WHEN PEOPLE KILL EACH OTHER IN CRUEL, COLD- BLOODED MURDER, SHOULD WE ALLOW THEM TO LIVE?
IS DEATH A PUNISHMENT?
WHAT GOOD DOES IT DO? WHAT BAD DOES IT DO?
These and other questions are debated...and looked at from a dramatic viewpoint in the play, "The Executioners," by Ellen H. Showell.
It is especially suitable for death-penalty focus groups, as a means to get people to think more about what we are doing when we allow, or demand, executions in our name.
The play is suitable for various kinds of presentations — including full theatrical production; dramatic presentation as part of a church service; dramatic reading. About 35 minutes in length, there are parts for as many as 20 people, although it can be done with fewer.
"This is an exceptional piece of work and should find strong and warm response from many Unitarian and other church-group audiences, as well as action-task-force groups opposed to the penalty in the US. It is very moving...and persuasive. It deserves a broad audience." Barbara Beach
"Seeing this has changed my mind about the death penalty." "People around me were crying...and so was I." "It showed both sides of the issue very well." "It makes you think." Members of the audience who saw the presentation at the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Arlington, VA.
If the death penalty is for punishment,then how is it effective, except for the pain it causes a person who knows he or she is going to die? This is psychological pain, which may well be described as "cruel and unusual." But death itself may be a reward to a person, if it's not just the end of a person's being. We have no way of knowing. Is the death penalty mainly for the effect it will have on the person who is to die--to make this person suffer--or is it handed out as a deterrent to keep others from committing murder, rape, torture? Is killing to make an example really justice?
What do we really want to kill when we kill a murderer? Another human being? Most people would not accept that — they would argue that the murderer, while admittedly of the human race, has gone beyond the bounds of common humanity — has stepped over the threshold. Such as these can no longer be given the same consideration as other human beings. In effect, they have become something less than human.
The logical conclusion is that we don't want to kill or have a state employee kill another human; we do want to kill, stamp out, destroy the things this person stands for: malicious disregard for the lives of others; cruelty; contempt for the common standards of human behavior that make possible a peaceful society. In our support for the death penalty, we project our hatred for these transgressions onto the person who has committed them. We do not allow ourselves to see the transgressor as someone like ourselves -- one of us.
Killing transgressors does nothing to erase the pain caused. For victims and their survivors, it may give grim satisfaction in seeing someone suffer who has made you suffer. But nobody claims this is good for the soul. Are we not, in the name of justice, perpetuating the very things we reject?