Reacting to the Supreme Court

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that the rape of a child is not grounds for the death penalty. I, for one, agree with their decision. Of course, being of the bleeding-heart liberal persuasion, I find it hard to come up with any situation in which putting someone to death is the right answer, but even putting that single-mindedness aside, I think that this is a good ruling.

What surprises me is that both of the presidential nominees disagree. Both Obama and McCain have spoken out in response to the ruling, saying that for a crime so heinous, the death penalty should be considered constitutional.

Now, I’m not (nor are the Supreme Court justices) saying that this is anything less than a horrible crime. In fact, it may be one of the worst crimes possible – the amount of physical and emotional injury inflicted on such a defenseless victim is unimaginable. However, the victim does survive. As inexcusable as the death penalty is in all instances (I’m not even going to go into my reasons for that here… that’s an entire post on its own), this decision at least draws a line to exclude cases where the state would be escalating the level of violence.

I also have to wonder if it might be more traumatizing for a child who has already been severely traumatized, to know that someone was put to death on his or her behalf. I could be wrong – it may be nothing but a relief to know that that person is no longer out in the world. But I imagine that a victim so young has very little say in the case, other than perhaps to testify. Who is to say what will help or hinder that child’s emotional recovery later on? And what if the child is wrong about who his/her rapist is, whether because of confusion during a traumatic experience, or because of outside pressure? Isn’t it always better to err on the side of caution, rather than taking that irreversible step?

I will still be voting for Obama in September, and I sort of hope that his stance on this and all death penalty issues is mere political pandering for election season. It’s clearly not an easy issue to speak out on (I feel a bit skeevy just writing about it). But it is a good reminder to do a bit of research, and not to take a candidate at face value.

(By the way, Slate has been discussing this ruling as well – it’s worth a read.)

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One Response to “Reacting to the Supreme Court”

  1. Stolen Childhood Says:

    “it may be one of the worst crimes possible – the amount of physical and emotional injury inflicted on such a defenseless victim is unimaginable. However, the victim does survive.”!! You might think differently if you knew someone who had been raped as a child. Sexual abuse shuts down the normal development and freezes that person at the age the abuse occurred. Imagine going through life as a perpetual 5 year old. People don’t know because the victim grows up and looks like an adult, but is incapable of making adult decisions. Now imagine the victim is your mother who was raped as a 5 year old. She is incapable of parenting and is more of a child than you are. Can you look to this person for advice? Can this person be a proper parent? No, of course not. And that’s on the good days. Rape isn’t about sex. It’s about violence. On the bad days the victim is angry and acts out in reaction to her brutal past. Is it any surprise that violence occurs in the home? Or that violence is passed to the next generation? It’s what the victim learned. Batter or be battered. You’re the child of the victim but you are at the mercy of a grown-up looking, but immature and angry child who doesn’t understand what happened to her when she was little. Even worse, her mother and sister blame her for what happened, and never let her forget it, as if a 5 year old had any idea what sex was and went looking for it. They also treat you like crap for being her child. You are tainted and can never be praised for any achievement, no matter what you do. Together you’re forever scorned, victim and victim’s child, talked down to and marginalized. And you say the death penalty isn’t warranted because “the victim survives.” There’s a hell of a big difference between mere survival and living. I say the death penalty is too good for the one who set this in motion.

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