What is wrong with the Death Penalty as "vengeance" ?

To answer the title of the OP: It doesn’t last long enough. The guy’s dead. How can he continue to suffer? Ya gonna wait until the Second Coming, have Jesus resurrect the guy, then kill him again, rinse and repeat?

That was just the ultimate pragmatic answer. In real life, I concur with Gaudere, et al, in abhorring the human capacity for vengefulness, and distrusting the official institutionalization of that attribute by the state.

And Sake?

Does this “possibility” cause you to oppose the death penalty?

Gaudere, one man’s justice is another man’s vengeance. I do not find vengeance to be inherently cruel, nor justice to be inherently fair.

I understand the connotations and implications these terms carry in our society, but in others??? There are cultures who believe it is just to take a man’s hand for stealing, or to cane a naked boy in public for vandalism. Remember the judgement of the wise King Solomon? Americans do not agree that these are just punishments. We often believe that money is a just punishment - fines, court costs and lawsuits. A man kills my daughter and you want me to smile and accept wergild from him and be happy that he is to spend a few years in a correctional institution? That is not fair to me - in fact, THAT is cruelty.

Please tell me why there should be punishment for “victimless” crimes? Again, THAT seems cruel to me, too.

While we’re blatantly inventing word definitions, I’ll say that Justice is simply a mythological concept invented as a justification to whitewash acts of vengeance.

A quick aside then,if you will: What DO you consider justification for the DP?

Let’s not read too much into my postings, OK? I’m only less gentle when it’s appropriate ;).
Lissa, thanks for bringing that up, I was supposed to post that a while ago, but didn’t get around to looking up any sources.

kayla, I do not think the DP is “inflicting great pain and suffering”. Quite the opposite, in fact. Life imprisonment is far more cruel and inhuman.

Yet to be reconciled with the reality of the dark for a moment, I go on wandering from dream to dream.

I think we’re talking past each other here. What I object to in “vengeance” is that it necessarily includes a desire for and enjoyment of other’s suffering. This sounds like textbook cruelty to me. I am not objecting to the relative harshness of punishment; it is theoretically possible to sentence someone to horrible death without doing it out of desire for their pain. I do believe that vengeance as a justification will be exceedingly likely to lead to greater cruelty and excessive punishment.

C’mon, Sake, that’s a false dichotomy. The choice is not between death and a few years and a little money; it’s between death and life imprisonment. For me, I cannot indulge a desire for vengeance to the degree that I would call for anyone’s death when they can be reasonably kept from harming others. YMMV.

What, so there is one thing that you consider cruel in our justice system, hey that makes it OK to propagate more cruelty? And why should I have to justify our entire justice system? As I noted, punishment for “victimless” crimes is more along the lines of “discipline”–someone’s doing something we have decided is wrong, so they get slapped down. Many “victimless” crimes could possibly be considered to have victims–the person who sees the drunks on public property is the victim since it was a nasty thing to see, etc. I’m not endorsing this viewpoint, just listing it, and it is a whole 'nother debate. I am trying to stick to the OP, here.

It seems a reasonable implication to me. Look at the OP: he enjoyed knowing that guy suffered, and wished to use his personal enjoyment as a reason for the DP. If you consider vengeance to have no aspect of enjoyment of another’s suffering, we are working from definitions that are too far apart, and might not even actually object to each other’s position.

Somehow I fear this will not be a quick aside, in the end. :wink: For me, violence is only justified to protect the self and others. I would accept killing someone if there was no way to be reasonably sure they would not harm another.

Egregious taking of quotes out of context! I never said you personally are the one delighting in suffering. My honor has been besmirched! I will now stalk you on the board and harass you incessantly, glorying in your annoyance. :wink: Oh, wait, I don’t do the vengeance thing. Never mind.

Precisely. And precisely why it would be a more effective means of exacting vengeance.

Also, in the event that the system had convicted an innocent man (a far-fetched notion, I know :rolleyes: ),the situation could be rectified.

Sake Samurai posted:

Just because they aren’t exactly the same thing doesn’t mean that they aren’t related.

And who are you to dictate the terms for being human?

