Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Commuting murder

The Buddhist precepts say "Don't kill." They also accept the occasional necessity of "gentle violence", and the resulting bad karma, in order to prevent greater suffering or more death. A good Buddhist is not necessarily someone who refuses to kill under any circumstances. Rather, a good Buddhist is one who recognizes the terrible, lasting, uncountable negative impact of killing, and who yet may, in certain circumstances, willingly take on that negative karma to prevent further suffering.

Taking life is a terrible thing--and to do it knowingly, intentionally, or pre-meditatively is worse. And it is a terrible thing whether an individual or the state does it. As Lenny Bruce said, "The Commandant doesn't say 'Thou shalt not kill except.'"

Virginia governor Mark Warner has granted clemency to Robin Lovitt, who otherwise would have been the 1,000th person executed since the Nixon Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. Regardless of Warner's motives, it was the right choice, even if a very painful one for the relatives of the murdered Clayton Dicks.

Let us hope that others in a position to grant clemency take heart from this example.

Arnold, are you listening?

Prayers for all affected.

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