My Uncle Sam
Thursday, January 29, 1998 by Dave Winer.
Now is a really good time to discuss capital punishment.
On Tuesday Karla Faye Tucker, a cruel murderer who is also a woman, is set to be executed by the state of Texas, presumably with the approval or acquiesence of the US Supreme Court. Her gender forces us to look at state-administered killing in a different way.
I'm sorry to use Ms. Tucker in this way, but anything that gets us to look more closely at the justice of a government killing its own people, is useful. Listening to her talk on TV I imagine that she wouldn't mind. And it's better to talk about it while she's still alive and can add to the discussion. After she's dead, after next Tuesday, she won't be able to talk to us at all.
I've written about capital punishment many times before. I'm not sure I've made the point clearly enough. Here's my problem. In the United States, since I am a citizen, I am part of the government. That's how it works here. Goverment of the people, by the people, for the people.
The government is killing Ms. Tucker. That means that I am killing Ms. Tucker. It's as if I'm pulling the switch that will start the poison flowing thru her veins. I am responsible for her death under the moral code of the United States of America.
Like many other citizens, I believe that a higher force determines when it's time for us to die. By participating in the killing of a human being, I am being forced to cross a sacred line, to break one of the most important tenets of my personal philosophy.
The death penalty *is* cruel and unusual punishment. For me. What crime did I commit to deserve this punishment? This makes me angry! Very deeply angry.
The bottom-line for me, when the government kills someone, we all have the blood on our hands. Speaking for myself only, I don't want that.
I have two uncles, one who lives in Jamaica, Ken Kiesler. He's alive and well and happy and one of my best friends. I'm very glad he's alive!
My other uncle, Sam Winer, is dead. He was murdered, brutally. His murderers were never caught.
I only knew my uncle Sam as a child. He was a distant man, very dark, but when I was a kid, we were friends. He showed me how to cook. He painted for me. I think he liked me.
If he hadn't been murdered, it's possible that he would be alive now, and my life might be richer. Regardless, he's part of my family, and his death was wrong!
I feel deeply sad for poor Sam Winer, to leave this life in such an awful way. There was no mercy or forgiveness for Sam in his final moment. No kindness or love. The last face he saw was someone who was going to kill him.
They never caught Sam's killers.
But if they had, I would want to see them punished.
But there's no way I would want them killed.
There's no way we can bring Sam back, but maybe his death can help save another human life, and at the same time preserve the dignity of people like me, who believe killing is a sin, no matter who's doing it, no matter what the reason.