More Demon-Haunted Politics
Him: "Well, I hope that some day you wise up and see the truth of God."
Me: "Well, I hope that some day you crack a science book."
Well, I had read the op-ed piece by Leonard Pitts, Jr. of the Miami Herald about Ruben Cunta. For those of you who have never heard of him (I hadn't), he's a man who was put to death (in Texas, of course) for fatally shooting a store clerk during a robbery. This was back in 1993, which is probably why I had never heard of him. I was finishing up high school and starting college. My world was still pretty narrow back then. The kicker about Cunta is that it now looks like he was innocent. There is pretty strong evidence that that's the case, anyway.
So, I had just finished reading this op-ed piece in the local paper (who picks up Pitts in syndication), and I snorted in disgust. As all four of my loyal readers know, I'm pretty much a social lefty. I think the death penalty is a barbaric custom that cheapens this country's reputation as a world leader in civil rights. Reading about Cunta just makes me feel even more strongly about that. Demon-boy happened to be walking into the lab right about then and he asked me what was up.
Now, I knew where this was going to go if I said anything. I know myself and him well enough to know this was going to turn into a debate, but I just couldn't stop myself. I told him what I'd just read, and brought up the salient point from Pitts' article, i.e. if an innocent man is put death in the name of the people, then isn't his blood on the people's hands?
He immediately brought his deity into it, saying that his understanding of the Bible let him accept the death penalty. I then pointed out that this didn't answer my question. As you can see, he had already dropped into the stock answers without putting any kind of thought into what he was saying. He was just throwing out stuff he'd heard somewhere. You could almost hear it in his voice. It was like he was reciting something he'd memorized, not giving an actual opinion. He does this a lot. It's how he supports most of his positions.
So, I pointed out that he hadn't answered my question, and he said that if the people involved had done it intentionally, then they should be tried for murder, just as Cunta had been. Now, this I thoroughly agree with, and said so. But he STILL hadn't answered my question. The conversation went on like this for a little bit and then I finally pinned him down on whether the people who allow the death penalty to continue are in any way, shape or form responsible for the death of an innocent man. His response was that no, death penalty supporters aren't to blame. The corrupt system is to blame.
"Aha!" I said. "But if the system is so corrupt that it can't be trusted, then why should you support it?"
Well, he danced a bit around that issue, and then changed the subject. He went directly into the "What if it was one of your loved ones who had been killed, and you watched it happen?" argument. In response, I tried something I hadn't ever done before. I reversed the situation on him and said, "What if it was your daughter that was the one being accused of doing something you didn't think she'd done?"
His answer? "I'd work my hardest to get her a fair trial, and God would protect her if she was innocent."
I don't know about you, but I'd like to think that the American justice system doesn't depend on God's will to protect the innocent. God's will being so sketchy, and all.
There was a somewhat bright spot in this conversation, though. He actually admitted that, while I could never sway him on his faith (which I don't want to do anyway), his opinions on the death penalty could change. An admission of possibility is better than I've ever actually gotten from a member of the Religious Right.
Maybe there is hope, after all.