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?