I’d like to thank President Bush, whom I voted for and generally approve of as POTUS, for highlighting this issue in clear terms, for I can make clear my disagreement with him further than I did yesterday.
To wit: “The victims of the Oklahoma City bombing have been given not vengeance but justice.”
No, Mr. President, this was vengeance, not justice.
From Merrian-Webster Online:
Vengeance: “punishment inflicted in retaliation for an injury or offense : RETRIBUTION – with a vengeance 1 : with great force or vehemence 2 : to an extreme or excessive degree”
Justice: “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments b : JUDGE c : the administration of law; especially : the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity 2 a : the quality of being just, impartial, or fair b (1) : the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action (2) : conformity to this principle or ideal : RIGHTEOUSNESS c : the quality of conforming to law 3 : conformity to truth, fact, or reason : CORRECTNESS”
I hold that taking Life, even under due process of law, is vengeance but not justice. It is a great force, and it is to an extreme or excessive degree. Bush calls it the “severest” penalty–believe it or not, that is correct grammar–and yes, it is. It’s the ultimate penalty, and we’re interposing ourselves into God’s realm of judgement.
“And one young man met the fate he chose for himself six years ago.”
No, society chose that fate for him. McVeigh chose to take Life. We as a society did not have to choose to take Life in return.
“Life and history bring tragedies, and often they cannot be explained. But they can be redeemed. They are redeemed by dispensing justice ï¿½ though eternal justice is not ours to deliver.”
Yes, and in the matter of taking Life away from someone, we have tried to place ourselves between God and Timothy James McVeigh. In fact, I feel that we denied that man an opportunity for forgiveness and repentance–we’re taught that we can forgive and repent only when we die. After we die, we are to assume that we cannot atone for our sins.
In quoting William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus” as his final words, McVeigh showed his defiance. Who’s to say that he would have repented? I cannot judge Tim McVeigh’s heart. I don’t know him, and now I never will. But I would rather have given Timothy James McVeigh every opportunity to change his heart, to exercise his free will.
I had an email discussion with my friend Gary about this. His comment was that the American criminal justice system, not American society, claimed Life from McVeigh. I responded with the distillation of the Lockean principles our government is founded upon: “No government rules without the just consent of the governed.” We could change this. I hope that I can help do so before my days on this earth are finished.
In imposing a limit on his Life–which, presumably, only God does otherwise, discounting those like McVeigh who murder–we, as an American society, have denied him the opportunity to repent. Yes, he had that opportunity, but he showed signs of still being angry towards the government. What’s a few years when we’re talking about eternity?