Melania Mimes Michelle in a Virtual Symphony of Indiscretion, Attribution, Plagiarism and Campaign Incompetence

Melania at Podium Picture

♣ Melania Trump was stalwart, poised and eloquent in the deliverance of her speech honoring husband, decided presidential nominee Donald Trump, at the Republican National Convention on July 18th. That was opening day of the RNC. Since then it’s quickly grown apparent certain parts of Melania’s speech were taken almost verbatim from a speech Michelle Obama gave to honor her own husband Barack Obama eight years ago at the DNC. Before her speech Melania Trump told Matt Lauer of NBC “I wrote it.  And with as little help as possible.”

Whether Melania cribbed segments of Michelle Obama’s speech on her own or some accessory gave her help, maybe a friend or professional speechwriter, effectively the result was the same. The wife of Donald Trump presented someone else’s spoken words as her own at a major event for all the world to see. Melania Trump is no professional speechwriter of course. In all fairness then the amateur must be granted a little grace despite a nonetheless wrongful indiscretion, a possible amateur miscalculation or some poor beginner’s oversight on her part or the part of a likewise inept aid. Remember, though, she did declare “I wrote it.  And with as little help as possible.”

In any case, Melania Trump was a key part of a key event selling not only herself but a figure no  less than the newly chosen Republican Party nominee for president of the United States and she was planted before an audience numbering hundreds of millions. She was not some raw middle school teen whining her spruced-up book report to a twelfth grade Lit class. Where on earth were Donald Trump campaign manager and staff in regard to a major speech at a major event with the presidency at stake? Where was Donald Trump himself, the illustrious man who would be king? What disastrous level of gross neglect preceded such an inauspicious blunder?

To say the least, Mrs. Trump’s appropriation of passages from the famed speech of another only raises more questions and cautions about the Trump campaign, its meager staff and Trump himself, a man whose own qualifications and character stand in serious question already. Was use of Michelle Obama’s words in Melania’s speech an act of attribution born of simple admiration, Melania’s personal admiration or that of a certain aid or aids, an admiration for the First Lady’s own special prowess as a speechmaker or, perish the thought, was it out-and-out plagiarism?

Why was Melania’s speech never vetted? Wasn’t her miming parts of Michelle Obama’s speech, whether in neophytic innocence or deference to a venerated mentor, sure to render all sentiment in Melania’s speech basically inauthentic, make Melania Trump herself appear shamefully disingenuous? After all, her speech was already conspicuously devoid of personal references, details and anecdotes .

At the same time, It’s hard to imagine a seasoned professional tied to a do as public as a political convention being daft enough to purposely pirate a well-known document. In that light it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that gross ineptitude lay at the heart of the matter.  When grouped with many another faux pas by the Trump campaign, a voter can only ask if such casual incompetence is indicative of the wholesale whimsy, alacrity and devil-may-care ease with which an elected Trump is bound to run the country, is destined to lead the free world.

Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort flatly denied that Melania’s often word-for-word copy of Michelle Obama’s speech was intentional. More, he declared accusations of Trump campaign plagiarism “crazy” Tuesday morning on CNN, then in a flagrant bid to shift negative attention to his rival, blamed the accusations on what he framed a skittish Hillary Clinton. This is downright Orwellian.

With a ruse like this, Paul Manafort flies in the face of salient truth. He claims for all the world that things are not what they most clearly are. Who would have guessed any man as intellectually lax and incurious as Donald Trump, with help from a manager so thick as to rate American voters blind as well as stupid, would be first to usher in the Orwellian Age? Eliza Collins pointed out in USA Today that there was no sign Clinton was connected to the speech or to any of its loud repercussions. Woah! Big surprise!

Paul Manafort even dared  claim that similarities between Melania Trump’s speech and that of Michelle Obama were just coincidental, that Melania or her speechwriters selected common words to describe common values and thus some unavoidable similarities. Sorry Paul but all of those exact same words arranged in far too often just the same sequence through sentence after sentence can be no mere coincidence, even to the many of us way down here in the busy, half-lit halls of the rank and file. You can dump your “Stupid” meter. It’s poorly aimed and needs calibration.

