I’ve had problems with this issue. I’m very much anti-death penalty, but something inside told me that there was just something different about this case. I had dismissed it, telling myself that there is no difference between vengeance for 1 murder versus vengeance for 168 murders - which is true.
But I figured it out this morning. I saw an interview with a man whose father was killed in OK City. He was not attending the execution, and didn’t express any joy over McVeigh’s soon-to-be death, but he and his family were looking forward to the silence.
The silence. Very interesting. Now, my current view of the death penalty is that it solves no more than a locked-up-for-life sentence does. In fact, it solves less, as society and its government become killers as well (IMO). But as a member of this society, I look at a murderer and say that I don’t want that person in my society anymore. I think as a society we have that right. Not only do I not want these people in my society, I don’t want to hear from them.
And here is where the situation with Timothy McVeigh becomes different. Someone connected with a victim (whose murderer is given a life sentence) in an “ordinary” murder can easily escape any mention of the killer. After a certain amount of time, society will forget this person’s name, and allow those involved to move on. But had Timothy McVeigh been allowed to live, we would never hear the end of this. He would constantly be popping up - an interview here, a quote there. And with 168 people dead, hundreds injured, and their families to think about, there is absolutely no way to guarantee these people the silence the man I saw on television speak of.
So, silence it is. I know that this isn’t the end of it, we will hear the name McVeigh hundreds, maybe thousands, of times before we die, there will be 60 Minutes pieces on this, there will be a Time magazine article in 10 years giving us the update on the victims’ families, etc.
Or maybe I’m completely wrong. Maybe silence is the exact opposite prescription for this malody. Maybe we need to be constantly reminded of the possible horrors we face in this world.