Tuesday, December 13, 2005

OPINION: Ben Jacques on the killing of Stanley Williams

The writer is an English professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal

By Ben Jacques

Last night, after watching a great basketball game at UMass(Minutemen
defeated Boston University Terriers), a few of us went out for a snack.
The TVs were on in the restaurant, and for me the night suddenly turned
ugly as I heard the announcement that Gov. Schwarzenegger had denied
clemency to Stanley Williams.

Over the last few days radio pundits have been arguing about whether
Williams was truly redeemed, rehabbed, reformed, repentent, etc., --but
for me that's not even the issue. Setting aside the question of his guilt
and/or his redemption, the issue for me is: are we as a society going to
continue to, in cold blood, plan and conduct the killing of human beings.
I think of all the people who take part, those who witness, those who
strap, those who inject the needles, and those behind the curtain who push
the poison through the tubes--it's a bizzare and barbaric death ritual
that dehumanizes everyone.

Maybe all the anger and sadness can lead to ending capital punishment, and
a diminishing of the racism and classism imbedded in the criminal justice
system. I know many disagree with me, some of them my friends and
relatives. That's all right. I do believe it's time to raise the issue, to
talk about it, and to take political action to end this culture of

For some reason last night and today, the words of Portia in Merchant of
Venice kept going through my head:

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings:
But mercy is above this sceptred sway:
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself.

I guess Schwarzenegger never read Shakespeare.


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