Melania and Michelle Picture

In more denial, Jason Miller, Trump’s communications advisor, threw up a thin, malodorous smoke screen. In a statement, Miller proposed that since Melania’s team of writers did draw from their notes on her “life’s inspirations” and sometimes even infused bits of “her own thinking,” the speech originated entirely with her.

Miller then dared hint, waxing sentimentally, that because, as he put it, “Melania’s immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech, which made it such a success” her fellow Americans would be cold and callous indeed to acknowledge the least impropriety from this fine, exemplary figure, though that same impropriety glared out belittlingly at them all. In other words, working from a jingoistic fervor, Miller boldly spun the patriotism elements of Melania Trump’s speech in hopes of overshadowing any wrongdoing.

It seemed Tuesday morning that despite its crucial bearing on the event, we might never know precisely what Melania Trump meant when she told Matt Lauer: “I wrote it.  And with as little help as possible.” On Wednesday, however, Donald Trump staff-writer and ghostwriter of many Trump books quite contritely took blame for the indiscretion saying she worked with Melania Trump on her First Lady speech and wrote lines from Michelle Obama’s speech that were read her over the phone by Mrs. Trump as choice examples.

One Merideth McIver said she used some of the phrasing in what became Melania Trump’s final speech but then neglected to check that phrasing against Mrs. Obama’s speech, this presumably for conceptual and wording similarities. She claims she offered her resignation to Donald Trump but the candidate wouldn’t have it.

Just prior to release of Ms. McIver’s statement, Donald Trump tweeted the message “all press is good press!” Was the issue now described as the Melania speech scandal just a nefarious ploy orchestrated by Trump and friends and appropriated as rich fodder for good negative press? If so, then precisely how much of Donald Trump’s scandalous behavior during the past year’s campaigning had been deviously gauged to serve the same objective?

It was some two days before the Trump campaign would even so much as concede certain passages in Melania Trump’s speech clearly mirrored some of those in Michelle Obama’s of 2008. In a fit of insincerity, Trump manager Paul Manafort was still denying obvious similarities in a CNN interview Wednesday morning. Crooked Hillary indeed!

–♦©M. D. Phillips–

The Upshot of Ignorance Is Lies

Chaos is precarious ground for argument.
♣ You just can’t argue with ignorance since ignorance bides in chaos and in chaos every premise for argument ends up conflated, all logic for argument ends up deflected, all fabric of truth in argument ends up unwoven, its edge irreparably frayed.

–♦©M. D. Phillips–

Proactive Cultural Exchange Ensures Peace

Befriend strangers on common ground and avert prospective enemies.
♣ The causes of war today are isolationism and procrastination. It seems, in fact, that leaders have always stalled preventative action until hostility grew critical and war became imminent.

–♦©M. D. Phillips–

Peace is Worth the Struggle

War is a failure to work for peace.
♣ Peace challenges. War kills.

–♦©M. D. Phillips–

When It’s Harder to Do Right Than Do Wrong

A brain is given, a mind developed, a soul cultivated. The first is sane, the second profound, the third purely sublime.
♣ The brain, appointed to man for better or worse, for growth or stagnation, craves proximity to a developed mind and soul. Alone, the brain only succumbs to doldrums, tedium, restlessness.
Mind and soul are the brain’s only compatible friends. Combined, the three can grow a rich, burgeoning inner life. Without the flourishing inner life drawn from mind and soul, however, the brain, no matter how advanced, enjoys but a spark of the true meaning, wholesome pursuit, clear direction, high aspiration and gripping intensity otherwise gained by the synergy.
With absence of a thriving inner life born of mind and soul and entrance into the brain of nettling doldrums, tedium, restlessness, what’s right seems counterintuitive, boring, hard and restrictive, what’s wrong instinctive, thrilling, easy and liberating. Insight blocks. Distinctions blur. Confusion reigns. Truth languishes. Joy stifles.
The brain bereft of mind and soul hungers and is thwarted. Thwarted, the brain looks outward to frivolity and at length seeks to fill the inner void with rampant vice. Vice incompatible, insufficient, the void remains. The brain consumes a glut of vice to compensate but to no avail. In the end mere grief and emptiness prevail.