I believe in evolution, and I believe that every emotion has a reason. I believe that every emotion that is prevalent in humans helped, on average, humans to survive and pass on their genes. I do not believe that evolutionary success and “the right thing” are always exactly the same, but I do believe that there are many situations where they are the pretty much equivalent. In those situations, it is the reason that a particular emotion helps the species, and not the emotion itself, which justifies an act. Vengeance helps the species because it provides a disincentive to harm the species. Vengeance does not have any value in itself; it has value only as a result of its effects on anti-species behavior. Therefore, vengeance has no value beyond those effects. Vengeance without any real deterrence value seems to me to be much like sexual desire without a desire to procreate, with a major difference being that sexual desire rarely results in a person’s death. I strongly disagree with the OP; vengeance is not a useful purpose in itself. Sure it makes you feel better, but you don’t get to kill people just because it makes you feel better.

And I think a lot of the “it’s just vengeance” argument is a reaction to people’s hypocrisy in claiming that they are serving a higher good by committing state sanctioned killing. I glad that at least you are honest about your attitude.

Gaudere, I’ll agree with you that vengeance CAN often lead to greater cruelty and excessive punishment, but even in matters of vengeance there needs to be an element of perspective. If two punks knock your mailbox off your property with a baseball bat, you don’t go launching a TOW at their F250. You might take their plate down and report them to the authorities. That is still vengeance. What OJ Simpson did to his wife and Mr. Goldman was not vengeance, it was inexcusable double homicide.

I don’t think we’re talking too far past each other, because we certainly agree that the desire for and enjoyment of other’s suffering is at the heart of the matter. You clearly equate revenge with sadism. I do not.

Many feel the need for revenge, not for themselves, but for the victim. This is a common reaction after a brutal crime has been committed. If a father’s little boy is raped, strung upside down, gutted, and left in a trashcan he very well might want his boy’s murderer punished and killed for the suffering his son went through. The father will be numb and derive NO pleasure from the pain or death of that criminal.

Well, there has never been prison that has been able to hold ALL of its prisoners. Nor has there ever been a criminal justice system which could control them. These beasts that you are so willing to release into these facilities, absolutely terrorize the other (less violent & non-violent) inmates. There is no way to keep them from harming others without being, what you would call, cruel.

I am talking about LESS cruelty, Gaudere.

Why should I have to justify vengeance? We’re having a debate, here - if you think there is such a thing as a victimless crime I should hope you could back that statement.

Being drunk is no crime unless you are doing specific activities in that state. A drunk on a park bench is committing NO crime and should NOT be “disciplined”. If that drunk is vomitting, urinating or otherwise vandalizing the park, he is committing a transgression against the owners of the park. If the drunk is homeless and decides to live there in the park he should be removed as the purpose of a park is casual recreation and natural beauty. He still should not be diciplined, but simply “moved along”. I understand that is not your viewpoint, but I don’t think anyone can seriously claim any harm has been done by “seeing” an inebreated man in public.

Sadism and human nature are at the heart of our debate, and I think your moral optimism prevents us from seeing eye-to-eye. At least we both share the same view of how things SHOULD be.

Ohhh, I wish you’d follow through on your urges and harass me, it would provide me with fertile ground for my unchecked cruelty! Your depriving me of that pleasure is such clever, perverted sadism. :smiley:

Yet to be reconciled with the reality of the dark for a moment, I go on wandering from dream to dream.

See, I think we are working from different definitions. Reporting the license plate is not vengeance unless there is an aspect of “Woohoo! I’m going to really screw up those boys for what they did!” If you just decide: “What they did was wrong; they shouldn’t have done it; I’m going to report this to the proper authorities so they learn not to do such things again.” And I would definitely call OJ’s actions venegeful: he was angry that his wife was with Ron, so he wanted to hurt them back.

Hmmm…it would be tough for me to call this vengeance, in that case. To the father, he would see it as justice, and if he derived no enjoyment at all (ever) from knowing the rapist suffered, I would not call it vengeance. However, even if the father did not take any pleasure in the suffering of the rapist, if he advocated cutting off the guys limb’s one joint at a time with a butter knife and feeding them to him while maggots ate his putrefying flesh, I think we would think him, not vengeful, but with a warped sense of justice due to his distress.

There isn’t? How do you know what I would call cruel, BTW? I don’t think it cruel if it is necessary to place severe restrictions upon prisoners to prevent them from killing somebody.

