In light of recent debates I have seen regarding the death penalty in this nation (and in my own state, Wisconsin), I'd like to voice my opinion on the subject.

Let me begin by saying that I do not believe a death penalty serves any purpose other than to kill a convicted person. There are many arguments for or against capital punishment, and some of those arguments state explicitly that the death penalty gives grieving family a sense of closure and justice. I acknowledge that this may be the case, while also stating that it may be more a sEnse of vengeance than justice which many feel. Nevertheless, there are points and counterpoints on both sides of the aisle.

My personal view on capital punishment is that it does not solve any real problems. Feel free to join in and trash that opinion; I don't mind at all.

I will caution you, however, that arguing for or against capital punishment is a useless exercise. The trouble with debates about subjects like capital punishment and abortion is that we meet the issues at the very end of a long cycle of problems and mistakes. I don't know why we do this, but we tend to do it with many moralistic questions.

Take drunk driving, for example. The debate is how strictly to punish first time, second time, and third time offenders, and whether third time offenders should be subject to the "three strikes-you're out" legislation. I believe that the real issue isn't drunk driving, but a cancer much deeper and more sinister, if you will allow for the probability. To find out what the real problem is, shouldn't we go back to the beginning? Most decidely, drunk driving is at the end of a long cycle of problems and mistakes. Punishment for drunk driving is necessary, obviously, but wouldn't our culture be far better served if we began to understand what causes the possibility of drunk driving in the first place?

At the surface, one answer might be "alcohol". But alcohol in itself is not a problem, the person drinking the alcohol, on the other hand, might well be. So what causes a person to not only drink to excess, but then make a "rationalized" decision that he is somehow "okay" to drive?

Do you begin to get the feeling that if our culture was different, things might be different? Do you begin to wonder that if that person's friends were around, they'd take the keys out of his hands (by force if necessary), and help him find a way home? Do you begin to wonder why people feel as though they have no other options than to obviously break the law? Or is it simple laziness? Maybe it is a sense of pulling one over on authority?

Maybe it is all of these things, and more. The pathology of drunk driving is far deeper than decisions made on the evening of the incident. The choices we make are often influenced by events and circumstances which occured long before the choice ever stands before us. The decision to get behind the wheel of a car after drinking to excess, in essence, isn't a problem which involves alcohol. That decision is only there because the person is led to that point by means, choices, and circumstances throughout his day, week, month, year, and life.

To change a growing problem such as drunk driving, or to address the issues of abortion and capital punishment, one must start much younger than the age of twenty-one, because at the age of twenty-one, it is almost too late. One must solve the problems of his culture beginning with himself, and then, teaching each successive generation what has been learned at the earliest age possible.

Currently, our culture does some of that well, especially with illegal drugs. We also teach reading, writing, and arithmetic well. All of these seem to be necessary for the proper educational development of a human being. But we also seem to lack a basic understanding that what we learn at a young age affects us for the rest of our lives. It affects us, and everyone around us. Everything we see, say, hear, and learn forms our reaction to circumstances around us, and the choices we make are often choices we learned far earlier than the moment of decision.

In the end, I am trying to live simply by the ideal of loving my neighbor as if my neighbor is me. I find that when I do, my neighbor comes to no harm through my actions and words. I don't know if I can do more, but today, I'll do what I can.

Trying to solve issues like abortion and capital punishment through debate is pointless. It can't be done. The solution is required long before the decision is ever in front of us. Debating such topics is like trying to put icing on a cake that has already been eaten. That's my two cents.

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