–♦©M. D.Phillips–

Hope and Wear a Slicker

Hope springs eternal but so do the torrents.
♣ If every cloud has a silver lining, it’s probably gathering rain.

–♦©M. D. Phillips–

Wait for the Sun

Maintain hope but watch your step.
♣ Knowing it’s darkest before the dawn won’t stop you from stubbing a toe.

–♦©M. D. Phillips–


Live and Learn

The paths toward true enlightenment and decadence can be one.
♣ There are those for whom the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom, then there are those for whom it shuts down at the park bench of ruin.

–♦©M. D. Phillips–

To Err Is Human but Nevertheless Wrong

Forgiveness neither condemns nor condones transgression.
♣ Turning the other cheek is not looking the other way.

–♦©M. D. Phillips–

Capital Punishment: Unadmitted Sinners Casting Stones

♣ Capital punishment differs quite drastically from any other criminal punishment used by American state justice systems today. As the only true physically invasive criminal punishment left in the States, it’s a leap. It’s been said that one can judge a civilization by its justice system. Today US justice systems go from simply depriving convicted criminals of their freedom to depriving them of their lives.

There’s little or no gradation in between, at least in legal terms. Systems jump from an outward mode of punishment, incarceration, to a severely invasive one, coincidentally the most dramatic, most extreme, most imperious, most physically invasive punishment of all, that of state-imposed death, capital punishment.

There’s a yawning gap between the two and two predominant reasons why. First is the fact that not one other physically invasive criminal punishment, not a single other more extreme but less than mortal punishment subtly graduating toward capital punishment, not so much as a lone form of corporal punishment bides today in any corner of the USA.

It’s no surprise that people have lost touch with all physically invasive punishment and its unfortunate  victims, no less so with the one heinous form of penalization and its own victims still at large in our technologic citadel of ruth, compassion and human rights, the cruelest, most violent, most violating punishment still in use by these United States in so-called modern times, capital punishment.

With no threat of physically invasive punishment for his own comparably mild infractions, the average man has lost identification with his fellow sinners whose wrongdoing may or may not be tantamount to crime. He’s even more profoundly lost identification with criminals and most profoundly with criminals who kill.

Surely murderers seem to the average man like abject foreigners, like separate,  monstrous albeit humanoid aliens, like rare, ferocious outside invaders. Though likely a threat,  wanton killers are no less human, essentially no less valuable and inviolate souls than anybody else.

They’re no less prone to mental and physical anguish, no less subject to mortal fear and loathing at the hands of the state, for them a dark, encroaching force resolved to end their lives. They’re no less unnerved at the hands of a cold, ascendant, unduly officious government engine geared toward putting them to death, at the hands of we their unsympathetic fellow sinners, their own innately flawed yet unrelenting counterparts who condemn them, who for all intents and purposes help inflict their chastisement upon them, in effect kill them as they have killed and as a result come out no less murderous than they, sometimes more so since government kills in cold blood and criminals often don’t.

Above the nasty threat of all less extreme physically invasive punishment, corporal punishment that is, the average man has grown less tolerant of his fellow sinners, lost more empathy for this marginal if no less human slice of the population and  largely done so via detachment.

Not that the blight of corporal punishment, even cast in its tamest form, should ever rear its ugly head again but must the average man by dint of unenlightened jurisprudence, remain a virtual killer, a barbarian, a ghoul by association, by default, in this the golden age, the very gilded center of enlightenment? No wonder violence thrives in America.

Of course, no one today being of warm heart and healthy mind wants recurrence of corporal punishment even if such a cruel approach to wrongdoing would put us in closer touch with the lot of our fellow sinners.

Imagine a penal system in which mild offenders are tarred, feathered and handily ridden from town on rails, in which minor culprits are put to the stock and shamed in the town square or worse, a penal system in which human hands are lopped off to punish theft, human tongues cut out to punish treason, human genitalia maimed to punish adultery.

