Claudine Clark

They are the guns we are the shooters

The question of the death penalty has always been a subject of debate in our country, since it is neither more nor less than a murder disguised as a service to the nation. As in any criminal case, our consciences will look for a culprit. The eyes then turn to the governors who sign the execution warrants. Is this logical? Not really, because when we analyze in depth the reasons that push the governors to sacrifice human beings, the observation is without appeal. Indeed, 90% of the execution warrants are signed for electoral purposes, whether it is to see their mandate renewed, to reach higher positions or to increase their popularity rating, governors use the death penalty to tip the balance in their favor.

But if they are the most obvious perpetrators, we all play a role in this barbarity, for if society were not in demand, governors would not have to respond with these premeditated murders. For obscure reasons, a part of our civilization is thirsty for revenge! The phrase “man is a wolf to man” is a quote from the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, meaning that human beings are naturally inclined to violence and destruction, and that they are constantly competing with each other for limited resources. According to Hobbes, in the absence of a strong government and a system of laws and rules to regulate human behavior, people would be constantly at war with each other, seeking to protect themselves and satisfy their needs and desires, even at the expense of others. In the American death penalty system we see a different version of things, where the government and the justice system, instead of balancing the pack, becomes the wolf, and in order to serve the self-interest of a handful of politicians, agrees to satisfy the murderous desires of a sick society.

But if we go further, the rate of responsibility of our society is immense, we are all responsible for violence and crime leading to death sentences. From the mother who beats her child, to the classmate who harasses a poor defenseless kid, to the uncle who sexually abuses his young niece, malice and animosity are omnipresent in our world. This negativity leads the weakest to adopt self-defensive reflexes to protect themselves from the pain that the world causes them, some will choose drugs to forget, others will lose their minds or face serious depression. All this pain can make a human brain, already too fragile, topple and make us commit the irreparable. There is no smoke without fire, there is not a single example of a death row inmate who does not have physical or moral trauma preceding incarceration.

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Yes, we destroy each other, and after destroying or failing to protect a member of our community, we will sacrifice him or her like an animal being fed to lions, to show the world that those who stray from the straight and narrow will be punished with the death penalty. By giving in to the thirst for revenge, we increase the rate of violence in our world, we show our children that violence is the answer to violence. They then adopt violent behaviors themselves at an early age, convinced that violence is their only weapon against the world. We are creating an army of citizens who will only spread pain and sadness around them, destroying our world slowly.

It is time to question your responsibility in all this. Do you remember that woman who said hello to you with a smile and you didn’t answer, or that cashier you yelled at yesterday because she made a mistake on your receipt? You don’t know anything about these people, maybe they are on the verge of the abyss, beaten, on the verge of depression, or suicide. The harmless act you just committed could have a huge impact on the destiny of these people and push them to cross the line.

In an increasingly individualistic and fragmented world, it is easy to feel powerless in the face of the violence and injustice that surrounds us. However, it is important to remember that each of us has a role to play in creating a more fraternal and just society. By committing ourselves to doing good around us, by being examples of compassion and respect for others, we can help ease tensions and reduce violence. Whether it’s by donating our time and money to organizations that fight poverty and injustice, or simply by reaching out to a neighbor in need, we can all help create a more just and peaceful world. Ultimately, it is our ability to stand together and care for one another that can bring about the change we need in our society.

The next time an execution takes place, think of the dead body of this member of our human brotherhood, look in the mirror and tell yourself that if the governor who signed this execution warrant was the gun, we are the shooters….

About the Author
Claudine Clark is president/founder of the French Coalition Against the Death Penalty. An abolitionist, paralegal and human rights consultant, her passion stems from her origins as the granddaughter of Warsaw ghetto survivors. She defends human values of forgiveness and tolerance through numerous actions.
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