Posts Tagged ‘Death Penalty’

All good (and lapsed) Catholics remember St Francis of Assisi, standing around with birds on his shoulders and animals curled around his stone feet. He was the one saint everybody loved because his tenet was, “All Creatures are One Family.” So it’s only right that the modern day Pope of the Holy Roman Catholic Church should be named Francis; he sleeps in the most spartan bedroom at the Vatican and rides around in a Ford. He washes the feet of the poor.

And now Pope Francis said that the death penalty is unacceptable in all cases. He called it an attack on human dignity and has actually changed the Catechism (that little book I started each and every day with at Sacred Heart School) to reflect the Church’s new directive.

Maybe it’s time I went back to church? Right before the papal news broke, I was telling the dermatologist, who was digging a crater of squamous cells out of the back of my hand, all about my escapades at Camp St Joseph. Sure enough, he knew if the girls were on one side of the lake, the boys were on the other!

I was 16 when I lost my faith, and almost 30 when I found Judaism. Granted I was marrying Bob, but my decision to convert was deeply rooted in my desire to raise a healthy, cohesive family. There would be none of that back and forth from one place of worship to another, and neither did I want my children growing up without ANY religious foundation. That just seemed wrong to me.

And early on in the process of learning about the Jewish people, I had a vivid dream that the Pope forgave me! Of course, that was the year of three Popes, so I’m not sure which one it was!

The year 1978 will long be remembered as the year of the three popes. The not unexpected death of Pope Paul VI on August 6th, 1978, was followed on August 26th by the election of the “Smiling Pope,” John Paul I. Reigning only 33 days, the length in years of Our Lord’s earthly life, he died in his sleep of a heart attack on September 28th. Only a few weeks later on October 16th, 1978, the College of Cardinals elected Karol Cardinal Wojtyła, Archbishop of Krakow, Poland, as the first non-Italian Pope since Adrian VI (1522-1523). His pontificate has been one of the most remarkable in history.  https://www.ewtn.com/johnpaul2/life/1978.htm

Even though that last one, the first non-Italian, Polish Pope, John Paul II, never officially apologized for the Vatican’s Holocaust-era activities, and he defended Pope Pius XII, who did very little to help the Jews and Christian priests during WWII, even advancing him toward sainthood.

I knew I liked Pope Francis when he was asked about homosexuality on a plane, he replied to the reporter, “Who am I to judge?” Well he IS the Pope. And just this morning I was reading about his visit with 500 schoolchildren. A little boy asked him how he felt when he heard that he had been elected Pope, and he told him he felt “PEACE.” And it made sense, because the current Pope has turned away from divisive social issues like abortion to minister to the poor. The Flapper always said you can get more bees with honey.

I thought perhaps Francis’ legacy would eventually allow women into the priesthood! Even thinking this in the past would have been a mortal sin! But he took the name of the saint to all creatures, and recruiting nuns in this day and age cannot be easy.

I wish Pope Francis would visit the Ayatollah, Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei aka the current Supreme Leader of Iran. He seemed to be getting along with President Obama, and currently, I’m pretty sure he views Mr T as the rest of the world does, a wild card. We might actually rid the world of nuclear weapons if the Pope walked into a bar with the Ayatollah. #WorldPeaceSummit

And maybe this American Girl could grow up to be President one day!



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Did you feel normal growing up? The Rocker’s friend back in Jersey, a guy from his early high school heavy metal band years, asked me this question the other day. He was writing a paper for his college upper-level Psych course and had to interview someone from another generation. By that I think he meant a “senior!” Why he picked the mom who served bagel dogs and root beer after school is beyond me. Needless to say, I was flattered.

“When you were growing up, did you ever think you were abnormal in any way?”

Doesn’t everybody? But that’s not what I said. I said “Yes,” and went on to try and explain how this could be a good thing. I knew I was abnormal because my name didn’t match my foster parents. First of all, I was the only kid I knew with foster parents. My last name belonged to a father who had died in Scranton and a mother who had been crippled in a head-on car crash. Having two moms in two different states wasn’t normal then. No matter how hard I tried, I could never really be their child.

