When I pulled up the a fore mentioned unfinished post I realized I hadn't written much. But all of the thinking is still in my head. It started as a reaction to a television show: The Closer. I've been on binge because I got a whole season from Netflix and the current season is the final one so I've been making an effort to watch. It's well written, great acting and strong character development. I like the contradictions and conflicts in the character of Brenda. She's driven to close her case and she'll manipulate, flirt, threaten, play dumb, cross lines to get there. She, and the people around her, are often worried about the lines she crosses.
In one episode she is tracking a serial killer who gets jobs driving, pulls off the highway in different towns and murders young women. The killer is also being tracked by a sheriff in Texas establishing a struggle for ownership of the case. When they catch the guy the sheriff reveals that he has a DNA sample, which will be evidence and the case would naturally go to him but Brenda gets it back after she manipulates confessions for all of the murders. The confessions take seven hours of listening while he tells details in the crudest terms and when Brenda emerges from having listened to it all she is obviously worn out.
There was a confusing element. Part of how she cajoles the confession is by saying the killer will go with the Texas sheriff and to Texas where they execute people if he doesn't confess to her. She pitched to his desire to live. We do have the death penalty in California. I guess they do more executions in Texas. But there was the suggestion that he wouldn't be executed in California, which is why he began to confess to Brenda.
So she walks out after seven exhausting hours and the Texas sheriff admits that the confessions will trump his DNA evidence and he hands her the files of all the cases, all of which have photos of the gruesome murders. She flips through them and decides to turn the guy over to Texas. It's not the only time that she makes a choice to send a killer to a certain death.
I really like this show. And I really hate when I feel like I've been manipulated to not just accept but enjoy the idea of someone being killed. In this show it's part of the conflict of her personality but still. Because the guy is so gross and the murders so vile it's hard to not want him to die. It's only television. Not real. Right?
In another television example there was a scene on West Wing in which President Bartlett asks his aide Charlie if he would want to see the man who shot Charlie's mother given the death penalty and Charlie says no. And then he says, I'd want to do it myself. I thought it was a brilliant moment because it held both a moral opposition to a public policy and the human rage that wants expression. We are all killers. I want to believe I would never kill and I hope I'm never in a situation in which I learn I'm wrong. I know I have rage.
When I first started to write the post I began to detail the reasons I oppose the death penalty. I oppose sanitized, state sponsored murder. I don't accept the idea that murder gives a victims family closure. There really are a lot of reasons but the one I wanted to focus on was the impact of the people who carry out the penalty. The guards and doctors and wardens who stand in the room. Many of them live with negative psychological impact. They pay a price for a dubious notion of justice and closure.
Sometime after I started the post Moyers had a show on similar issues for soldiers.
And there was a mass murder in a movie theater in a movie theater in Colorado.
And then there was a mass murder in A Sikh temple.
And the news from Syria.
Killing is always with us. There is always a reason. A rational. An explanation. An aberration. The news is filled with demands for change and demands for justice. And there's always a desire to compartmentalize the killers of the world and mark them as ... not us. It's overwhelming and becomes muddled and it all human.
I have strong feelings about specific events in which killing occurs and of course there has to be public policy to protect us from our own humanity. There will be abstractions because killing is so hard to accept. Or it should be.
I don't have a place to land. I don't have answers. I'm not establishing a position. I just know that I want distance from that place where the crowd calls out for revenge.