I am not necessarily against the death penalty but in the last few years, I learned a few things that made me turn away from it as a means of punishing criminals. Beyond the simple fact that killing a prisoner is little more than social vengeance, it doesn't say good things about our society as a whole. I can see an individual seeking vengeance for the loss of their loved one but society itself MUST be above the passions of a single person. In fact, society should be governed by compassion--not impulse.
I bring this up because I saw that the President is calling for the death penalty for the guy who performed the terror act with his car in New York. The president should not represent the impulses of people, but be the guiding hand--the leadership that drives us toward a better tomorrow. While he can, of course, have his own opinions and views, voicing them as the leader of our country takes away the honor of his office. His should be the high road, the moral ground of a nation. Not the notions of those reacting through pain and sorrow.
Vengeance does not help anyone. Nothing is learned by this conclusion except the fact that we handle our problems through violence. In some cases, yes, violence calls for violence but that should be in the situation where a prolonged event (such as a warlord rampaging through the countryside murdering civilians). When a man has been stopped and we have detained him from further violence, killing him is little more than a statement of failure. We have no other means for dealing with criminals than to visit death upon them.
We can speak of the practical side of this as well. The Death Penalty costs more than life incarceration. It's unnecessarily cruel as a person lingers for years waiting for their date for death. Even when it does happen, it's not in the slightest painless. So there's no humane way to look at it. Ultimately, we end up with a person who has been tortured with time to consider their end and the tax payers are left with the check after they are gone.
Do I find it outrageous what the person has done? Yes. Am I horrified and angry? Absolutely. Would I be the first one in line to pull the lever and give him the chair? No. I have no interest in being the instrument of another person's death, regardless of what they have done. I would have hoped that our society would find a way to elevate themselves above this type of behavior, to elevate to a position where we could look upon such a criminal and find some other means of dealing with their infraction.
We are not there. We need to be.