Pondering questions on the death penalty, local politics

What do you think about the death penalty?

Look, I don’t like the death penalty for one reason and one reason only: We have been known to execute people who were later proven innocent. I know many people who believe that state-sanctioned execution brings us down to the level of murderers. I just think that when someone ruthlessly kills a cop or a senior or a child, that person is a menace to society and should be removed from it, one way or the other.

When the Boston Marathon bomber suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was on trial, I hardly cared about the disposition. Tsarnaev killed people who were loved and who had done nothing wrong. Because of this young man and his older brother, unrelenting pain was heaped upon the families and friends of the dead and injured. There really was no question of guilt or innocence in this case.

We all know about the plethora of protections we offer those accused of capital murder. Maybe we should just throw the guy in a super-maximum security cell and let him rot there until he dies. None of this means all that much to me. If my child was killed by a vicious terrorist attack, I would certainly want the perpetrator dead but that is hardly the point. I suppose I buy into the idea that we should incarcerate him until death does he and his prison cell part.

Mario Cuomo believed that life in prison without parole might actually be worse than the death penalty. Except that while the guy is still breathing, he still has hope of freedom and, in fact, there are people reading this column now who will write to this paper and make the case for rehabilitation. They will certainly write and maintain that the man who has sat in a prison cell for 30 years is not the same man who went along with his older brother and killed or injured all those people. They will argue that as a society we have to recognize that he may actually be rehabilitated and he should be given another chance.

Yoko Ono shows up every time John Lennon’s murderer comes up for parole and opposes his chance to go free. I applaud that. After all, Lennon is dead and will always be dead. The child that Lewis Lent was convicted of killing is dead and will always be dead. The dead victims never had a chance. I’m against the death penalty but I sure do understand why people are for it.

What surprised you about your town election?

Several months back, a group of people in Great Barrington got together and voted down the Monument Mountain High School renovation project. Then this small group of organizers became emboldened by their success and ran one of their chief organizers, Karen Christenson, for selectman.

They did everything in their power to win. They had signs everywhere I looked. In fact, if you added up the Karen signs, it looked like a shoo-in.

But it turns out the candidate who has the most signs doesn’t necessarily win. In fact, the candidate with the most votes, Sean Stanton, seemed to have only one sign and that was in front of his house. He won big and he deserved to. He told me before the election that if people wanted him to continue to serve they would vote for him.

They did and maybe HE should be the political science professor. Relatively few people vote in these local elections so each vote can mean a great deal. However, I think that the people who do vote are for the most part pretty conversant with the issues. Well, Karen lost.

The high school may have gone down but any hopes of that crowd ruling the town went down with this election. Isn’t democracy grand?

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 5/18/15

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