. Retaliation is always so much more horrific to the criminal than that needle in the arm. I would have paid to see the families get ahold of his scrawny a__.
posted by the_0ne at 11:32 AM on June 11, 2001


well, that's just scary.
posted by corpse at 11:35 AM on June 11, 2001


corpse: Meaning if you find yourself struggling as I am between both sides. Didn't mean to project that as a statement of fact, more so as opinion. However, I can't say that I'm "for the death penalty," especially as it is. If we solve problems of mass murder with murder(pc as killing), then we lose credibility over time on whether our actions are truely just and deserved. I wonder how we will be seen a century from now? I'm thinking it won't be too different. From what I've heard, capital punishment is a:

deterrent -- however ineffective statistically
method of silencing
form of retaliation
form of vengance and hatred
type of closure -- however argued that forgiveness is the the way out
swift resolution
murder -- or method of killing
barbaric means of punishment
essential to mantaining and protecting civility
etc etc...

It's all these things in a kaliedescopic ying-yang kinda way. There's clearly identifiable pros, and cons. Why I struggle with this is because capital punishment seems to be a solution to a problem with no solutions.
posted by samsara at 11:39 AM on June 11, 2001


I don't think McVeigh was too successful in his objectives - the media seems to have been sidetracked into yet another debate about capital punishment (and not a particularly worthy case at that), instead of a serious discussion about 'collateral damage' from military operations.
posted by heighting at 11:43 AM on June 11, 2001


Wouldn't that have been cool as hell to lace it with rat poison and see the bastard die right before getting that nice little death sentence?

Pro- or anti-death penalty viewpoints notwithstanding, I am troubled by how many people in this thread have expressed such cruel and vicious sentiments.

For those of you who feel this way, if you ever really did subject someone to the tortures you've ascribed, would you mind being killed in the same way as punishment for your crimes? Or is eye-for-any-eye not transitive?

And we wonder how Hitler and Stalin were able to exact such evil on their victims?
posted by briank at 11:44 AM on June 11, 2001


I do not wish to fund the perpetual care and feeding of 'life-term prisoners'. It's nothing personal; it's not vengence, nor is it bloodthirsty. It's simply my considered moral stance on the subject.

If cost is your motivating factor, you will undoubtedly want to repeal the death penalty knowing that it is more expensive than incarceration for life.

I feel that I am being forced against my will to do so based on the impassioned feelings of those who, for some moral or ethical reason, feel the need to place all human life as an ultimate right.

Look! I found someone more nihilistic than me! Seriously, if life isn't an ultimate right, then there are no rights. If it is an ultimate right, then the state shouldn't be in the business of taking it.
posted by norm at 11:44 AM on June 11, 2001


((I don't know about nihilistic, but definitely absurdist/existentialist, norm. To me, we really are just fancy meat. We have no value beyond that which we create for ourselves - I do not believe in higher powers, god-granted rights, etc. and so on. Only in our ability as a society of seperate entities to successfully interact over the course of our lifetimes. Cold blooded as hell, I know... I probably had a bad childhood. ~GRIN~))
posted by Perigee at 11:51 AM on June 11, 2001


I have had the unfortunate experience of losing a relative to a murderer. Believe me, if I had the chance, I would kill the man myself. I have no reservations telling anyone that I would in fact enjoy it, however sickening that may be to some of you. Unfortunately, he killed himself first.
As to the reason why we killed the man in question today? Because he threatened our survival. Not as a species, but as individuals. He posed a threat in the future to all of us, judging from his record. He would have continued to kill.
In the wild, animals do the same. To say that we are beyond being an animal is simply ridiculous. We must survive, and in order to do that, we must take out all the obstacles, or die doing so.
posted by bradth27 at 11:52 AM on June 11, 2001


If I sit at the corner of First and Main outside of your office building, wait for you to come out for lunch, then gun my engine, hit you in the intersection at 50 mph and then back up and run you over for good measure, I've murdered you.

If you die after I hit you with my car because you've walked out into the middle of an unlit country road at 3 a.m. wearing all black, I have killed you.

Either way you're dead. In one case your death is an act of malicious wrongdoing. In the other it is the consequence of an unfortunate set of circumstances, set in motion by your own thoughtless actions.

If 168 people die after I load a truck full of explosives, drive it into a busy urban center, park it next to the building that they're in and let a timer detonate the explosives, I have just committed mass murder - an act of malicious wrongdoing.

If I die because society will not stand for people committing mass murder, and therefore lawfully sentenced me to death my lethal injection and put an IV of poison into me, I have been killed - the consequence of an unfortunate set of circumstances, set in motion by my own thoughtless actions.

Get the difference now?
posted by Dreama at 11:55 AM on June 11, 2001


"I oppose the death penalty absolutely, in all cases, because in all cases it is an act of revenge and hatred." - Bud Welch, who lost his 23-year-old daughter, Julie Marie Welch, in the Oklahoma City bombing.
posted by tranquileye at 11:56 AM on June 11, 2001


Get the difference now [between murder and killing]?

Yes, I think we all understand what you're saying. But the difference in semantics between "killing" and "murder" is meaningless and it isn't what the discussion is about. Or if it is, it's because some people believe that the government did "murder" Tim McVeigh, and some don't.

Still, norm's point is valid. Murder is a subset of killing. If one believes the government should not be in the killing (of humans, of course) business, then it doesn't matter whether an execution is "murder" or not.
posted by daveadams at 12:02 PM on June 11, 2001


In the wild, animals do the same. To say that we are beyond being an animal is simply ridiculous. We must survive, and in order to do that, we must take out all the obstacles, or die doing so.

While we are animals, we are not controlled as animals are simply by instinct. In fact, the basis of our society is the idea of a social contract among all of us, that we will conduct ourselves in a rational manner.

Regardless, McVeigh was captured and imprisoned, and little threat to anyone. On that basis, killing him wasn't justified, was it?

And I'm pretty sure that animals don't kill for revenge, as you would.
posted by tranquileye at 12:04 PM on June 11, 2001


Here's another point of view on Dreama's examples. I'll repeat them for ease of reading.

(1) If you die after I hit you with my car because you've walked out into the middle of an unlit country road at 3 a.m. wearing all black, I have killed you.... the consequence of an unfortunate set of circumstances, set in motion by your own thoughtless actions....

(2) If I die because society will not stand for people committing mass murder, and therefore lawfully sentenced me to death my lethal injection and put an IV of poison into me, I have been killed - the consequence of an unfortunate set of circumstances, set in motion by my own thoughtless actions.

The difference, of course, is that in example one, there was no chance to change the ultimate outcome. There was no way to stop, ask the guy to change clothes and carry a flashlight, get back in your car and start driving.

