Tuesday, March 01, 2005

US joins civilized world?

noose

Well not exactly. Today's decision by the Supreme Court that we can no longer execute juvenile offenders is a step in the right direction, however small and belated.

And the Court's rationale seems positively revolutionary in this era of imperial solipsism:

The 5-to-4 decision, arising from a Missouri case, holds that executing young killers violates "the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society," and that American society has come to regard juveniles as less culpable than adult criminals.…
Until today, the United States and Somalia were the only nations that permitted putting teenage criminals to death. The court's ruling today held that, while the "overwhelming weight of international opinion" was not controlling, it nevertheless provided "respected and significant confirmation" for the majority's finding.


Perhaps if we push really hard, we can help this nation become aware that there are "evolving standards of decency" in numerous other arenas -- for example, condemnation of torture and recognition of gay humanity. In any case, encouraging "evolving" opinions is exactly how the effort to civilize the country can move forward. Lots of people need to change their minds. Just yesterday, a key New York State Assembly member was reported to have turned against the death penalty.

Helene E. Weinstein owes her Assembly seat, in part, to capital punishment.…But in a shift that reflects the changing passions on capital punishment among the public and its elected officials, Ms. Weinstein these days harbors serious doubts about the death penalty. And now, having risen to become chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, she is poised to doom New York State's on-again-off-again death penalty law. "It was an evolutionary process," Ms. Weinstein said the other day, explaining her shift.


In the preamble to the US Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson argued that the colonists could not move drastically to change their governments without explaining their reasons, out of a "decent respect for the opinions of mankind." Perhaps 'globalization', the reality of our interdependence, may once again 'evolve' the US back toward heeding the 'overwhelming weight of international opinion."

1 comment:

janinsanfran said...

More from the NYT on March 2:
David I. Bruck, a capital defense lawyer and the director of the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse at Washington and Lee University School of Law, said many Americans did not realize the strength of international sentiment on this issue."Had the decision gone the other way," Mr. Bruck said, "it would have been another Abu Ghraib. The outcry around the world would have been simply astounding."

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