February 12, 2001

Column 30

You asked me to write about the 700th execution, which is scheduled to take place in Texas (in March) and what it means to me. First of all, I thought it was ironic that I hadn't heard about the upcoming 700th execution in the American news media. Instead, I had to hear about this from a man on the other side of the world. I think this is a good example of how much importance the America media places on the Death Penalty. They prefer to ignore or downplay it for the most part. Perhaps the American media wilt mention something about it when it is closer to the time of the execution. That is, if they are able to stop talking about former President Clinton taking some furniture from the White House when he left long enough, to talk about the upcoming execution.

How appropriate that the 700th execution will take place in Texas. The sad thing is, most Texans are proud of the fact their state executes more people than any of the other states. Texas reminds me of the schoolyard bully who struts around arrogantly with a puffed out chest and mistakes it's cruelty and perverted sense of justice as being macho. I think many people in Texas actually believe they are admired (in America) for the large number of people it kills. Of course, not all people in Texas are like this. There's a very vocal minority of people who are ashamed of the record their state has in killing people.

I'm pleased to say that in the last 10 years, support for the Death Penalty has declined in the USA. I think in 1990 there was about 80% of Americans who supported the Death Penalty. However there was a recent poll which found support for the Death Penalty has dropped to around 65%. I don't know how accurate that is. I suspect some of the support has declined, because so many people who had been sentenced to death, have later been found to be innocent. It is good to see 15% of Americans changed their support of the Death Penalty and do not want to see innocent people killed. But you have to wonder about the remaining 65% who still support it after nearly 90 people have been found to be innocent after being sentenced to die. Some of these people had spent 15 to 20 years on Death Row before they were cleared.

I do not have a strong sense that America will abolish the Death penalty in the near future. I think the USA is too locked into this barbaric practice for it, to change anytime soon. There are too many politicians who were elected to office, (in part) because they championed the use of the Death Penalty and other Draconian practices regarding the Justice System in America. One of the popular campaign slogans you hear Politicians use every election year is 'I WILL GET TOUGH ON CRIME'. The Politicians are not able to change their official stance regarding the Death Penalty and the other harsh policies which the American Justice System practices on it's citizens.

In my opinion, the only way America will put an end to using the Death penalty is if there is strong pressure applied from the European countries. I know Italy has been very vocal in urging the USA to stop using the Death Penalty, as have several other European countries. But I think it will take a united and strong stand by all the European countries to convince America to stop this practice. An effort similar to the one the European Union took in convincing many of the former Soviet States to abolish the Death Penalty in their countries. I was dismayed when I heard how many European countries rushed to congratulate George W. Bush on becoming the new President. I suspect politics is more important to Politicians than taking a stand on something like the Death Penalty.

I suspect there is only one thing which will make America (and American's) reconsider it's use of the Death Penalty and that will be if they start losing money. America loves to impose sanctions on other countries who it feels is wrong in what that country is doing. So it is only fair if any person in Italy (and Europe) who disagrees with the USA practicing the use of Death Penalty should impose their own personal sanctions on the USA by refusing to buy any American products or to avoid travel to the USA on holiday. Then you should notify the American Government you are doing this and your reasons why. I think if even 1 out of 10 people in Europe would do this, it would get America's attention. After all, it is the corporations that really run things in America. If the corporations lose business, because of the Death Penalty, they wilt definitely do something to change it.

There is another way people in Italy (and Europe) can make a difference. There are a lot of Americans who travel to Europe as tourists. I think if you meet any American's, you should make your opinion on America's use of the Death penalty known to them. I suspect many American's don't realize their support of the Death Penalty is wrong and if they hear what people in other countries think of this practice, they might re-examine their support of it.
These are some of the things I think people in Europe can do to make a difference in the fight of the use of the Death penalty here in America. These are things people can do as individuals, rather than waiting for their Government to do something.

In the past, America has done good things and helped the world move forward into a place where democracy and justice is a way of life, rather than a novelty. However, America has become like an over the hill athlete living on it's reputation of former accomplishments and successes, but now sits in the pub and for the price of a free beer, will puff up it's chest and brag about what it did in the past. America is supposed to be better than this. Instead of sitting on what it has done in the past, America should be looking forward and leading the way and setting examples in how democracy and justice should be. You can only get by on what you did in the past for so long, before the stories get old and boring and it is time to prove you are still of the same character and vision as before.

I'm sure most people are aware of George W. Bush's record for executing so many people during his term as Governor of Texas, now he is President of the Unites States of America. How is it possible so many American's could vote for a man who bragged, that before every execution be would spend, at most, 15 minutes reviewing the case and approving the execution?
I'm ashamed America would allow a man to be President, who puts a value of 15 minutes (at most) on a human life. My feeling about the future of the Death Penalty in America is not optimistic, when a man like Bush can be it's President.

Take care,