But in example two, we've had years to decide that killing McVeigh won't change anything except the number of people who have died as a result of his thoughtless actions. His death was not inevitable (as was the death in example one). His thoughtless actions did not directly lead to his death through no conscious action on anyone's part. Rather, countless numbers of thoughtful, calculated actions took place in order to bring his death about.

That's the difference... remarkably similar to that between "murder" and "killing".
posted by daveadams at 12:07 PM on June 11, 2001


If I die because society will not stand for people committing mass murder, and therefore lawfully sentenced me to death my lethal injection and put an IV of poison into me, I have been killed - the consequence of an unfortunate set of circumstances, set in motion by my own thoughtless actions.

Execution is murder, Dreama. I support what happened today, but pretending that McVeigh brought the punishment entirely on himself -- with no help from a society willing to support capital punishment -- is as bad as a mass murderer describing his victims as "collateral damage."
posted by rcade at 12:07 PM on June 11, 2001


"Today we saw justice," said Kathleen Treanor, who lost three family members in the 1995 blast that killed 168.

“I think I did see the face of evil today,” said Kathy Wilburn, who watched live video of the execution in Oklahoma City. Her grandsons Chase Smith, 3, and brother Colton, 2, were among the 168 victims of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building on April 19, 1995.

(my emphasis)
posted by owillis at 12:15 PM on June 11, 2001


What's your point, owillis? It's not particularly surprising that the families of the victims would feel vengeful and hateful towards McVeigh. It is interesting that at least one of them would not support his execution, though.
posted by daveadams at 12:17 PM on June 11, 2001


rcade, look at the meaning of the word. You may not like it, but you don't get to redefine words to fit your point of view.
posted by Dreama at 12:18 PM on June 11, 2001


I don't get that either, owillis. yes, it is absolutely terrible that nineteen children died. it's unfair and awful and wrong. but would it be any less so if there had been only 149 people in that building, all of them adults?
posted by rabi at 12:19 PM on June 11, 2001


A child's life is no more precious than adults, a life is a life, be it the 168 people that died that day, or the 1 this morning.
posted by corpse at 12:21 PM on June 11, 2001


Dreama, instead of focusing on the sematics of the first sentence of rcade's argument, why don't you address the greater intent of the whole argument, which I imagine you understood? I'm sure you have something to address that.
posted by daveadams at 12:25 PM on June 11, 2001


rcade: he did bring it all upon himself. Simply, if he had not blown up that building and killed all those people, he would most likely be alive today, and you and I wouldn't have ever even heard his name.

I'm not sure i'm understanding you about what part society had in encouraging such behavior.
posted by jbelshaw at 12:26 PM on June 11, 2001


You may not like it, but you don't get to redefine words to fit your point of view.

The feature of that definition that conflicts with rcade's argument is the word "unlawfully." It seems to me that when people are debating whether a particular action should or should not be legally permitted, that part of the definition is rendered irrelevant. If executions were illegal, they would be unlawful.

From the definition you cite:
1. To kill (another human) unlawfully.
2. To kill brutally or inhumanly.

posted by redfoxtail at 12:28 PM on June 11, 2001


"McVeigh is a coward and a lowdown bastard. Somebody tried to take my life, they deserve to burn in hell.'' -- Raymond Washburn, who was in the building when it was bombed. I like this guy's attitude. It's so refreshing in our age of wishy-washiness.

Also: Say Good-Bye, Timothy. An analysis I agree with 100%.
posted by mw at 12:29 PM on June 11, 2001


I am really fond of something I keep hearing here--namely something to the effect of "killing McVeigh was not justice." So I ask all you people who have said that thus far, what exactly would justice have been for McVeigh? Is 50 years behind bars justice? How are you defining this "justice?" Justice has nothing to do with the punishment in this case. He was convicted, sentenced to never step foot in society ever again regardless of which punishment was chosen, and justice was served.

Now, for my opinion, who gives a flying fruitcake that McVeigh was executed? Any way you look at it, this man's life was over. We probably did him a favor by taking him out now instead of letting him suffer for 50 years.
posted by fusinski at 12:31 PM on June 11, 2001



"If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I would much rather risk the former. This, to me, is not a tough call." - John McAdams - Marquette University/Department of Political Science, on deterrence
posted by fusinski at 12:34 PM on June 11, 2001


I saw where his last meal was 2 pints of ice cream. Wouldn't that have been cool as hell to lace it with rat poison and see the bastard die right before getting that nice little death sentence?

I'm not sure "cool" is the word I would use.

I remember last year a local talk show host proposed torturing a gang of youths who were accused of killing a local man and hiding his body. Supposedly the torture would have forced the kids to reveal where the body was.

I can understand why people in the year 2001 might propose this sort of thing. People do bad things, and we feel powerless. But criminal justice has a long, long history, and there are some very good reasons why we don't torture people, and why we have search warrants, rules of evidence, and an impartial judiciary.

When you give power to the state, especially the power to kill, there is always the risk that that power will be abused. If we imprison a man for a crime he didn't commit, when he is exonerated he can be released and an effort can be made to compensate him. When a man is executed for a crime he didn't commit, there is no compensation possible, and the state has committed a crime for which it cannot be punished.

In Canada, there have been several well-known cases of individuals convicted of murder who were subsequently found to be innocent, sometimes ten and twenty years after the fact. DNA testing is showing that numerous people in the United States who have been convicted of various crimes, including murder and rape, are innocent; the Criminal Justice section of Yahoo! Daily News is filled with stories of people wrongfully convicted.

I can't shed any tears for McVeigh. He did a horrible, horrible thing. But just because I have no sympathy for him doesn't mean that he has no rights as a human being, or that the state has a right to kill him, or anyone else.

When the state sanctions violence, even an execution, it creates a more violent society. Revenge and hatred become acceptable; we can embrace them, revel in them. As has been amply demonstrated by some of the comments in this thread, revenge becomes part of the social fabric of the country. Don't think for one moment that this isn't reflected in American politics, foreign policy, and history.
posted by tranquileye at 12:38 PM on June 11, 2001


I wouldn't say I'm 100% opposed to the death penalty, but I do have to wonder if it is truly regarded as "the ultimate punishment" by those who are sentenced to it. As evidenced by the actions that got him on death row in the first place, Timothy McVeigh is not a person who values human life. So does it really matter to him if he loses his? Probably not. He was prepared to die before he ever detonated the bomb. So by having the government kill him he got to be in the news for months on end, and die a martyr for his cause... in a relatively painless way to boot. Contrast his punishment with, say, Jeffrey Dahmer, who, if memory serves, was tossed in prison and pretty much forgotten about until he was done in by his fellow inmates. They're both dead now, but which man received the harsher punishment?
posted by spilon at 12:42 PM on June 11, 2001


"McVeigh is a coward and a lowdown bastard. Somebody tried to take my life, they deserve to burn in hell.'' -- Raymond Washburn, who was in the building when it was bombed. I like this guy's attitude. It's so refreshing in our age of wishy-washiness.

