The Death Penalty, a Search for Truth


Creative Commons License photo credit: Dawn Endico

Alec Baldwin wrote an article in the Huffington Post in opposition to the death penalty. This is an especially relevant topic today after the highly publicized execution of Troy Davis.

Baldwin’s opening point in this well articulated and moving article is that to oppose the death penalty is not to obstruct justice. In fact, it is not even a gracious gesture toward criminals in hopes to provide a better chance at life for those who commit atrocious crimes. At the center of the opposition of the death penalty are questions and grievances around racism, shoddy evidence and statistics that reveal a system that is not always adept at discovering the truth.

To question the death penalty is not just to stick up for those who might deserve it, but is to advocate for the many who very likely do not.

In other words, (in words that might resonate more personally to you and me), the arguments on either side of the death penalty are not about ahimsa (non-harming), they are about satya (truth).

Justice and non-violence are seemingly irreconcilable. In my own life, I know that the more I embrace and explore acts and philosophies of non-violence, the more I avoid and shy away from questions of justice because my internal reactions and external arguments become tangled and vague. In light of that, I find refuge in the study and pursuit of truth.

Notice I said that I take refuge in the study and pursuit of truth and not always truth itself. Claims of truth have cost more innocent lives than the death penalty itself. The skepticism toward capitol punishment are not on issues of verdict but are on issues of process. When so much of the telling goes on behind closed doors from judge and jury, when the complexion of conviction is so heavily weighted in race and economic status the roles of criminal and victim become heavily blurred.

If we cannot trust a system’s methods, we cannot trust its claims.

What emotions do debates about capitol punishment bring up in you? Is it our responsibility, as yogis, to take a stand against injustice and advocate for ethical principles like satya in political systems?

Posted by:

- who has written 31 posts on Yoga Modern.

Lauren Znachko is a yogi and writer in Chicago. She travels to the jungle, lives in the city and although she begins each day with a cup of coffee and never leaves the house without her iphone, she finds at least a moment each day with the page and on the mat. The art of combining an embodied life experience and expressing that it with crafted word is what inspires her to teach and write in a way that brings unity to the many communities of which she is a part.

4 Responses

  • Carol Horton says:

    If you study the statistics, it's blindingly obvious that, as you say, the death penalty (not to mention the criminal justice system in general) is unfairly skewed toward penalizing minorities and/or the poor – even many who many be innocent of any crimes. Do I think that the yoga community has a responsibility to learn about such issues and to take a stance toward truth? Definitely yes. However, I would say the same of any citizen. But, since so many are not interested, perhaps we have even more of a responsibility to take action.

    That said, I personally am against the death penalty even for those "who deserve it" – not because I don't think there are some crimes that are that horrific – I do – but because I don't believe that a democracy should be executing people – we lose more than we gain in the process.

  • prettyhumanbeings says:

    "we lose more than we gain in the process." This strikes me as central to the conversation–it seems that we (humans) have an intense desire for the thing that will assuage the pain we feel in the immediate moment instead of investing in something else that might bring about greater healing. The death penalty makes us feel safe against an individual "killer" and yet it does nothing to uphold our system of justice, at least in the way that I imagine justice can be applied–that is in a way that is reconciliatory instead of punitive.