Imagine a brutal system wherein various forms of torture are used and every zone of the human anatomy lies completely open to chastisement and mutilation in some morbid service to justice or information-gathering.

It’s a chilling thought and we’re fortunate such physically invasive criminal punishments haven’t been unleashed on modern America. We’re thrilled to know they’re long gone and horrified at the thought of corporal punishment or torture being resurrected one day. Today we deem both tacks cruel, excessive, repugnant and superfluous, beyond the pale, even sick.

We’re put off by any form of corporal punishment, somewhat because we’ve grown more enlightened, more humane and empathetic toward our many fellow sinners over the years but in the main because we sense the probability that physically invasive punishments for the many lesser crimes, even small moral infractions committed every day, might’ve become too commonplace, too close to us for comfort had the practice of corporal punishment ever penetrated modern American culture.

With the prevalence of lesser crimes, physically invasive punishments might’ve been much more prone to visit someone we know or love, maybe us in fact, had such measures made their way to the present. What innocent traveler to a third world country hasn’t thought with a surge of dread about inadvertently running afoul of some obscure law, some strange moral mandate or somehow being falsely accused of having done wrong and being faced with some horrid Draconian cummupance?

No longer exposed to corporal punishment, moderns all over the world have grown more and more detached from this cruel tack, this secondary form of physically invasive punishment over the centuries and, in keeping, farther and farther removed from hard crime and criminals, from penalties and the penal system in general.

The American people are no exception. We’re just as effected as anyone else by a numbing sense of separation from crime and punishment. We’re not given much say in official decisions reached in connection to any of these exotic issues either.

It  stands to reason, then, that while aghast at the prospect of punishments that hurt, maim and cripple, repulsed by the world’s every conceivable brand of state-sponsored human suffering past and present, a culture like ours can still abide the callousness, deep physical invasiveness, brutality and license inherent in capital punishment.

What punitive measure is  more physically invasive of human beings than the cold, deliberate government imposition of death, especially given that only physical suffering in the process has been broached, leaving mental and emotional anguish unaddressed?

Still, as long as we’ve no direct connection to it, as long as it tends to linger out of sight and out of mind, we can abide the practice of psychopathically cold, detached government execution, abide deliberate, banal, ceremonious killing, abide calculated, systemic imposition of death, the remote, insensate snuffing out of human life. Robotic human slaughter bodes fine, wholesome, somehow antiseptic when advised, endorsed and carried out by an impersonal government institution.

We can abide the state’s remorseless, institutional, wholly non-productive killing of human beings to accomplish death alone, to achieve death for death’s sake despite the state’s misconceived, ill-perceived aims toward an act of nobility, its costly and yet enduringly impotent message to an insensible criminal part of our population, its false, self-aggrandizing notion of good will, its empty, dispensational and conciliatory gesture of righteous indignation, of  justice or of closure.

In addition, most citizens feel relatively comfortable and secure, even coddled in America today. From our high, posh, ever-distant perch we can more easily abide the state’s imperious, hypocritical, supercilious, sanctimonious intrusion into the hallowed inner sanctum of another human life, its haughty condemnation of the irrevocable frailty endemic to the human race at large, its profane transgression against that undeniable sanctity which exalts human life, that sanctity which demands, downright frames human rights as a matter of course, that sanctity which has made human rights nothing less than a moral imperative, the conventional wisdom, for every democratic nation in the world.

It’s just this astutely, almost universally apprehended and understood sanctity, the sanctity of all human life, which molds the very cornerstone of man’s morality, imbues all his values and priorities, his codes of behavior, rule of law, traditions, his myths, lore and legends, this sanctity which ultimately informs man’s image and esteem of himself and others.

Can the state kill any human being for any reason without violating the sanctity of all human life, without negating and ultimately fracturing that very cornerstone of man’s morality, seriously skewing those values and priorities, those codes of behavior, those laws, traditions, myths, lore and legends which inevitably inform his image and esteem of himself and others?