Also: Say Good-Bye, Timothy. An analysis I agree with 100%.
posted by mw at 12:29 PM PST on June 11


This is what I hate about death penalty threads. I really think that what McVeigh did is so heinous that I can't feel sorry or feel empathy for him on any level, really, except to wonder what went wrong, and even then it's not worth getting in a huff about. He was an a-hole, a deviant of the lowest order. But this revenge stuff isn't refreshing. It may be understandable in his case, but it's not refreshing.

I had someone pull a hit-and-run on me recently, after I slowed down for an ambulance. That guy could've very well killed me, easily have killed me, and he knew it and avoided responsibility by screeching off. Does he deserve to rot in hell?

Further, do I deserve to rot in hell for not doing enough to better humanity as much as I have been able to? Are you Mr. Perfect in every way? Even if you don't believe in one Creator, do we all get to become our own personal deities, and shoot people who've tried to kill us whatnot, say who deserves eternal punishment and who does not with absolute certainty? Oh, there is McVeigh, who deserves to go to hell, but not the law-abiding guy who treated his employees like the s-word and never helps out anyone, or the peacenik who kicks animals when no one's looking, etc. No, all we should want to do as a society is to keep society safe from criminal deviance, and in the most efficient and ethical and effective way possible. Which can be, and is, more complicated than anyone is allowing here. (Example: Can the way laws are enforced contribute to more violence? Absolutely, albeit not exclusively. Almost all criminal behavior is learned behavior.)

Sheesh, this and the "prisoners are expensive" (so, why not kill everyone with a long sentence?) arguments are crap, show-offy, thoughtless crap. It's easy to be tougher than thou in pixel form. God (sorry) forbid we should reach for some higher ground, unlike McVeigh.
posted by raysmj at 1:01 PM on June 11, 2001


I'm not saying a child's life is worth more than an adults, but what I am saying is that an adult has at least been given the chance to have a taste of life - good & bad. A 2 year old hasn't.
posted by owillis at 1:02 PM on June 11, 2001


raysmj: You say revenge, I say justice. The rest of your post, as far as it is relevant at all, is a good example of that wishy-washiness I was talking about.
posted by mw at 1:18 PM on June 11, 2001


mw, what is "wishy-washiness"?
posted by tranquileye at 1:20 PM on June 11, 2001


wishy-washy. adj. Characterized by an unwillingness to pronounce judgment.

That's my working definition. Number 2 at dictionary.com isn't far off either.
posted by mw at 1:31 PM on June 11, 2001


((Just as a note at the end of the day - of all the posts that have followed, nobody has volunteered to pony up their own pocket money to support these guys; just criped that 'we just gotta'.

He's heavy - he's not my brother. Take him off my hands, or don't bitch if I drop him.))
posted by Perigee at 1:34 PM on June 11, 2001


mw, I fear you might be calling raysmj "wishy-washy" because he is making a nuanced and complex argument. Is everything really simple in your world?
posted by tranquileye at 1:42 PM on June 11, 2001


"Thomas Sophonow is seeking compensation of up to $10.2 million for his wrongful murder conviction, his lawyer said Monday ... Harris said Sophonow continues to suffer from the strain of three separate trials and four years spent in prison for murdering Barbara Stoppel in 1981."
posted by tranquileye at 1:45 PM on June 11, 2001


rcade, look at the meaning of the word. You may not like it, but you don't get to redefine words to fit your point of view.

I'm not the one fishing for a term that denies my own culpability in taking McVeigh's life. Whether it's murder, killing, or execution, Americans are responsible for his death because we allow capital punishment to be carried out in our name. I think the term "murder" fits when we're talking about a premediated effort by a group of people to end someone's life. And in this case, I think the guy richly deserved to be murdered.
posted by rcade at 2:05 PM on June 11, 2001


tranq: I have nothing against nuanced, complex, non-simple arguments, per se. But when any argument leads to no firm conclusion, i.e., not taking a stand one way or the other, then it's wish-washy.
posted by mw at 2:08 PM on June 11, 2001


he did bring it all upon himself. Simply, if he had not blown up that building and killed all those people, he would most likely be alive today, and you and I wouldn't have ever even heard his name.

McVeigh isn't dead solely because of what he did. He's dead because people like you and me wanted him to die for what he did. If we support capital punishment, we should be willing to accept our active role in this event.
posted by rcade at 2:12 PM on June 11, 2001


mw: I was taking a stand in regard to your argument, which I didn't agree with.
posted by raysmj at 2:14 PM on June 11, 2001


Here's a good editorial by Joel Achenbach in today's Washington Post.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:17 PM on June 11, 2001


not taking a stand one way or the other, then it's wish-washy.

I thought the stand was, essentially: "Since the situation is complex and since there cannot be simple answers to these complex questions, then we must conclude that the death penalty is not a punishment we can support."

Is that wishy-washy? To come to a firm conclusion? To take a stand against the death penalty is wishy-washy?
posted by daveadams at 2:18 PM on June 11, 2001


I liked this LA Times editorial
posted by owillis at 2:38 PM on June 11, 2001


You know, it reeks in this thread.
posted by rodii at 2:51 PM on June 11, 2001


daveadams: That would be part of the argument, more implied than outright stated. (No one asked me to take a stand on that, nor was I required to do so by mw or any other self-appointed authorities; I was only responding to one statement.) It's a hard call, but I don't think the death penalty is the most *effective* means of dealing with even deviance this severe. McVeigh deserved to be kept apart from society in whatever way possible, as a means of insuring public safety. But do I think this is somehow perfect either? No. Maybe nothing is, but it seems to me the best of all ultimately unsatisfactory options. Reasonable people can disagree here.

What offended me more was the "burn in hell" part, and it's being seen as somehow refreshing. That's not justice, it's Medieval type vengeance. Heck, it's beyond vengeance; it's playing God, for lack of a better way of putting it. All we're talking about here is dealing with and preventing crimes, not ultimate morality. There are more immoral acts committed every day - some of the level of McVeigh's, some just as or more horrid (although maybe committed by a collective, a nation or organization), some seemingly not as bad but more insidious- than any government or society could possibly ever deal with. I found that deeply off-putting, and posted what was a highly intuitive response.
posted by raysmj at 2:55 PM on June 11, 2001


I read through the first few posts of this thread, and will not read the rest. I find this subject too upsetting, honestly.

