Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias I never thought I'd be saying this, but I believe I'm starting to have second thoughts about the death penalty.

I'm not saying I've swung to the other side yet. Capital punishment, in my view, is a necessary part of our system of justice.

I believe that there are some defendants who have earned the ultimate punishment our society has to offer by committing murder with aggravating circumstances present.

I believe life is sacred. It cheapens the life of an innocent murder victim to say that society has no right to keep the murderer from ever killing again. In my view, society has not only the right, but the duty to act in self defense to protect the innocent.

Having said all that, let me tell you why I'm feeling a bit uneasy. Many of the people who lost loved ones in the Oklahoma City bombing six years ago said, in countless national media interviews, that they couldn't experience closure until Timothy McVeigh was put to death.

McVeigh killed 168 men, women and children in his bombing of an Oklahoma City federal office building in April, 1995. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to die by lethal injection.

The sentence was carried out Monday. McVeigh paid for his crime with his life.

Part of me says that's just. Another part of me wonders if this nation, if the friends and loved ones of the bombing victims, will ever experience the "closure" they cited as a means of justifying McVeigh's death.

Closure, I'm afraid, has become the pop psycho-babble phrase of the new millennium. Frankly, I don't really know what it means, at least when people start throwing the word around to describe how they deal with grief.

The dictionary gives no clue that closure is any sort of a human psychological process. I can only imagine that closure is similar to watching the curtain fall on the last act of a very bad play. It's a sign that it's finally over.

Ironically, it has become apparent this week that the saga of McVeigh and all of the feelings of pain and grief surrounding him aren't going to go away soon. In fact, they may never go away.

McVeigh has been dead, as I write this, for three days. His image still is appearing on all the network television news broadcasts. His photo likely will appear time and time again as countless more articles are written about his horrific impact on so many innocent lives.

Month after month, pilgrimages will be made to Oklahoma City by people who cannot forget the victims. They will visit the memorial, constructed at the place where McVeigh's bomb reduced a vibrant building to rubble.

McVeigh may be dead. His death, however, didn't turn back the clock. It didn't return things back to normal. McVeigh's influence will be felt for generations to come.

One of the first lessons American students learn in elementary school is that the Pilgrims sailed the Atlantic so they could begin new lives in a new land and pursue, among other things, the freedom to worship.

Invariably, we hear time and time again that America is a Christian nation that was founded in Christian principles.

When viewed in that light, the death penalty suddenly becomes a bit more complicated.

What's most disturbing, perhaps, is the ease that today's "Christian" society abandons one of the major tenets of the Christian faith. It's a familiar phrase recited every Sunday by millions of people in places of worship across the country: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."

The majority of McVeigh's victims, judging from news reports, were consumed with hate for the man. A television reporter did find a man who lost a sister in McVeigh's explosion. He said he didn't want McVeigh to die, noting that he had personally forgiven the bomber for killing his sister.

The reporter treated the man a bit like he was an oddity, asking him how he could forgive someone who did something so horrible.

The man responded that he hated McVeigh at first. But if he had kept on hating him, that feeling would never go away, even after he was put to death.

Hate, the man said, would consume him for the rest of his life. Forgiveness, he said, brought him peace.

Capital punishment may be just. But has it helped the people who were affected the most by the Oklahoma City tragedy rid themselves of hate? Has it helped this nation?

I can't help but share the belief of the man who lost a sister to McVeigh's bomb.

The best source of closure is forgiveness.

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