One thing is certain. The state cannot kill without passing down through all these veins to the very cornerstone itself and up to man again its sacrosanct permission to kill, its veritable mandate to kill quite implicit in its poignant intimation there exists along the sacred continuum of humanitarian values, of grace, logic, meaning and principles an anomaly, an unnatural blip, a bizaare warp of time and space, a breech wherein what’s real can be unreal, what’s true can be untrue and killing human beings can be right.

The state denies man completely, denies human life absolutely in killing even that which it deems the least of men. In their nature, at the core, all men are the same, invaluable, sacrosanct, miraculous, inviolate.  An act of murder reduces a man’s character and standing, not the nature or quality of his innate humanness. All men are worthy of forgiveness and salvation because all men, despite their activities, consist of this fundimental quality, this inestimable value, whether or not we can see it in them. If we fail attempts to see it in them, we all become susceptible to our neighbor’s prejudicial discretion, his prospective envy, ill will, disregard and bias. We allay his love, reason, humility, empathy and forbearance. We discourage his crucial forgiveness. By this enervated standard no one is honored or safe.

Indeed, why does any modern state advocating a death penalty take its lead from angry, vengeful, unforgiving citizens, those fearful, bereaved, accusatory or otherwise under duress, those for whatever reason ignoble, small-minded and condescending, when surely cooler heads, those attuned to larger issues, keen to the moral, ethical and humane implications of punishment should prevail? “The quality of mercy is not strained,” Shakespeare tells us.

Killing is always wrong. No person, no power, no collective, no hallowed institution can truly hold respect for human life and kill, unless absolutely forced or inevitably coerced into doing so and even then, however inescapable, however much forgiven the defender,  well exonerated of guilt, disconnected from the act and purified by penitence, by God himself, even then, intrinsically, the nature, the very consequence of killing is wrong. Family

No person, no power, no collective, no hallowed institution can presume to kill a human being without contradicting both nature and logic, without cheapening human life, without establishing an obstinate precedent for killing, bidding others to kill, begging frivolous excuses to kill, without weakening the culture, courting constant disaster, leaving all men, indeed our progeny in everlasting peril for their lives.

Regrettably, the cornerstone’s been dashed. Long chipped and cracked, this monolith, this sprawling foundation, this quintessential, all-encompassing bulwark has been gravely compromised. It has shrunk. It has shifted its load. All it elevates, all it engenders and upholds has been skewed and rendered frighteningly precarious. All true meaning and sustenance in life is in the restoration and maintenance of this precious stone, the source of all truth, logic, sense, religion, philosophy and human endeavor. The clutch of all peace, freedom, harmony and solace, all earthly wellbeing, is this indispensable stone, our one common, consummate, consensual if fatedly composite image of God or good or positivity in this world.

The shape, measure, quality and endurance of these essentials are precisely commensurate with and totally contingent upon the integrity of this one crucial cornerstone, this bulwark, this foundation and source.  We control it. We nurture it, responsibly or irresponsibly. We must daily rediscover it, honor it, restore and maintain it. To do so we must first honor life, all life just as fully and completely as possible. This is our own personal choice as much more than a society, more than a culture. This is not some dream, some giant, vague, ephemeral pie in the sky. We the people set the pace, set our characters, set priorities, make, repeal and remake laws, actively forge or have forged our future.

Rationalization is our enemy. Once we start we can’t stop. Soon we justify anything and have. Common sense dictates we cannot honor life wholeheartedly without honoring all life.  We cannot kill under any circumstances without throwing open the door of killing to all and once again, perhaps even more deeply, chipping and cracking that all-important cornerstone of our wellbeing.

How can we espouse, honor and celebrate the dignity, the sanctity of all human life, the state’s protection of our sacred human rights and then so easily acquiesce to a practice which defiles these, lays them all to waste for the sake of pride, anger, revenge, practicality or any other manner of lame and selfish excuse, acquiesce to a gross inconsistency of tolerance, a dirth of humility and self-abjuration which makes small a man and so diminishes all of us, invites corruption and decline, becomes the precarious groundwork for eternal conflict?