I come from a country where death penalty sounds almost like science-fiction. I believe there is something fundamentally wrong with putting to death a human being - even if that human being is the "scum of earth".

And for those who protest about the money involved for keeping him in prison until his hair goes white and falls out, or any possible rehabilitation, has it occurred to you that the society has a responsibility in "producing" somebody capable of his crime?

Criminals are responsible of their acts, there is no question about that - but when individuals go astray, there is often something wrong with the system. And it's a bit easy to simply do away with the "buggy" individual, instead of trying to find a constructive solution.
posted by Tara at 3:09 PM on June 11, 2001


Although I am resolutely against the death penalty under any circumstances, I didn't have a feeling of outrage like I do when I hear of other people being executed prior to it happening. It didn't change my views, but there was a valid point that McVeigh, unlike almost all other death-row inmates, was like the poster boy for capital punishment supporters - white, given a (mostly) fair trial with competent counsel, no question of his guilt.

So I was a bit surprised this morning when, as I drove to work, I heard that the execution had taken place. I was sad. I experienced a physical sensation of loss. It wasn't about the particular guy who had been killed - it was the fact of government-sponsored killing at all. And I remain disturbed. Deeply, profoundly disturbed - even though I thankfully live in a place where we don't do that to people.

To supporters of the death penalty that must seem insane. But I'm an absolutist. And my gut confirmed what my intellect had figured out before today.

[to whoever said the government gives you your rights - in the US, the opposite is true. The government is justified and exists by dint of and to secure prior *inalienable* human rights. That philosophical turn was, to me, one of the high water marks of human history.]
posted by mikel at 4:05 PM on June 11, 2001


(1) Letting McVeigh rot in jail for the rest of his life sounds OK, except for one tiny detail...do you remember some very high-profile escapes from prisons recently? I know of two that made it to the national media, specifically, the "Texas 7" that escaped from a high-security (!) prison in South Texas and subsequently murdered a police officer in Ft Worth before they were apprehended. (2) If ever a criminal posed a danger to society should he happen escape prison, McVeigh would be it. I doubt that anyone could doubt that he had planned some more elaborate & deadly terrorist acts should he find himself "outside" either through escape, legal proceedings, or being "broken out" by like-minded zealots. (3) In this case, the death penalty is a deterrent - we can rest assured that McVeigh will *never* kill again. That much is certain. And, as a bonus, it may (MAY) convince other wanna-be "terrorists" to target buildings, vehicles, or property, instead of humans.

BTW, I am happy that he is dead, in case you hadn't picked that up. I understand that the death penalty is not always applied equitably, and there are some concerns about the effectiveness as a deterrent, and many people do not have "adequate" representation, but this wicked person was the poster child for state-sponsored execution.
posted by davidmsc at 4:16 PM on June 11, 2001


If you said that society had to do the latter, that it was hard, etc. others might see your argument as more legitimate or take it more seriously. But you, who I take it had no relatives or anyone involved here, are *happy* that this occurred? Why, you're just pleased as punch. Good for you. In other words, you were as into Medieval vengeance as anyone. Your decision had little to do with protecting society. Unless you meant "happy" in some other way I've never heard before.

Why did the Texas escape occur? Because there were seven involved? McVeigh didn't escape in all these years. Should we even wait to have trials, since the person might escape during a trial? What about appeals? They could escape during appeals.
posted by raysmj at 4:32 PM on June 11, 2001


Today my government took a life.
My government does not value life as I do.
I do not mourn for Timothy McVeigh, I mourn for my Country.
posted by Mick at 4:45 PM on June 11, 2001


It's moments like this that I find people pretty scary.
posted by lagado at 5:06 PM on June 11, 2001


Mick: Does the fact that we have jails mean the government does not value freedom?

Regarding the "wishy-washy" thing: raysmj reacted strongly against the quote from a victim who believed McVeigh deserved to rot in Hell, saying essentially that it is wrong for us to judge others. That is what I was referring to and what I disagree with.
posted by mw at 5:07 PM on June 11, 2001


that's not wishy-washy. Society has every right to judge people as criminals or not. But you don't have every right to decide who deserves ultimate punishment or not. McVeigh decided that he had such authority, since he saw the government as having done something immoral. He was judge and jury. Look where it got him, 168 people in a federal building in Oklahoma City and us. And trust me -- it's not the United States saying that McVeigh should rot in hell. It's you who called the statement refreshing. From a deeply affected victim, it is somehow more understandable, even sad. From you, it is not.
posted by raysmj at 5:13 PM on June 11, 2001


MW: Make that: First, you have no right to physically harm people yourself for any reason other than self-defense in an extreme situation and two, you have no right to say who is more immoral than any other, ultimately, because you don't really know. You have only the right to say who committed a crime under the law, either as an elected or appointed judge or member of a jury. And that's as far as your rights in this area go. Anything more, seems to me, is begging for more McVeigh-like, lone acts of vengeance.
posted by raysmj at 5:22 PM on June 11, 2001


MW, jails help protect the freedoms of others, execution does nothing but show contempt for life, and a small-minded approach to the problem.
posted by Mick at 5:26 PM on June 11, 2001


raysjm: If you can dispute points (1) (2) or (3), I would like to hear it. And "happy" in this case means that I am relieved that he will not repeat his act, I am happy that he received punishment for his action/s, and I am pleased that our system, flawed though it may be, functioned properly in this instance. (I know, I know...the FBI blundered, but that was not intentional, and let's not forget that the FBI solved the case.) So - yes - I am "happy," although not "happy" in the sense of, say, eating my two scoops of mint chocolate-chip ice-cream. ;-)
posted by davidmsc at 6:00 PM on June 11, 2001


you have no right to say who is more immoral than any other, ultimately, because you don't really know

Thank you for making your view on this so clear. It is indeed the exact polar opposite of the one implicit in the victim's quote, and I have an appropriately contrasting reaction to it. Maybe you don't know, raysmj, but please don't presume to speak for anyone else.

Mick: You've merely restated your assertion and done nothing to explain why taking a life must necessarily indicate a lack of respect for it; i.e., why it is different from my parallel of jails and freedom.
posted by mw at 6:26 PM on June 11, 2001


Davidmsc: "Happy" does not equal "pleased," does not have the same connotation, rather, but I'll take you at your word while asking you to please be a little careful and thoughtful in the near future. And I didn't see a good explanation of 1 or 3 in your explanation myself, once I thought about it, nor do I find number two especially relevant. One and three don't make sense because the people involved have the chance to escape during and before trials and appeals. I don't know all the details of the Texas case either, the profiles of these inmates or anything. I do know there's a guy convicted of accessory to the murder of a Mississippi judge who has his food delivered to him via robot in a federal prison solitary confinement room (find the book "Mississippi Mud," for which there's also a web site on the Net - pretty high profile murder of a state judge and his wife). And I'd trust the feds more than I'd trust Texas. Use the expense thing again and I'll say that we pay plenty for other prisoners who committed lesser crimes and that death penalty cases can be amazingly expensive for different reasons.

