If you had no choice and had to leave America, where would you want to live? If you couldn’t live in the United States, out of all the countries in the world, which one would you choose?
These questions are offered for a purpose. I have asked these questions to over a thousand people, and the answers are always English speaking countries like Great Britain, Australia and Canada. It is natural to choose places where we feel comfortable.
As Eugene Ionesco said: “It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question. The selected countries do not have the death penalty. All other English-speaking countries do not have the death penalty. In fact, not all countries in the European Union have the death penalty. America is bordered by countries that do not use the death penalty. In Canada and Mexico, there are no executions sentenced to death.
We in Utah stand with Iran, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, South Sudan, Saudi Arabia, China, Egypt and Iraq on the right to life. On the list of the top 10 countries that execute their citizens, America is in fifth place. Although Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen execute their people, they don’t do it as often as we do. Only China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt execute more of their citizens than we do.
Outside of the United States, is there any of those countries on this list that you would choose to live in? I would suggest, you hang a question mark over things that you have long taken for granted.
The 2022 session of the Utah Legislature will consider a bill to end the death penalty in the state. Top prosecutors in Salt Lake, Utah, Grand and Summit counties, and the Utah County Commission, have spoken in favor of the measure.
It has been said, “Fear is a treasure trove of self-awareness if we take the time to reason about what we are afraid of. Fear is a powerful tool in the hands of a charismatic politician.
In America we have scary labels for some people. Criminals, rapists, murderers, drug dealers, are words we use to dehumanize people. Does Quick and Safe Punishment of Criminals Reduce Our Fear? Does the execution of murderers, rapists and criminals lessen our collective fear and give us a clear impetus for pure justice? Black men in America make up only 4.5% of the American population, but make up 46% of those on death row in the United States. If you die with a question in your heart about killing others, what’s your excuse?
As Tennessee Williams put it, “Life is an unanswered question, but always believe in the dignity and importance of the question.” Does the death penalty make America a safer place, or do we value retribution and revenge?
Robert C. Wadman, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus, Department of Criminal Justice, Weber State University.