How can we Americans, a modern, mainly enlightened group, a world class culture, extinguish human life with any degree of justification, of righteousness or conscience, in any case, alone or as a group, set the precedent for killing, cue development of rationalizations for killing bound by human nature to grow much lamer all the time, to desensitize man, make lighter of killing day by day, make stronger and stronger man’s baser impulse to kill man?

How can we, the urbane, sophisticated members of an advanced culture deign to assail our inviolate sibling without assailing ourselves? How can we kill without blame, without sinning against ourselves, without fashioning a crime against the dignity and sanctity of our own interwoven humanity, no matter what the excuse, take the lives of our iniquitous brothers and sisters and not see glaring in ourselves, not highlight for each other our own inexorable iniquity? If this iniquity is not quite apparent in our natures, is it not quite obvious in our willingness to see our unfortunate fellows in sin killed in any circumstances? There but for uncontrollable circumstances, fickle fate or the random grace of God go we.

Besides, the one inescapable point, maybe the ultimate point in the argument against all extreme physically invasive punishments, like the point against crime itself, is precisely their invasiveness. How do we dare stand aghast, wince in moral dread at the awful gore of corporal punishment and justify the infinitely more grotesque extreme of capital punishment, allow it to continue in our midst?

To begin with, we’re virtually out of touch with crime and punishment, out of touch with acts  of murder and the death penalty. Ions in a shell, in an age whose population knows no real relationship to crime or convicted criminals, no connection to even our criminal justice and penal systems but what we see in news and movies, we’ve finally grown desensitized to all these elements.

We allow capital punishment to persist, more to the point, because we’ve long known the one salient fact, the fact that even while we ourselves, our kith and our kin are more likely to commit the lesser wrongs once punishable by public humiliation, physical maiming, mutilation and other enforced human suffering, we’re so assured such corporal punishments just can’t touch us that we seldom even give them any thought. It only follows that many of us rarely give clear thought to capital punishment either, perhaps never assess it from every angle at all, never give the method its due and these can hardly claim to judge it as right or wrong.

Summarily, we’ve long divorced ourselves from that still grave but less extreme physically invasive punishment, corporal punishment, our only practical link to the most extreme of them all, to cold, cruel, calculated and horrendous capital punishment. In consequence, we’ve just as long been plucked from the dark shadow of penalty. We’ve long stood remote from capital punishment, both physically and emotionally detached from this most barbaric of all invasive measures, cooly indifferent toward an activity which, calculated and arguably colder, more brutal, more inhuman than the pangs and mutilations of corporal punishment if clearly more invasive in its unique finality, nevertheless remains unlikely to involve us or even so much as graze our lives.

Most don’t care about capital punishment or the awful plight of its victims and this is not because they’re cruel but because for all intents and purposes they’re oblivious to matters of criminal justice. The more vigilant adamantly oppose the death penalty. Those equally cognizant but more prone to be cold, self-righteous, supercilious, snide and sanctimonious call regularly for the tack under the auspices, the veritable pretense of justice, safety, necessity and deterrence, though the crime of murder scarcely touches their own daily lives or those of the people even remotely acquainted with them and in the end this, the most extreme of punishments, has nothing to do with the mandates of justice, safety, necessity or deterrence but has all to do with menacing power, fear, contempt and revenge.

Harboring some perceived reason for killing criminals doesn’t make the killing any less cruel, barbaric or evil. Neither does it make those enabling it less hardened killers than the murderer himself, in particular since killing done as punishment more exacts revenge than establishes justice, rendering all perceived reasons for killing criminals purely beside the point.

In a case of murder, true justice lies only in the restoration of life to the victim of murder, which is impossible . True justice, then, is impossible in a murder case. At all odds, can any flawed human being or group of flawed human beings truly claim the right to intentionally exercise invasiveness, what plainly amounts to violence against another flawed human being, violence bringing injury or death, for any so-called reason, especially when those reasons are disingenuous, veil the truth and are purely beside the point anyway? Is not such a claim the utter pinnacle of arrogance, self-righteousness, sanctimony and cold-blooded revenge?