Well, darn you, since you’re refusing to let me dodge the question I’m going to spin off another topic. :wink: I didn’t want to get into it since I haven’t thought about it much, aside from a knee-jerk, “if nobody’s hurt, how can it be a crime?” I refer to it as a “victimless crime” because, well, that’s what they’re referred to as. If I used the term “victimless non-crime” people would get confused, IMHO.

Quite possible. There is a tendency for people to think “well, I can do this, so everybody else can and should do this.” So I think everybody should eschew vengeance because it has been my experience that when I indulge in it I end up making things worse all around, and since I am capable of being non-vengeful, I tend to think everyone else can and should. I can see exceptions; a desire for vengeance might keep your will strong while you are a prisoner of a kidnapper, and thus help you to survive. However, if once you are free you gleefully chop your captor in little bits, I would think it wrong. Has there been an example in your life when vengeance caused the fairest and best results?

Bwah hah hah hah hah! I shall rejoice in your suffering. :smiley:

The sentance in the first paragraph should read: “If you just decide: “What they did was wrong; they shouldn’t have done it; I’m going to report this to the proper authorities so they learn not to do such things again,” I would consider that justice.”

You dirty rat - making me dust the old dictionary off!

:donning pedantic bifocals and tweed boxers:

Vengeance comes from venger (to avenge) which is derived from the Latin, vindicare (vindicate). “Vindicate” contains an element of justification and the upholding of justice. Retribution and avenging does as well. These elements are essential to the origin and concept of vengeance. The cruelty element you are adding is unfair and unwarranted (although I must admit it was present in the OP). The term, “with a vengeance” is likely responsible for much of the negative connotation. Excessive violence DOES seem cruel - it is not always, though. Military special forces are trained to react with “excessive deadly force” to rapidly surprise and overwhelm the enemy.

By the definition of the word, reporting the license plate to the autorities IS vengeance, while OJ’s actions are questionable. He certainly butchered them “with a vengeance”, but was there a “wrong” to avenge with his ex-wife? Ron Goldman? Perhaps, but that’s pretty perverted justice accomplished by sick moralistic twisting of the definition of vengeance.

Agreed - I’d point this towards OJ, too.

Please tell me your ideas how we can practically imprison 1.3 million men and woman and prevent them all from hurting and killing each other and their guards, escaping and being released accidently and by political manipulations.

I guess you don’t want me to get ANY work done today, do you? :o

Like your kidnapping example, I can think of dozens of examples where vengeance (even acting “with a vengeance”) would come in handy. You ask:

Two examples I can think of off the top o’ my head:

  1. Old coot in Buick runs red light and broadsides my Toyota. Half-blind codger has the nerve to verbally assault me with his sailor’s tongue ("Didn’t you F’n see the F’n light, you F’n SOB, etc…) in front of witnesses (who luckily shut him up before I could rip the cane out from under him and strike him in the dentures). Insurance company drags feet and ultimately refuses to pay more than a paltry, insulting sum. Because of the man’s tirade against me I take the whole thing personally and grit my teeth wanting justice and deciding to see the whole thing through to the bitter end: vengeance. We are now discussing a five-figure settlement. :slight_smile:

  2. Group of 8 punks had been seriously harrassing my brother for months causing much grief, including his suspension from his school. They finally crossed the line and jumped him and two of his friends in DC. They were beat pretty badly with a chain and the butt of a 9mm. Did we report this? No. As you may have already guessed we returned the favor by stalking them to a school football game and waiting until the two armed ones left to go to the restrooms and the other six were smoking by themselves. We surprised them and beat the hell out of them. Then my brother and I made our way to the restrooms and caught the other two coming out and ambushed them. We got banged up a little bit, but remained standing and just managed to avoid the police by running like the wind when they showed up screaming. The remainder of the year went very smoothly for my brother and his friends (they only had further problems with one of the thugs, but it was one-on-one and therefore a fair fight). These guys all had juvi rap sheets and reporting them would have been about as effective as politely asking them to, “Please cease your violent activities, young sir!” would have been. Vengeance is your friend. Release your anger and embrace it!

I knew you had it in you!

All in all, I must say that this has been a very interesting debate so far and you’ve made some very intelligent comments. . .for a woman. :stuck_out_tongue:

Yet to be reconciled with the reality of the dark for a moment, I go on wandering from dream to dream.