I said that I also felt different because I had strawberry blond hair. But that’s not the same as saying that my signature mane turned almost white in the summer and got redder as the winter sun faded. That I felt like a too tall, skinny, scrawny kid. That my real (biologic) mom, the Flapper, said she could always find me in a crowd. That I made myself a bowl of spaghetti at night before bed to put on some weight. That I dreamed of having jet black hair just so I could fit in and not stand out. Later I would thank my Nana’s mahogany red hair and the Flapper’s platinum blond bob for bestowing their unique recessive genes on me; but as a kid, I was mortified.

“How have your own attitudes toward what’s normal and what’s abnormal changed over the course of your lifetime?”

Now that is a loaded question. First of all, what constitutes a “family” is very different. My hodge-podge of half/step/foster and biologic siblings is pretty tame, or normal today. Marriage equality has leveled the playing field. Growing up with a Jewish step-father in my teen years, with college educated brothers, I stepped out of the cocoon my foster parents had made for me. That little Catholic school girl became a child of the universe, with a rather striking liberal, progressive bent. Except for one thing, I’m pretty much in agreement with most of my current family’s attitudes.

That one thing is the death penalty. My step-father, who was a town judge, must have had some effect on me since even the Flapper was against the death penalty. For years I differed with the rest of my loved ones, like a lone wolf cast adrift whenever the subject came up. My reasoning was subjective; if somebody ever killed one of mine, I’d be the first to retaliate. There were, in my mind, circumstances that should relieve the taxpayer from paying for a monster’s life in prison…like killing a child, a police officer, or planning to ram planes into tall buildings etc.

But my philosophy about government-induced-death has been slowly changing. After reading about “false confessions” and mistaken convictions once DNA evidence was introduced. And knowing how the justice system is rigged toward the wealthy. After seeing how most of the civilized world has stopped killing its prisoners – so much so that the needed chemicals are hard to come by for a lethal injection. And this week, after hearing about the botched execution in Oklahoma, it became harder for me to justify my pro-death penalty stance. I could rant about pro-lifers not caring about the children born into poverty, and yet I found myself in their camp, a double paradox, when it came to the death sentence.

Then I read why those two prisoners were on death row. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/04/30/why-were-the-two-inmates-in-oklahoma-on-death-row-in-the-first-place/?tid=pm_national_pop And now I wonder why the gun lobby doesn’t try to bring back the firing squad. And I’m only half kidding.

The lone Conservative, surrounded by his Liberal sisters

The lone Conservative, surrounded by his Liberal sisters

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Does morality matter? Is it an objective or a subjective experience? These are questions for philosophers, but last week I found myself tackling them while riding a stationary bike at a hotel gym. I like to read The New Yorker while exercising; expanding my mind a little as well as strengthening my knees. The article, by Larissa MacFarquhar, was titled “How to be Good.” Intriguing. It was all about one of today’s most brilliant philosophers, an Oxford recluse named Derek Parfit.


Parfit, after distilling the best ideas from Greek philosophers and more modern principles of morality like Kant, thinks there are universally true answers to moral questions, almost in the same way mathematics has concrete answers. These truths, obtained through intuition and critical reasoning, remain the same whether we humans are able to perceive them (hence the term “universal”), or not.  Buddhist monks have been known to teach from his first book, “Reasons and Persons,” much to his surprise. And now he has published an epic tome, “On What Matters.”

“Is the truth depressing? Some may find it so, but I find it liberating, and consoling.” Parfit

Why even try to explain his philosophy in 400 words or less? Because this morning I learned that the state of Georgia just put a man, Troy Davis, to death, and because I had always believed in the death penalty, and because, thanks in no small part to my children, I no longer do. Will there always be grey areas for me? Yes, but… Parfit’s main idea is that rules of morality, those which might be accepted by all, would also have the best possible consequences – this is called “…rule-consequentialism.” In the case of a state-sponsored execution, we have to ask what is the best consequence to a country, a state or the doctor pushing that syringe?

I wonder why our country is still imposing the death penalty. According to Amnesty International, we rank as the fifth highest country still performing legal executions; right behind Yemen, North Korea, Iran and no.1 – China. “The death penalty has been abolished for all crimes by every country in Western Europe. In Eastern Europe the Russian Federation has held a moratorium on executions and death sentences for more than 10 years.” What would Parfit have to say about this? If in fact he believes that  life, as do I, cannot be arbitrary, then neither can death.

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