At least one implication of such a hypocritical claim is that all killing must be wrong or no killing is wrong. Killing for any reason, whether by lone or group effort, independently or in confluence, is always primitive in motive and deed, desensitizes people, makes acceptable, endorses, inspires and begets more killing, arrests our development not only as a culture but as a race because of who and what it makes us, what it does to us morally, spiritually, at our cores.

Honor for life is an unconditional state. We either honor life or we don’t. Killing is either right or wrong. We’re either for it or against it. What’s good or bad for one is good or bad for all. The book on killing is either open or closed. Otherwise we all remain fundamentally evil, hateful, vengeful and dishonorable, weak, without resolve, mere animals, slaves to our baser instincts, phonies and hypocrites forever who can always find an excuse to kill.

In any case, as corporal punishment doesn’t exist in modern America, those among us who might once have suffered its inhumanities have lost all connection with that darksome form of criminal penalization, so too, of course, with its grimmer relation, capital punishment.

Still practiced in primitive cultures, however, corporal punishment, physically invasive chastisements, criminal punishments placed in order of magnitude upward toward the most physically invasive criminal punishment of all, capital punishment, are now disdained in the free world, counted as depraved, barbaric, inhuman, morally objectionable, averse to genuine civilization, anathema to a true climate of culture, empathy, tolerance and of course abiding respect for human life and human dignity.

Long since banned, these atrocities are best consigned to the slag heap of blood-drenched history with its spate of brutal tyrants, its pernicious organizations like the Spanish inquisition, early America’s puritan clergy and certainly Nazi Germany’s Gestapo just to name a few. These rank indecencies are best consigned to the butcher block of body-strewn history with its diabolical trappings, rack and crucible, hot poker, burning stake and pillory not to mention all the rest in the unspeakable, broad-ranging gamut of despicable implements, all those brutally picking, plying, prodding tools for wreaking wrath and repression.

I shudder to think of them. What civilized people would reprise them? Today they’re unthinkable yet we continue to practice the more extreme tack of capital punishment which, despite its  so-called humane application does kill nevertheless and, after all, kills more arrogantly, self-righteously, calculatingly, sanctimoniously, cold-bloodedly than most who commit murder. What does this make us? How is a people engaged in such punishment, such detached and heartless killing, such near-psychopathy, any better than the murderer himself?

When it’s the heartlessness and invasiveness of killing that’s most wrong and true justice only means the restoration of life to the slain, how can we possibly call the one a crime and the other a punishment. Clearly both acts engender heartlessness and invasiveness, both evoke intent, both violate the sanctity and dignity of human life without which designation there’d be little safety, little peace, little respect and little joy or even contentment, little healthy interaction between human beings in any presamably civilized culture.

Indeed, since most acts of murder are crimes of passion and so many others crimes of sickness, at base the murderer might lay claim to better character than his punishers, might be more human, more deserving of understanding, forgiveness and compassion, the unfeeling penal system, an insensate killing machine, might be the greater evil, the much greater menace to civilization in the long run, a barbaric and worn out entity that’s holding society back.

As an advanced society of civilized, free-thinking, caring, enlightened and self-effacing individuals who esteem human rights and human dignity, are we not big enough, not mature enough, compassionate enough, guilty enough in our own sins to give understanding, forgiveness and compassion where needed or are we, just like the system of criminal punishment we condone, mere cyborgs, cold, detached, negotiating with evil, untrustworthy, dangerous to ourselves and our compatriots, a detriment to the harmony, integrity and further advancement toward fully humane culture?

Doesn’t the  cold, primitive savagery of a death penalty, just like all other callous, brutal, physically invasive criminal punishment long banned and prudently so, belong on gory history’s  scrap pile of wanton behaviors along with cold, arrogant, self-righteous, judgmental attitudes, with hateful, vindictive and violent intrusiveness that maims, torments and denigrates?