And no, MC, you don't know what's in the head of every human you've ever met or heard the name of, or what everyone has done wrong or not, or how short everyone has fallen, etc., unless you're clairvoyant and omnipresent.
posted by raysmj at 6:47 PM on June 11, 2001


MW: I also said that the victim's statement was understandable, given the trauma he experienced. A lot can be exused by trauma, almost everything but physically harming another person/taking the law into your own hands.
posted by raysmj at 6:57 PM on June 11, 2001


(a) We're not arguing over whether his statement is "understandable," but whether it is objectively correct. I think it is, you don't. I think we are clear enough on this. (b) Who said anything about taking the law into his own hands?
posted by mw at 7:22 PM on June 11, 2001


DavidMc: For more on why the fears about escape during trial or appeal might be relevant, please see the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Authorities feared that something else would happen soon unless the conspirators were not punished awfully quickly. So the military held what was in effect a show trial, with alleged conspirators brought in in sack cloth and leg irons, in May 1865 - the assisination occured in March and people were arrested in following weeks and months. Four alleged conspirators were hung shortly afterward, pics made available to the public and all. The question of the guilt of one hanged person, Mary Surratt, is highly debated to this day. Three others were given life sentences (including the Dr. Mudd of his name is Mudd fame/infamy), but two of the latter were pardoned by Andrew Johnson.

So, mistakes were made. But the situation was dealt with quickly. Sheesh, at least after a four-year slaughter -- the likes of which the U.S. hadn't seen before or since -- you could understand the paranoia. But at least they weren't pussyfooting around with talk about how someone wouldn't do this again because he or she is dead, blah blah, after *six years*.
posted by raysmj at 7:37 PM on June 11, 2001


MC: My problem related to your statement, period. Part b was simply a disclaimer.
posted by raysmj at 7:40 PM on June 11, 2001


But the difference in semantics between "killing" and "murder" is meaningless

No one can possibly be this thick...Dreama clearly explicated the distinction. I must conclude you are simply trying to derail the discussion at this point, rather than contribute to it.
posted by rushmc at 7:42 PM on June 11, 2001


To clear up a misapprehension: I agree that there is no possible justice that can be achieved for the victims or those who valued them personally. Some things, once done, cannot be undone. The dead cannot be brought back, and pain cannot be unsuffered.

And that's a pity, but so what?

There IS still justice that can be achieved. Justice for a man who broke the covenant that we all make with society. And justice for that society, which had the covenant with it broken. THAT is the justice of which I (and probably others) speak, so to counter with a denial that justice for the victims is possible is irrelevant.

Choices produce actions; actions result in consequences. This is as it should be.

And it's even clearer in this case, which was not random. If you bought some gum from the machine at the grocery store, and a cop jumped out and arrested you, and you were convicted of gum-buying, which had recently (unknown to you) been legislated a capital offense, and sentenced to die, then you might well have a legitimate beef. But McVeigh knew exactly the penalty society set for the acts he chose to commit. Nor was he surprised, upset, or disappointed when they were followed through on. He didn't beg for special exemption from the rules--quite the contrary--so why do some of you on his behalf?

I know, I know, what you really object to are the rules themselves as they currently exist. But that's really beside the point in this case, isn't it? There are many laws on the books with which I disagree, sometimes strongly, but so long as they are on the books they are the law of the land and should be enforced uniformly and without fail. If we don't like them, it is our responsibility to seek to change them.
posted by rushmc at 7:53 PM on June 11, 2001


Oh, it's mw and Davidmsc. These are too many m's with letters after them there! (Joking.) Sorry.
posted by raysmj at 7:53 PM on June 11, 2001


rushmc: Did anyone argue that it's not the responsibility of people to fight for a repeal of laws they believe to be unjust? Did anyone here or elsewhere try to illegally stop the federal prison system from carrying out its legal obligation here? No. No one asked for an exemption of any one individual either. What are you talking about? Some people may come across as overbearing or too bleeding hearted for their own good, or just plain whiney (just as plenty of advocates on the other side come off as vengeful and Tuffer Than Thou) but that doesn't mean they felt anything particular for McVeigh or that they wanted the execution stopped by any means, including illegal ones.
posted by raysmj at 8:03 PM on June 11, 2001


rushmc:

I know, I know, what you really object to are the rules themselves as they currently exist. But that's really beside the point in this case, isn't it?

No, that's entirely the point, and that's the reason this thread is going on and on like it is. Nobody here has argued that McVeigh's killing was illegal - just that it was wrong. (Or, on the other side of the aisle, that it was necessary, right, or even - way over there - good.) Don't give the law more respect than it deserves.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:25 PM on June 11, 2001


Actually, if you read back, there is only one person suggesting that we should forgive McVeigh, and that is Perigee, in his blazingly sarcastic posts.
Isn't it true that only the relatives of the victim or the victim himself or herself can do the forgiving?

BTW, I see forgiveness as a higher mountain to climb than the vengeance of capital punishment. I know I've plugged this before, but the most shocking thing depicted on Homicide was the mother of a murder victim telling the murderer "I forgive you with all my heart."

How do you do that? I can't do it. I do feel like an inferior human being as a result, quite truly and without hyperbole.
posted by joeclark at 9:01 PM on June 11, 2001


Amnesty International tallied up 1,457 executions last year, with over 1,000 in China. The U.S. executed 85, just to put things in perspective since there's so much hyperbole over this issue. This piece does a pretty good job of spelling out how violators are dealt with in other countries. Swords, bullets, ropes and stones. The U.S., with its due process, trial by jury, appeals process and carefully administered lethal injections, seems very civilized - almost tame by comparison.

I have only two words for McVeigh: bye bye.
posted by JParker at 11:34 PM on June 11, 2001


i kind of like mcveigh, even kind of more kind of than the unabomber. i'm not kidding. i think he's what mw would describe as not wishy-washy.

go message 201! woooooooo!
posted by elle at 12:15 AM on June 12, 2001


> Amnesty International tallied up ...

If you think Amnesty International is a good source of information on this matter, then listen to them:

By executing the first federal death row prisoner in nearly four decades, the USA has allowed vengeance to triumph over justice and distanced itself yet further from the aspirations of the international community, Amnesty International said today in the aftermath of Timothy McVeigh's execution.

The organization deeply regrets this failure of human rights leadership at the highest levels of government in the USA.

