It’s no secret here that I’m a Christian. It’s also no secret that I tend towards just the slightest left of center regarding politics and society. So, I suppose it’s time for a third not-secret: I absolutely love kids. I think that their imaginations are brilliant, that their curiosity is boundless, and that in general, they have an innocence that must be protected at all costs. I originally wanted to teach elementary schoolers, and I would like to have a large family someday.
I also do not approve of the death penalty in general; I think it involves some trespassing in God’s domain to have the power of life and death over someone. If we cannot bring deserving people back to life, why should we be so quick to judge and condemn?
There are exceptions to every rule, however, and there is only one situation where the death penalty is not only acceptable, but should be the only solution: when someone makes a deliberate choice to harm a child, either through abuse, neglect, molestation or murder. At that point, my maternal instincts are roused and it takes everything in my power not to go postal on the perpetrator.
Kids are, to some extent, a blank slate. They’re still largely ignorant of the world and the way it works, spending most of their time in a Walter Mitty-esque fantasyland of their own making. To them, the world is wonderful, not scary. Their nightmares involve monsters under the bed or showing up to class in their underwear or even simply dark rooms. To them, the only bad guys that they have to worry about are in the movies or fit under the nebulous category of “strangers.” They don’t know why we tell them not to talk to strangers, or to hold Mom and Dad’s hand, or why they’re supposed to be within sight or calling distance. They just know that strangers will take them away, but not why.
When that innocence is threatened or lost, when children have to grow up too fast, when their view of the world becomes sick and warped too soon, those are the most unspeakable crimes against nature. When children are murdered, their bright futures robbed from them with a bullet or a knife, we have suffered as a society. We have lost the great things that could have come from them. We have had cures for cancer, Oscar-winning movies, artistic masterpieces, Pulitzer-winning novels, and scientific triumphs stolen from us. We have lost the happiness that comes from an innocent child taking joy in the world, and all that is in it. The parents and family are filled with grief and shock, unable to comprehend or bear their pain, and the rest of us begin to distrust, and we keep our children close, seeking to isolate them from others in order to protect them. Those are all crimes that deserve the death penalty.
Frankly, given my self-confessed Mama Bear tendencies, I’d like to have the ban on cruel and unusual punishment lifted in the case of child molesters, child abusers and child murderers. I remember hearing somewhere that a Native American tribe punished sex offenders by nailing their genitals to a log and then setting it on fire. I have never heard of a more fitting or just punishment for such a heinous offense.
However, in this, the Eighth Amendment (yes, there are more than just the first two, what a shock!) is quite clear: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” (Emphasis mine.) Given those parameters, I will have to settle for the death penalty. The other inmates should take care of the “cruel and unusual” bit anyway; people who harm children are the lowest of the low in prison, right down there with people who commit matricide. However, I also believe that we cannot, as a society, allow sex offenders to just walk free after five years or so. They need to die, and they need to know that they’ll die. I want them to spend their last days on Earth knowing exactly how long they have before the injection. I want them counting down each minute and each second. I want them to focus exclusively on their pounding heartbeats and shallow breaths, and I want them to beg for their lives, as their victims begged for theirs. I want their short lives from their sentencing to their execution to be a living hell.
Allison Chase is a junior creative writing major. Letters and feedback should be sent to email@example.com.
There is one, and only one, case in which capital punishment should be considered.
Children are innocent and largely ignorant of the world around them, and they need to be protected.
My passion for children leads me to this conclusion; otherwise, I would consider capital punishment cruel and unusual.