The question of whether capital punishment is right or wrong is a truly tough choice to make. Capital punishment (death penalty) is legal because the government of the United States of America says that it is all right to execute another human being if their crimes are not punishable by other means. There are many different forms of capital punishment. Some of the most popular ones have been hanging, firing squad, electrocution (the chair), the gas chamber, and the newest lethal injection. In the readings of George Orwell, Edward I. Koch, and Jacob Weisberg, there are incites to capital punishment that are not usually thought of or expressed aloud. Also in the movie “Dead Man Walking,” the act of lethal injection, a form of capital punishment, is presented and made visual for one’s eyes. Both the readings and the movie hit on emotions that some people have never thought about feeling.
With the many people in the world there are many different feelings on capital punishment. Upon reading George Orwell’s “A Hanging,” the reader can obviously see that the writer is against capital punishment. Orwell brings out many of the points that are considered for argument against the death penalty. Orwell writes
“It is curious; but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we are alive.”
In this quote Orwell brings out the emotion of knowing that what is being executed may seem like a monster, but the fact remains that the prisoner is still a human being. Orwell also brings out the point that when we were a society that conducted hangings, the executioner would put a bag over the prisoners head. This was basically to make it so we didn’t have to watch the facial expressions of the dying because it would make society feel guilty.
Another writer against capital punishment is Jacob Weisberg. In Weisburg’s “This Is Your Death,” the reader must take into account that most of the public is immune to seeing violence on the TV and that broadcasting executions live would just be another form of entertainment. Weisberg writes also about the inhumane and cruel death penalties we have devised to kill criminals. Weisberg tells of the pain and suffering of the prisoners that goes on during an execution. Even if one was watching, one may not always be able to see what is really going on. Weisberg goes into a deep explanation of the many death penalties. Upon reading, one may be shocked as to what really goes on in an execution. For example, the gas chamber kills people by hypoxia. Hypoxia means “the cut-off of oxygen to the brain.” One can’t understand the pain they are feeling unless one has suffered a heart attack which has many of the same sensations. Weisberg explains that “all methods of execution can be botched.” If an execution were to be botched, then that would only mean more pain and suffering for the one being executed. Weisberg states that “electrocutions go wrong frequently and dramatically.” An example is while a prisoner was being electrocuted, the voltage had been lowered to 100 volts because of a synthetic sponge. At a 100 volts one’s body is simply tortured until death. This might seem to come under cruel punishments.
Another opinion on capital punishment is conveyed by Edward I. Koch. In Koch’s “Death and Justice,” he yields the position of being for capital punishment. He tries to counteract all of the points brought about by the arguments against capital punishment. Koch says “it’s not the method that really troubles opponents. It’s the death itself they consider barbaric.” He relates the barbaric act of the death penalty to radical surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy in attempts to cure cancer. This is a pretty far stretch. Koch also is the first to bring out the fact that the Bible says it is wrong to kill another human being. Koch disproves this by telling the reader that the Torah says the death may be used as a punishment. There are many different religions so the topic of religion is a hard one to use as an argument for or against capital punishment.
Another opinion on capital punishment is the neutral position. This position is covered in the movie “Dead Man Walking.” The director helps you to visualize both sides of the argument without telling you which one to choose. The movie fairly and accurately depicts both the emotions of the victim’s family members who are for the death penalty and also the feeling of the criminal and his family. This is good because it leaves the observer still in question of what the right choice is if they didn’t have an already formed opinion. In today’s society no one can tell you how you feel. This is a touchy subject and people will try to influence others, but it all comes back to the person making the decision for themselves.
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