Kelly Brown often confounds me with her simple yet profound questions. Why do people murder?, she asked on August 4. Only one person answered her, I suspect, because, of course, it’s complicated.
On one hand, I would think (having no direct knowledge) that it would be easier for someone to kill another person when one can objectify the victim as “the other”: different race (lynchings in the South, and elswehere come to mind) different religion (Iraq and Ireland), different ethnicity (Yugoslavia), different gang. On the other hand, that theory doesn’t explain why one kills those closest to a person: murder/suicide (usually the man kills the wife, then himself), infantcide (Andrea Yates). Then there’s greed and power and jealousy but they’ve been with us always (Abel, Julius Caesar).
Incidentally, the FBI statistics suggest that the murder rate went down from 2003 to 2004 by 3.6%, after rising slighty the previous three years. What caused THAT, I wonder? I’ve read about every theory from the use of death penalty to the greater incarceration rate to a greater comradery after 9/11/01. I’m not sure that any of them is correct; perhaps it’s a statistical anomoly.
This got me to thinking about conversations I’ve had with my mother about how to live one’s life. She said, “Just follow the Ten Commandments.” Ah yes, but how does one interpret them? What ARE graven images in this society anyway?
Take “Thou shalt not kill.” I know reasonable people will disagree what that means when talking about suicide, “dying with dignity,” self-defense, first-trimester abortion, late-term abortion, the morning after pill, stem cell research, war, the death penalty, even vegetarianism.
On October 5, in response to a question of mine, Kelly’s husband Lefty described his belief in the “seamless robe” concept, which is a model that states that all life is sacred. This is based on Jesus’ indivisible tunic. So one would oppose abortion, war, the death penalty, poverty that leads to death, etc., in a consistent philosophy. (Lefty, do you have a good website that explains this further?)
I recognize that my theology on this is more cafeteria style.
Abortion: in the words of the junior senator from New York (who I’ve never voted for, BTW), “Safe, legal and rare.” I’ve been around before Roe v. Wade, when women of means were going to Sweden or elsewhere for the procedure, and poorer women were using coat hangers.
War: generally, I’m against it. I did not protest the war in Afghanistan, though it made me sad (are we still IN Afghanistan?), but I vigorously opposed the build-up to war in Iraq.
Death penalty: I’m against it. Here’s an interesting fact. More non-Hispanic white people are arrrested for crimes than blacks and Hispanics, yet the prisons are dominated by people of color. Am I suggesting that the criminal justice system MAY not be just? I am. Do I think people who were innocent of capital crimes have been executed because they didn’t have decent legal representation? I do.
My thoughts on this are also informed by a father of a young woman killed in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 who spoke in Albany last year. He had anger, naturally, but he came to realize that killing Timothy McVeigh wouldn’t bring his daughter back, and therefore he opposed McVeigh’s execution. When McVeigh WAS executed, he saw a lot of “I thought this would make me feel better, but it didn’t” from the other victims’ families. (I opposed McVeigh’s execution, in part, because I don’t think the whole story was told: remember the search for John Doe #2?)
Well, I could go on, but I recognize that:
1) I’m just rambling on with no particular resolution, and
2) I’ve probably ticked off enough of you for one day