Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Unsolvable Ponderings

I've noticed a trend on cbc.ca lately. Readers posting story comments about crime and violence-type stories bemoan the fact that Canada has no death penalty. These readers are quick to post that, while so-and-so deserves capital punishment, (s)he will get an easy sentence and be back to their crime-filled lives in no time. All because on July 14, 1976, 33 years ago today, Canada abolished the death penalty.

I rarely read cbc.ca's On This Day section, but once in awhile the event will catch my eye. Today I noticed the picture link just after reading yet another comment decrying Canada's apparently (at least to this particular poster) lenient criminal sentences. The timing amused me and I clicked on the link to learn more about why Canada decided to get rid of capital punishment. I was surprised to learn that the United States reinstated the death penalty that same July, just after Canada abolished the practice.

After reading the pertinent information, I went back to the main news page. The first story I saw there told of an 85-year-old British conductor who traveled to Switzerland with his wife to die at an assisted suicide clinic. Again I found the timing fascinatingly odd and read the article.

I've been thinking about the two death-related articles all day. I have no concrete opinion on either issue. I can think of numerous pros and cons to both sides of each issue. I have especially been contemplating the double standard between human death and animal death. Why is euthanizing animals who become too old or ill to enjoy a healthy and happy existence viewed as humane and a common decency? Why is euthanizing humans exhibiting similar age or illness considered so offensive? I'm not saying that I would ever assist a suicide (or want someone to assist me). I'm also not saying I would never put a hurting animal down (or attempt lifesaving measures). I'm just trying to practice unbiased thinking and questioning... What makes capital punishment (or the lack of it) right? What makes mercy killing (or being opposed to it) wrong?

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