Sake Samauri-
I don’t think that you’re really addressing the OP. Sure, there are situations in which vengengeful actions are justified, but can you think of any situations in which, as the OP said “vengeance IS a useful purpose, in itself”? In all of the cases you cited, there were reasons beyond just vengeance that you consider your actions justified, and I believe that it is those reasons, not vengeance, that provides the justification.

Originally posted by Sake Samurai:

I must say that I think your little testimonial is one of the most horrific things I have ever read. Bleeding Christ!

I’m not even going to start on that “for a woman . . .” thing. I’m hoping it’s a joke (albeit a stupid one), so I’ll let it go.

It’s not the “justice” part that I have an objection to. If you are using vengeance to mean purely a fair response to harm done to you, without any element of joy in another’s suffering, I have no objection to it. But you are not using it in the same sense the OP used it, nor do I think you are using it in the way it is commonly used. Dictionaries get their definitions from us, not we from them, and I think the vast majority would agree with me that “vengeance” necessarily includes an enjoyment of another’s pain.

Oh, OK, let’s just kill ‘em all. If you want to oppose the DP on purely practical grounds—we don’t have enough resources and more people are getting killed because prisoners aren’t executed–I’m willing to listen, but I think a good argument for that requires more in the way of statistics, costs, good projections as to the decrease in violence in prisons if more prisoners were executed, etc., than we may have available. For me, the ultimate goal is doing our best to keep people safe and alive, assuming the system works properly, and I think that is better served by no DP. When the no-DP system is messed up, people can get hurt by violent prisoners. When the DP-system screws up, innocent people are executed by the state. I think the no-DP system has less chance for abuses, and am willing to try to work to “fix” it, given my belief that violence is only acceptable to protect self and others.

In your stories about the benefits of vengeance, I think it is an example of doing the right thing for the wrong reason. [Well, “right thing” may be a little strong of a term for beating up those boys–I have found that superior intelligence and proper use of the “system” is more effecious all 'round, but I am taking as given that you had no other viable ways to protect yourself.] Take the guy you sued—you could just as easily have endured the lawsuit out of a strong sense of justice, out of a belief that you should see that the world is as fair as possible. The boys you roughed up—your justification seems to be self-defense, not vengeance. I think removing the vengeance from your examples and substituting a desire for fair justice and a desire to protect yourself would be a better thing. You’ve said yourself how vengeance can easily lead to greater cruelty and excessive retribution; if vengeance’s purpose can be better served by other motives, why not try to eliminate it? Self-defense and justice seem far less likely to result in abuses.

And you’ve managed to not be completely blinded by your testosterone-induced aggression! :stuck_out_tongue:

I just re-read the OP and I must emphasize that Revtim wishing for the smokey death of Mr. Murder is not necessarily sadistic.

You must derive true pleasure for the act to be true sadism.

The families of victims of violent acts never actually feel pleasure that the perp suffered or was executed. They feel numb. If they feel anything it’s usually a sense of justice that the bastard won’t be able to ever terrorize another human being.

The Ryan, I’m not avoiding the question, it just doesn’t make sense. I mean, can you think of any situations in which love is a useful purpose, in itself? I think both of my examples demonstrate how a bit of vengeance can produce desirable justice.

Lissa, you wrote:

Hey, just be glad I didn’t include the vivid descriptive text of how my vengeance helped me get even with the four girl scouts that kept cruelly harassing me by pounding on my doors and screaming at the top of their lungs in their shrill little voices! :smiley:

Gaudere, OK, I’m backing off because the debate between us is really lexicological in nature. The masses might agree with your definition for “vengeance”, but the masses would also agree that Montreal is the capitol of Canada.

Not in either of the above cases.

Thugs and insurance corporations are invulnerable to intelligence: you can’t come near them with the stuff. The “system” favors the rich. When I am rich I plan on using the “system” a whole lot more!

I don’t think so. . .if I didn’t take it personally (and want to ‘teach the old coot a lesson’) I wouldn’t have been half as perseverant as I was.

Not self-defense, because I was in no danger. It was my brother I was defending/avenging.

It would be great if vengeance was eliminated, and I think it will certainly happen just as soon as all crime disappears from the face of the planet.

Anger and vengeance, used with wisdom, are deadly weapons against injustice and powerful tools for building a stronger society.

(Woops, I think some of my testosterone-induced aggression slipped in there after all!)

Yet to be reconciled with the reality of the dark for a moment, I go on wandering from dream to dream.

Now THAT I could understand. Goddam cookie pimps.