Sunday, January 13, 2008

Far Right Voices Getting Louder

I have mentioned in previous posts that I see a disturbing trend in this country. That is the rise of the voices from the far right. Are they entitled to speak? Of course. Let me begin by saying it should be obvious to those who read here that I believe in freedom of speech and I have no desire to shut it down. My concern lies in what is suddenly coming back into mainstream conversation.

I read this piece by Barbara Kay of the National Post. It speaks to the Death Penalty. That, in and of itself didn't disturb me. Though I am vehemently against it others obviously have the right to hold another view. It is a subject however that is has long disappeared from our everyday lives. We dealt with it in this country and moved on long ago. That is until it's spectre was brought forth by the Harper government in the HoC, when it was stated that we would not ask for clemency on behalf of a Canadian citizen on death row in the US.

Since that comment, a subject that should only be mentioned in the context of our history, it's being discussed again. I expect outlandish comments from some blogger's at the BT's, but it does not seem to be restricted to those extremists.

Barbara Kay, is a columnist at the National Post. As I said that she believes in the Death Penalty doesn't surprise me in the least. Some of what she is attempting to bring into the public discourse does though. In fact, I found some of it jaw dropping.

As one of the lonely few in Canada - in the whole Western world nowadays outside of the U.S. - who never stopped believing in the justice of the death penalty, I have often pondered the methods of execution I could feel morally comfortable with.

To think of anyone pondering methods of execution in their spare time is truly disturbing to me. That she is on a journey to decide how she could feel morally comfortable with it tells me quite a bit. It suggests that she innately knows that there is something wrong with the concept. She's arguing an eye for an eye, while trying to assuage her unease with it. Rationalising killing, is rationalising killing.

She goes on to refer to another article that speaks to the guillotine as being humane. She finds fault with that method, not for what it is, but because it does not encourage the dispassion that should come with killing. Huh? Correct me if I'm wrong here, but don't most who support the death penalty cite the dispassion with which criminals treat their victims? To me, it sounds as though she is trying to achieve that same sense of distance.

She goes on to examine other methods of execution, finally landing on one that would allow her to sleep at night, after having witnessed it.

In the end I keep coming back to the firing squad. It is by far my own preferred way of execution, should the occasion arise. First of all, it involves no loss of body parts, which is important in terms of human dignity. The families of the executed should have a whole body to bury. The face remains unblemished, again important for the family. The executed faces his executioners and stands upright. That is good. Lying on a gurney or strapped into a chair, the person’s helplessness and humiliation are exaggerated. A man - it is usually a man - wants to die like a man. Standing up at the same level as those who will kill him.

Viewing a firing squad execution is the least damaging to the psyche for those who wish to be, or must be, present. After all, we have all “witnessed” such executions in countless films without disgust, even though none of us can bear to watch a realistically “aestheticized” beheading, a hanging or a gassing, not to mention a botched electrocution or injection.

There is so much to argue there...but I won't. It is what she is saying in the context of January of 2008 that is important, not her stance. She is using her public voice to influence opinion, which is of course her right but here again is that whole cloth invention by the right that I find so disturbing.

I really think we have banished the death penalty for the wrong reason: because we don’t like the methods used. That is, we all think certain unregenerately evil people deserve the death penalty, but we are too squeamish about the actual process to square the decree with our guilt at causing torture. If we could view the actual process dispassionately, I think we would be a lot more objective about the arguments for capital punishment. But objective justice and sentimentality are now too inextricably tangled together for rational review of the policy.

No! We did not abolish the death penalty because we are "squeamish". We abolished it because we have evolved beyond that barbaric method of retaliation. Well, most of us.

I'll leave her and her views alone for now because she only serves as an example of what seems to be a green light to the right now to raise and shift popular opinion. I understand why the right is using this time to spread their voice. They rarely have the chance given a that a sympathetic government isn't in power very often.

What is important to me though, is that this attitude does not seep into our consciousness. Whether the right want to admit it or not there time is past.

