Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How can it be that it is good for Bristol Palin's baby to live and good for Troy Davis to die?

rethabile has asked us to write an American sentence for Troy Davis. This is my American sentence.

To kill Troy Davis is to kill a foetus that has been fulfilled.

America applauds Bristol Palin for keeping her baby then its courts turn around and kill a man, indeed a man about whom there is doubt as to his guilt for the crime for which he has been sentenced. How come it's immoral to kill a foetus, but moral to kill a foetus that has grown and become the person it was meant to be? That seems somehow perverse, having less to do with ethics and more to do with some kind of ethereal, romantic notion about the helplessness of babes in the womb. If to kill in cold blood is wrong, then it matters not whom we kill. (We won't get into the issues of war and self-defense here.) Or does "pro-life" mean pro-foetal life? How can the same morality that is served when a foetus is preserved, also be served when a full-grown human person is killed? Isn't the argument made that it is wrong to kill a foetus because it is human life? And even if we were to agree that capital punishment is an appropriate verdict for a capital crime, must the state not pause when there is uncertainty that the person convicted is guilty? Or is there more going on here? Is this an issue that concerns race? Class? Both? It's impossible to pursue at this time all the relevant issues in this case, and we will hopefully return to at least some of them, one less obvious one being that idolatry is a subtle sin, one we commit when we purport to value "the sanctity of human life" when it is prettily wrapped up in a developing baby but regard it as disposable in grown human beings. We say, where I come from, "What go round, come round." Also, "Time longer than rope." They are interesting encapsulations of the idea of the inexorability of justice, elsewhere expressed in aphorisms like "Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind." Outside, beyond, over and above all our behaviours, individual and collective, as citizens, communities and states, the same inherent order (or Order) that sees to the rising and setting of the sun governs human behaviour. We should perhaps look to it.