"President George W. Bush's record on the death penalty is well-known across the world," Amnesty International said, recalling the 152 state executions that took place during his five-year governorship of Texas -- many of them in violation of international standards.

"By refusing to step in and impose a moratorium on federal executions, he has further damaged his and his country's reputation," Amnesty International said.

The case of Timothy McVeigh presented the government with the opportunity to announce to the widest possible audience that it would no longer support a policy that allows the murderer to set society's moral tone by imitating what it seeks to condemn.

"Instead, the US government has put its official stamp of approval on this policy; killing, it says, is an appropriate response to killing -- the very reasoning said to lie behind the appalling carnage in Oklahoma City on 19 April 1995."


posted by pracowity at 12:20 AM on June 12, 2001


Amnesty International has always made a stand against the death penalty, regardless of who practices it. Why does this make them a bad source of information. You should always be skeptical of information released by groups with an agenda. But if the group hates the U.S. so much that you can't trust them, why would they list other countries as being far ahead of the U.S. in execution totals, much less China?

Meantime, here's the entire quote from the guy MW quoted earlier. From the Washington Post, with the previously omitted section in bold:

Raymond Washburn, a blind man in his fifties who ran a snack bar on the fourth floor of the Murrah building, sat with the other witnesses and listened as his wife, seated next to him, quietly described McVeigh to him. In his mind's eye, Washburn later said, he saw a condemned man who "deserves to burn in hell. Maybe I'm wrong for feeling that way, but that's the way I feel."

Sounds like a man who's been so traumatized as to still be incredibly angry and confused -- not a relative, but an apparent survivor of the blast -- some six years later. But I don't know for sure what he meant by the phrase. All I have is his words, no description of his body language or general tone of voice. He does, however, leave open the possiblity of being wrong. If you're totally secure in being right, totally non wishy-washy and MW-like tuff, you don't say you might be wrong. Whether that's unconcious or not is another question. He could've said it through tears. He might also say something else different later. I have no idea.
posted by raysmj at 12:55 AM on June 12, 2001


Actually, I was just looking for reference source that the bleeding hearts on this thread would grant some cred. I think AI, like most groups organized around "causes", does a good job at a few things and goes overboard on others. Let's look at this from a different perspective. Suppose, for a minute, that you're a SWAT team sharpshooter with McVeigh in your crosshairs moments before he bombs the building. Your only chance of stopping him is dropping him. What do you do?

If you're a decent, thinking person, you double-tap Mr. McV and go back to the office to do the appropriate paperwork. You're a hero. If that's not your reaction, then you need serious professional psychiatric help. But if that is your reaction, then we've just established that you're willing to be a cold-blooded killer in society's best interest, should the need arise. Hmm.

I don't buy for a second the "jail-is-worse-than-death" argument. I think that we have an obligation to our fellow citizens to shrink the gene pool when one of these egregious malefactors commits a heinous crime like McVeigh's. The sun would grow cold before I would judge him eligible for parole, but I wouldn't want to take the risk that somebody else (like you?) might feel he had been "rehabilitated". In prison, they have a word for bleeding hearts who don't believe in the death penalty, or lay all the blame at the feet of society, the school system, racial bias, poverty, abusive parents, etc. They call them "suckers."
posted by JParker at 12:59 AM on June 12, 2001


JParker: That's an immediate emergency scenario, society's equivalent of self-defense. In the case of the execution, you've let him lie around for six years before executing him. Oh, and we're supposed to use people in prison as moral exemplars. They rape people of the same sex in prison too. Wussies here in the so-called real world don't, eh? Sheesh, can you come arguments that aren't so full of holes so large that one could drive a Mack truck through them? I don't know of anyone here who didn't say McVeigh was less than responsible for his own actions either, even the case of the person from Switzerland who said societies and cultures do play some role in criminal deviance. It's true - anytime you put someone in jail, society and the government it either serves or represents is admitting an error, whether large or minute -- but sometimes it's impossible to stop regardless, and there's no use beating yourself up over it.
posted by raysmj at 1:09 AM on June 12, 2001


Oh, and I didn't use the jail is worse than death argument, although some other people did. *Prison*, as opposed to jail, is pretty bad nevertheless, though. And jail's not too hot either. Hey, would you want to go? Still, the point is to keep him away from society, and prison does that.
posted by raysmj at 1:14 AM on June 12, 2001


The hunger for vengeance is as old as humanity is. Looking back on the atrocity parade that has been our short tenure on this planet, you can see various methods to adress murder and its punishment, from the weregild of the Norsemen (literally, an amount of money one could pay to the family of a slain man so that they would forgo vengeance upon you) to the mark Yahweh supposedly put on Caine so that no one could kill him. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.

I've avoided this thread all day, too sick at heart to participate, sick at what I've become. Sick that someone could have so utterly shaken my beliefs and damaged my own viewpoints. Sick that I stayed up, waiting, until they killed him. Sick that I wanted them to kill him. Where the hell were my much trumpeted liberal/libertarian (I vacillate, I admit) ideals? (And let us leave aside the debate as to whether or not his actions did irreperable damage to the political discourse...because we've covered it already.)

Wouldn't it be great if necromancy was possible? If we could have dragged him out to the site of his crime, cut his chest open, and used his death to undo his actions and bring those people back from the dead? Of course, we can't do that (although several people have sent me emails telling me the opposite, I tend to disagree with them this time) and I'm sitting here, watching us freak out like tribes of warring primates, and I'm no closer to enlightenment on the death penalty, America's growing fascism, or how to react to opposing viewpoints than I was coming into this.

I suppose I've learned that my stand on this issue is not absolute. In cases when the mass murderer has bragged about the planning and execution of his terrorist act to people writing books, I'm unable to leap to his defense. Was he a human being? Well, of course he was. He wasn't a demon, simply a murderer. We have had them before and we will again. Hell, this weekend saw a man climb in a window and slash eight children to death. No, he simply joins a continuum of men and women who have commited horrific acts that, perhaps, we have a hard time comprehending only because we wonder how the step in the brain that says no to such actions could be contravened. I've contemplated, in my life, taking another human beings life, I'll admit it. (And I have, in my time, killed upwards of a hundred livestock, from cattle to sheep to pigs...if you add in chickens and the occassional deer, the total amount of victims probably reaches a thousand. I am not equating a human with such, save that what kills one of them would suffice to kill a human just as easily, and I do have the expertise.) I remember once, in my teens, actually feeling my thoughts burning as my hands lashed out at another human being. If I had struck him a little harder, or hit him in the temple instead of the jaw, I would have killed him.

And that would have made me a murderer.

