Last Word

Where should we draw the line regarding how much power our government has?

Noah Roux, BU Republicans

The death penalty is a complex issue. Some individuals like to argue about the topic from a moral/value perspective, while some would prefer to look at statistics and how much death row costs the American taxpayer. 

I think that there is merit in each of these arguments and, to be quite honest, I have yet to formulate a solid opinion on the topic. 

What I will say is that we must be careful about what powers we place into the hands of the government. 

The death penalty, or “being sentenced to death,” has been used by governments for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The Greek philosopher Socrates was jailed and forced to drink hemlock because he was “corrupting the youth of Athens.” 

The Romans used a form of execution called crucifixion, which I think many of you are already aware of. Crucifixion was extremely cruel and torturous to the individuals it was used on.

King Henry VIII beheaded a number of his wives for all sorts of innocuous reasons. In revolutionary France, the guillotine was the preferred method of execution. 

Notably, this occurred as the people of France were “trying to become more democratic,” so they decided to kill everyone who had royalist ties. 

In Salem Massachusetts, they conducted witch trials in which more than two hundred people were accused. Thirty were found guilty, nineteen of whom were executed by hanging. 

I could go on, because as was noted in the First Word article, there are people in modern American history who have been executed by the state and were later found to have been innocent of the crime. 

The question I am asking you to consider is this: how much power do you really want the government to have over life and death? 

Do you want the government to have the legal power to condemn an individual to losing everything they have here on Earth? The death penalty takes all of it away. 

I have no sympathy for murderers. I have no sympathy for mass killers, terrorists, or rapists. I think that we, in the United States, have a fair, and mostly just, justice system. 

If it is not perfect, I think it is about as perfect as humanity can realistically reach. 

However, do I want the government to have the legal avenue to sentence and condemn a person to death, even if they almost always get it right? 

A few final words on this: it’s important to draw a distinction between police and military. 

Police should only shoot if they are in a situation in which an individual could be stopped from causing harm to the officer or others. They have rules of engagement in high stakes situations. 

The military is the same way. The death penalty is different because it does exist in that kind of a high-stakes situation. 

Consider the question: do you want the government, which has failed in many historical contexts and in the modern one, to have this power? 

A quick final side note: I would like to thank The Voice and its editors for continuing to support the First Word and Last Word column. 

It has been a privilege to write and engage in civil discourse and I am sad that this will be my last time writing for The Voice. 

It is only more important that we speak openly about important issues and try to better understand those who think differently from us and this is a great way to do so.   

Noah is a senior Political Science major and President of the BU Republicans.