The long-awaited, hard-earned, nothing less than quite final purging of all savage punishments and their machinery in the freer and more enlightened societies of the world, while necessary, much more civilized, even magnanimous, has nonetheless been instrumental in causing average citizens to lose connection with criminals and the criminal justice system and on some vague level with guilt itself. The disparity between legality and an agreed-upon morality has widened exponentially in recent times. In the modern world American law seldom punishes anything once generally deemed immoral behavior, and what it does punish, it punishes without physically invasive tactics. As a result, the public no longer shares the legal stage with convicted criminals, much less a sense of guilt with them. Average citizens don’t feel the kinship with convicted criminals, murderers in particular, that their predecessors did.

Surely, as we’ve long since agreed in the free world, physically invasive criminal punishment other than capital punishment, less physically invasive punishment that tends to graduate toward capital punishment, shouldn’t thrive here or anywhere else in the free world where genuine civilizations reign, where freedom, compassion and human rights are well established, where all physically invasive criminal punishments have been cast off as brutal and barbaric, as beneath an enlightened culture, all cast off, that is, but one.

Capital punishment is in fact the last vestige of physically invasive criminal punishment left in the free world. It’s the last remains, you might say, of ancient law, barbarian law, corrupting free societies today. Again, however, the lack in modern times of less physically invasive punishments that graduate toward capital punishment makes up one reason ordinary people have grown detached from crime, from criminals and the criminal justice system, grown detached from capital punishment itself, its extremism, licentiousness, cruelty, hypocracy and basic immorality, its inescapable likeness to the very crime it punishes, its inescapable likeness to murder.

The second reason a yawning gap exists at the heart of the US penal system between depriving convicted criminals of their freedom and depriving them of their lives is the exaggerated guilt average citizens  attribute to criminals as a result of modern trends toward permissiveness and non-accountability, in effect, the public’s unrealistic, childlike, grossly overestimated sense of its own innocence, its subsequent and absolute dissociation from evil, from sin and sinners, from crime and criminals, assuredly from murder and murderers.

All this owes to the absence of rebuke, even self-abjuration from average citizens, due reproach for their own moral compromise, their own moral turpitude, their own common weakness and infractions against their neighbors, rebuke and self-abjuration which once upon a time provided them much closer connection to the criminal, even the murderer and a more poignant sense of the arrogance , extremism and cruelty of capital punishment.

This wholesale priggishness, this wide-scale ascendency has given way to a sanctimonious detachment of the public from the criminal justice system, crime and punishment itself, from criminals, their victims, their prosecutors, their jailers and their plight, their often lengthy struggle with imposition of capital punishment to begin with.





Capital punishment persists because of a sense of detachment. It persists because of a sense of broad detachment we average citizens feel not merely from the Criminal Justice System, crime and punishment itself, from criminals, their victims, their prosecutors and jailers but detachment from the exaggerated guilt we attribute to criminals as a result of modern trends toward permissiveness and non-accountability. It persists because of an unrealistic, childlike, grossly overestimated sense of our own innocence.

Capital punishment persists because of a sanctimonious detachment from crime and criminals. This holier-than-thou detachment stems in part from an absence in our own lives of precisely those single, true, physically invasive criminal punishments graduating slowly toward capital punishment, extreme measures we can do without, long since happily abolished as brutal and barbaric but responsible when in practice for giving average citizens a sense of their own weakness, immorality and wrongdoing and thus  a closer connection to those who commit murder not to mention a more poignant sense of the terrible arrogance, extremism and cruelty of capital punishment. In part, even without those erstwhile physically invasive criminal punishments graduating slowly toward capital punishment, a sanctimonious detachment from crime and criminals exists because of an absence today of the slightest rebuke, even self-abjuration, due reproach for our own moral compromise or downright turpitude, our own regular weaknesses and wrongdoings which when in practice once upon a time gave us a similarly closer connection to the murderer and a more poignant sense of the arrogance, extremism and cruelty of capital punishment.

We lack not only the erstwhile pangs of conscience, admonishment, remorse and shame but also the character and empathy which arise from them. It’s finally become a matter of us and them with a wide space between devoid of much-needed insight, humility, understanding and empathy, all precious seeds of our own fading sense of frailty and guilt. Nowadays they are too evil for us and we are too good for them.

–♦©M. D. Phillips–