Democratic Underground

Another Innocent Victim
June 14, 2001
by James Jones

My two-year-old daughter is the absolute light of my life. She is a bright, sweet child, says please and thank you like a well-mannered adult should. When I scold her for something she'll say "Sorry, Daddy" with a sad frown on her little face that melts my heart. She is always quick to give hugs and "I love you"s to Mommy, Daddy, and her two big brothers, and she worries that her stuffed puppy gets covered up at night when she goes to bed.

Sesame Street is her favorite show. She loves to sing along with Elmo, especially the "Sing" song. (Every parent with a television knows that one by heart) She doesn't get all the words right but she tries hard, with an angelic little voice, then she'll turn to me and say "Now you try it" which is my cue to sing along with her. She is the picture of innocence.

This week she became a killer.

It's difficult to condemn the sentence that was carried out on Monday against Timothy McVeigh in light of the violent nature of the crime, and the nature of his victims. I must admit I won't shed a single tear for him, in fact I admit to feeling a certain visceral satisfaction. Revenge is a powerful emotion, and he inspired little pity. I think of the children he killed and his cold "collateral damage" remark and my heart hardens more.

But I also think of the children that must live in a country that gives them such a confused message on the value of human life. He certainly gave us good reason to hate him and to want revenge. I'm concerned with the message this sends to our children. We are saying to them in effect, "Killing a human being is wrong, unless you have sufficient reason to hate them, and then it is the right thing to do."

This wouldn't be too terrible if so many didn't hate so much, and feel perfectly justified in their hatred. I've heard people liken execution to destroying a rabid animal, or exterminating vermin. Do rabid animals have souls? Do we really want to classify any human being as vermin? Who decides what defines human vermin, and what prevents that definition from being stretched? This can only make us all less safe.

When the United States put him to death today, it was done in the name of all her citizens - your name, my name, and my two-year-old daughter's name. It is true that her share of the guilt is small, one part in some 280 million, yet I can't help but feel that her soul has been tainted.

No more executions. Not in my name, and certainly not in her name. I want my sweet little girl to remain innocent. That's not too much to ask.

Is it?

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