Bush is going and we all know that in North America he brought on this wave. The tide is going out though and if you've ever watched that phenomenon, you'll also know when it comes back in it begins with a gentle roll then huge crashing waves. We're watching that in the US at the moment and I'm convinced that the Democrats will build such momentum that a wave will crash over our borders too.

If Harper is still in power, we'll look like dinosaurs vis a vis the US on such issues as environment, crime and justice, the war on terra, etc.

The right is raising their voice, but it's my view that they will end up shrieking in the wind because the majority of this country won't be listening.


Gayle said...

"I really think we have banished the death penalty for the wrong reason: because we don’t like the methods used."

Perhaps she needs a crash course in constitutional law. The death penalty violates the Charter. The SCC has already ruled on this.

I agree with everything you are saying here, but I always end these discussions with the fact it is now irrelevant what people think about this issue - at least in terms of the law in Canada. It is like debating the merits of criminalizing spousal rape.

You can think what you think but the law is the law - and some laws cannot be changed.

knb said...

Agreed Gayle and that is the point.

This is a done deal.

That the voice of times past is becoming more shrill is disturbing to me.

They are attempting to shift the country in order to shift the law.

I do not believe that will happen but it's fascinating to watch this almost subliminal attempt.

ottlib said...

To add to Gayle's point, the Conservatives would need to change the constitution to make the Death Penalty legal in this country.

I would love to see Mr. Harper or any other prominent Conservative make that proposal.

Like Senate reform this is just alot of noise to keep the base happy and nothing more.

As well, it serves as a nice distraction from things that are really important, such as nuclear safety and the need to prevent all government interference in the organizations designed to promote same.

We progressives have to stop falling for the sleight of hand tactics of the right. We need to stay focused on the issues that the Conservatives have a realistic chance of addressing to the harm of Canadian society. (Global warming, health care, lousy economic management, etc.)

We need to stay focused on the Bushian incompetence of this government. Stephen Harper is reasonably competent but he has a weak team and progressives should be focusing on exploiting that weakness.

J@ckp1ne said...

That piece in the National Post is really disturbing,I can't understand how people can even contemplate such things.

knb said...

ottlib, I agree, but having seen what happened in the US, I'm just trying to keep Canadians apprised as to how this mentality leaks in.

Indeed, the larger, real issues are to be focused on, but the penetration of the right by stealth cannot be ignored imo.

I try to bring both to the fore, but of course it's a blog. I simply write about what strikes me.

To add to Gayle's point, the Conservatives would need to change the constitution to make the Death Penalty legal in this country.

I would love to see Mr. Harper or any other prominent Conservative make that proposal.

Me too. For all their machismo, they do not possess the courage to bring action to their threats. But they are the tough guys. LOL.

knb said...

J@ckP1ne, neither can I.

I do not know what you think about during the day but I would bet there are few of us who have her thoughts. Disturbing indeed.

Anonymous said...

All Harper needs is a majority and then watch things fly !

clh said...

I hope you are correct that the death penalty is irrelevant. The National Post has run a number of articles on it over the past year and the Harper government did an extensive survey which included asking Canadians their views on the death penalty. Did he put in that question simply because he was planning to change the how Canadians facing the death penalty in other countries would be treated and to withdraw co-sponsorship of the UN moratorium? He does hope to fill more of our courts with conservative appointments and he has cut the Court Challenges program. Is it certain that if one had enough religious-right senior judges that the death penalty couldn't be revisited and reinterpreted if Harper ever got a majority?

Gayle said...

"Is it certain that if one had enough religious-right senior judges that the death penalty couldn't be revisited and reinterpreted if Harper ever got a majority?"

I am not worried about a religious right court (Harper would have to be PM for a very long time to achieve that), but even if it were to happen, the issue has been decided so I do not think they can revisit it.

I guess the poll may have been done to determine if the public would support the invocation of the notwithstanding clause.

Scotian said...

Funny, I thought we decided against the death penalty because it was final and we were finding out that the justice system was incarcerating wrongly convicted people and we found the idea of killing an innocent person too high a price and not something we felt could be defended as just, let alone justice. Silly me.