I don't delude myself that there is a great deal of distance seperating myself from him. He and I are all parts of the great continuum of mankind, enclosing individuals as diverse as the Countess Bathory and Cheng I Sao and Aphra Behn and Florence Nightengale. Those we would define as "good" could be selfish and petty, and those we consider "evil" still had moments of vulnerability and people who loved them at one point or another in their lives. I don't seek to remove anyone, even those who kill their own kind indiscriminately, from the human family.

But as much as I accept that this man was a man, with his own reasons for his actions, I also accept that in some cases it becomes pointless to attempt too much empathy. I do not weep for him. His death will not bring anyone he killed back, it is probably a barbaric holdover on our part that we have put him to death, and I accept that it is in great degree a pointless show meant to appease the mob mentality that cries out for retribution when someone defies the pack.

Sure, killing him was all of that, as well as being somewhat of a cop out. Rather than have to keep him alive, accepting that he would always be there as a reminder of his actions, writing letters and enlisting supporters for his viewpoint, we killed him. It was murder, at least according to the definition of murder I read before. To kill brutally or inhumanly. To put an end to; destroy: murdered their chances. The degree to which making a man wait for his own death, walking him to it, forcing him to listen to religious words he may not share, and then injecting him with chemicals he knows will kill him is brutal or inhuman I'll leave up to the individual.

It will no doubt sicken or scare some people to hear that within my heart, I could have killed him the same way I have the animals on the farm. I am, after all, human, and to be human is to be an angel with the soul of a killer, or a killer with the heart of a god, depending on how you look at it. Humans have engaged in self-slaughter on the macroscale since we first figured out that a rock could make us twice as deadly. We all have the capacity, no matter how well we bury it in socialization and morality, no matter how far we go.

I wanted him dead. They killed him. And, to my own dismay, I feel no different. I still want him dead, even though he already is and nothing can change it now. I think, even if he wasn't consciously aware of it, that he wanted us to have to put him to death, to legitimize his own use of murder as a political instrument. And we have done so, inadverdently.

We've talked about punishment...God knows, I was one of those voices...but as I've let the past day wash over me, one of the realizations I've come to is that it really hasn't had a damn thing to do with punishment. He was immune to being punished. This was not a case of a dog piddling on a rug, or a drunk driver running over someone. This was not an error susceptible to correction. He did not make a mistake, he quite deliberately blew up a building. Rehabiliatation requires remorse, which is why people hold remorse up as so important in the sentencing of criminals...because we are not so far removed, ultimately, from them.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward being, therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Fill me with joy and gladness; let the bones which thou had broken rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins...


Psalm 51, which the condemned were forced to recite before they were hung in Georgian England.

We did not murder him because we were afraid he would do it again. We murdered him because, in some ways, we have not progressed far beyond the teaching of the populace through terror ourselves, the way the hanging of thieves was supposed to prevent others from stealing. But you cannot determine how effective a deterrant such is, unless you can numerate offenses that never occur. As much as in 1772, we believed that if you allowed for public execution you would provide an object lesson that would "fill society with moral awe" to quote Robert Hughes, we convicted and sentenced this man as much as a message to others as having anything to do with his crimes.

That's what hit me this morning. After all my hatred and anger and rage at what he had done to the ideals I'd held dear passed away, I was left thinking about the nature of execution and who, ultimately, it is for. Like funerals (which are never about the deceased) execution cannot be encompassed entirely by the executed...after all, they are dead, and we are still alive. It was the murderer within us all that was the intended target of this execution, as it is all executions, and it is a pointless endeavor. No matter how and in what direction society progresses, no matter how many transgressors of our taboos we put down, we cannot excise the snarling primate from our hearts so easily. Indeed, this action feeds that very attribute. We are trying to end murder with murder.

Perhaps, by force of will and application of thought, we can create a society where man accepts all the contrary aspects that make up man and murder is forever done away with, for the aspects of us we suppress now will instead be channeled into useful action. I don't know. But killing to end killing does not work. As much as I hated him, as much as I did not want to see him live another day, as much as I mourned for those people and saw him as a cowardly thug who didn't have the courage or aptitude to stand up and present his thoughts honestly, as much as his trial was fair and his confession on record, as much as I will not mourn for him...his death served no purpose. The loss of his life does not diminish us, but the taking of it does. It is not for his sake that we should not have killed him, it is for our own.
posted by Ezrael at 1:51 AM on June 12, 2001


who is this 'we' you speak of, i'm not we.
posted by elle at 1:58 AM on June 12, 2001


When I say "We" I mean the citizens of the United States of America. Unfortunately, the actions of our government are our actions. If you are not a citizen of the US, I did not intend to include you.
posted by Ezrael at 2:07 AM on June 12, 2001


Although, in rereading my post, much of it could be taken to mean every human on earth. Especially Perhaps, by force of will and application of thought, we can create a society where man accepts all the contrary aspects that make up man and murder is forever done away with, for the aspects of us we suppress now will instead be channeled into useful action.

That's a universal statement, I think.
posted by Ezrael at 2:10 AM on June 12, 2001


> Amnesty International has always made a stand
> against the death penalty ...

raysmj: I think you misread me. I am for AI and against killing people.

> Actually, I was just looking for [a] reference source ...

JParker : It sounds as if people who don't agree with you are just "bleeding hearts" and "suckers" who don't see that the right treatment for an enemy is "dropping him" with a "double-tap" (whatever that is) to "shrink the gene pool." That's the sort of euphemistic, distancing language used by the guy they just executed, and the sort of thought that made him able to do what he did. Do you think McVeigh was just "collateral damage" in the quest for your brand of justice? Is capital punishment just "the nature of the beast" to you?
posted by pracowity at 2:28 AM on June 12, 2001


From my childhood, a double-tap is when you fire two rounds as quickly as possible, attempting to hit two seperate areas at once. It was something my father trained me to do with an AR-15, as I recall. The preferred tactic was to shoot the target (as a child, it was always a mannequin or a paper target with a human silhouette) once in the head and once in the heart as quickly as possible. It's intended to insure the target's death, the logic being that one might survive one of those shots for a few minutes or so (people have survived having bullets penetrate their skulls for surprising lengths of time, and heart shots have a lot of potential for ricochet, ending up glancing off of a rib or the breastbone or what have you) but both are almost assured to kill.
posted by Ezrael at 3:24 AM on June 12, 2001


Thank you Ezrael.

pracowity, true justice is harsh, especially for those who treat life as cheap. Not everyone has the stomach for it, and that's OK. That's why we have police and courts and prisons and lethal injections. I'll save my sympathy and my concern for those who have not yet been convicted in a court of law of murdering innocents.

