The hypocrisy of American capital punishment


Destiny Jolade | Staff Writer

In many cultures around the world, the proverb that, “A man is judged according to his works,” is used in some form or another. Through many centuries that proverb was used to define some of the great people that are immortalized in history due to what they accomplished.  However, that axiom began to change, and its focus was not so much on the individual anymore, but rather the society as a whole. Russian literate Fyodor Dostoyevsky modified this proverb and made it inclusive of societies, saying, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”
Now, some of you may be wondering why I’m writing about a topic as objective as the degree of civilization in a society.  Well, as it turns out, America, the land of the free and home of the brave, is ranked 5th in the world for number of criminal executions.  When I heard this fact, I found it very interesting that a society like ours, one that actively considers itself progressive, holds this ranking.  When the list is put in chronological order, America is out ranked by China, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, and nowhere in the top 10 of the list do you find any other modernized first world country.  In fact, excluding America, the list is mostly populated by third world countries where the world of law is questionable at best.

After I read the list, I thought to myself, what does it mean that America is in the same category with Iran, China and Saudi Arabia?  If I recall correctly, these are the countries that America has condemned publically and vehemently for human rights violations and improper treatment of its citizens.  Does this mean that as a country, America is not as progressive or forward thinking as we claim?  Well, when we look back at Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s definition of the degree of civilization in a society, it alludes to the fact that the implementation of capital punishment in our society makes us not as civilized as we think.

To be thorough though, I believe that no one factor in a society can be a determinant in how civilized that country it.  I personally believe that the civility of a society is dependent on many factors, but by just looking at this one factor we see where America as a country is lacking.  Unfortunately for us, the determinant of executions in our “civilized society” is near those whom we openly condemn.  I believe that if we are to live up to that progressive mantra that we speak of, then we have to take a serious look at how we punish offenders in our society.

Obviously the question to how we can utilize progressive thinking to help absolve this fact can only come from within our society.  But I believe that by looking at how other westernized societies have dealt with the issue of executions in their respective domains, we can compromise and reach a model that is uniquely American.  As a nation that all other nations look up to, we have to lead by example and stop condemning other countries for things that happen right in our own back yard.


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