And yes, I do think a lot of the people who are posting in this thread are bleeding hearts. That doesn't make them bad people, it just makes me glad they're not the ones making and enforcing our laws.
posted by JParker at 7:14 AM on June 12, 2001


JParker: Some people on here do come off as bleeding hearts. Some may be more merciful by nature but self-aware enough as for this not to be a great problem. Then there are authoritarians who are not aware of their nature, and gosh knows you sound like one. Otherwise, you're faking, and doing a very good job of it.

Justice in the U.S. should be only as harsh as it has to be by its very nature. It shouldn't be "coddling" either, to use a now cliched word, or too soft. But we don't cut off people's hands for stealing in this country. We don't bury women in the ground with only their heads shown and then stone them for appearing in porn movies. (See: Iran). We don't stone people, mostly women, for adultery. We don't use a crucifix on anyone. We don't cane, no matter what the morning shows on network TV wanted us to think a few years back. We also have how many of the original ten amendments dealing with the rights of the accused? The Founding Fathers: suckers.

Finally, why do we have lethal injection, as opposed to say, stoning?
posted by raysmj at 9:49 AM on June 12, 2001


If 168 people die after I load a truck full of explosives, drive it into a busy urban center, park it next to the building that they're in and let a timer detonate the explosives, I have just committed mass murder - an act of malicious wrongdoing.

If I die because society will not stand for people committing mass murder, and therefore lawfully sentenced me to death my lethal injection and put an IV of poison into me, I have been killed - the consequence of an unfortunate set of circumstances, set in motion by my own thoughtless actions.


...and as this thread has amply proven, there is absolutely no malicious intent on the part of those who demanded the execution of McVeigh. No malice at all.
posted by byun at 10:19 AM on June 12, 2001


ezreal:
i agree that when there is death and strife, there is blood on everyone's hands, but it does not mean that as individuals we agreed to the deed. my point is while humans don't function on a collective consciousness, many people have simply said 'we' to include tribes of people into acts/attitudes they don't necessarily agree with but come to accept...... everyday actually.
posted by elle at 2:08 PM on June 12, 2001


Bloodlust is an ugly thing.
posted by Graham at 8:41 PM on June 12, 2001


We don't do stoning because the point is not to get revenge. The point is not to save money (as opposed to life-in-prison) The point is to remove a truly destructive individual off the planet so they will cause no more harm to anyone. It's not punishment. It should not be. Life in prison these people can still hurt others...

I read an article in a London paper about prison wardens getting recompense for the severe trauma they experience from working with pedophiles and rapists. They have nightmares, phobias, weight-loss, nausea, and so on. People who revel in hurting others always find a way to accomplish it.

There are some people who are no longer people, they are threats, and should be removed for this earth.

Most of the time we cannot agree on who those people are, and we should always err on the side of doubt and concern. McVeigh was an unusually clear cut case. I have never supported the death penalty. It is too dangerous of a practise-- I fear an innocent dying. But this? I won't lose sleep. I've with davehat. I can't get comfortable the death penalty, but this man needed to be removed from this earth.
posted by christina at 9:48 PM on June 12, 2001


christina: The stoning question was more or less rhetorical, and asked of someone who was using uber-authoritarian language.
posted by raysmj at 9:59 PM on June 12, 2001


The point is to remove a truly destructive individual off the planet so they will cause no more harm to anyone.

There are ways to prevent "destructive individuals" from causing harm that don't involve killing them. Besides, how do you define a destructive individual? What constitutes "truly destructive", as opposed to - say - "a little destructive"? How much destruction are you willing to tolerate? What if I am willing to tolerate more? Less?

There are some people who are no longer people, they are threats, and should be removed for this earth.

Bullshit. Human nature is violent, or humans would never engage in violence. You cannot become not-a-person, no matter what you do.

Every time a society divides members of the species Homo sapiens into "people" and "not-people", it gets itself into trouble. The decision is arbitrary: whether you get "people" status or not is a matter of opinion, determined by whoever has the guns.

If we are going to allow ourselves to make that distinction, we are no better than McVeigh - his ideology was important enough that he was willing to kill people to defend it. Is our ideology that important? Why did we have to sink to McVeigh's level, and defend our ideology by killing him? Why couldn't we do better?

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:31 AM on June 13, 2001


I would love love love to see a different solution to killing McVeigh and his ilk. But he (and other humans- nonhumans) who have committed horrendous crimes and who have every intention of committing more and who rot and corrupt and harm all that they come near-- they need to be gone. Jeffery dahlmer raped and ate people. Manson engineered killing for entertainment, and shows no sign of recovering his faculties or his morality. There are too many others who cheerfully admit to horrendous crimes, whose guilt is proven through a preponderance of evidence and who damage everyone they come in contact with.

I wish we could freeze them until there is a cure for sociopaths or I wish there was a moon colony or somewhere they could be shipped off to to torture each other or something but there isn't. I don't feel comfortable putting them down into a pit where food and water is dropped down to them and they never seen another person (my sister suggested this to me) because I think torture for life is crueler than a quiet death-- as did Mr. mcveigh. I have a hard time understanding people who rail against the death penalty yet would be willing to see the individual locked in solitary confinement or other forms of a lifetime of torture.

For me this is not a moral question. This is a question for society to answer-- how can we protect our society from its most horrific elements. That includes prison guards who may become terribly warped by contact with the most deranged, and innocents who may be harmed by criminals controlled by Manson-like puppeteers. Sometimes when you look at all the facts it is more dangerous to leave a person living that kill them. When faced with this horrific certainty, you do what must be done. I do personally hate this, and again, I would love to see a decent alternative.

I am not dogmatic, and again I would love to see an alternative that would cause no harm to innocents and isn't the equivalent of torture for life, but I haven't seen it listed here.

I guess, Mars, we can't do better because we haven't figured out how to do so without someone innocent of any crime having to pay for it.

I hate the death penalty-- but is there really a decent alternative for the truly evil? Please someone come up with one.
posted by christina at 10:00 PM on June 13, 2001


A little late, but was just reading this, so . . . Anyone who thinks prison, solitary confinement included, can be torture may not be necessarily wrong, but they need to take a look around them. Prisons are after all, bureaucracies, as much bureaucracies as anything around. Anyway, prisons can be very freeing for some people too, in a sense. An excellent discussion of this idea can be found in Socrates Cafe by Christopher Phillips. There is an entire chapter dedicated to philosophical studies of prisons (or rather, imprisonment) from Ancient Greece to the 20th Century. It's a good introduction to the literature.
posted by raysmj at 9:56 AM on June 14, 2001


prision, no. (or maybe...)

Solitary confinement? yes. It is a basic need for most humans to have contact with others. Espeically for life. but I will follow that link, looks interesting.
posted by christina at 7:13 AM on June 15, 2001


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