The Compassionate Heart

Thursday, January 04, 2007

By way of explanation, the Dalai Lama outlines the two principle objectives behind Buddhist contemplation techniques:

...the cultivation of a compassionate heart and the cultivation of deep insights into the nature of reality, which are referred to as the union of compassion and wisdom.
The truth is that my wife got me, among other things, one of those "one-a-day" desk calnedars where each day has some witticism or whatever. Last year's was a Daily Show calendar. This year's is called "Insight from the Dalai Lama."

I was initially suspicious that this was my wife's intelligent and subtle way to inform me that I needed to stop focusing so much time and energy on Pools of Disembowled Goons III or Ultra-Violence XII and a little more time contemplating what is truly valuable.

Fat chance. I have an X-Box.

Anyway, the quote above was today's insightful...insightfulness. But it really seemed to be relevant in light of our current national condition, articluated well in two diffeent Balloon Juice articles.

First is this treatment of Saddam Hussein's assassination. In it, Slate columnist Christopher Hitchens makes an immediate appeal for why the death penalty should always be opposed. More than that, he points out how hasty "justice," especially in such a sensitive matter of what to do with someone who is truly dangerous, makes matters worse. Even though Saddam made an appeal for people "not to hate because hate does not leave space for a person to be fair."

I will take a break here to say how disgusting and ironic it is that a murderer and torturer made an appeal for an end to hatred and to 'be fair,' but I guess your impending death makes you wax poetic. But just as nearly laughable as it is for a guy like Saddam to make an appeal for peace, it is just as laughable that he was handed over in such a way as to perpetuate violence. No care was taken to do the execution with any sort of justice, save the visceral justice of death. As John Cole says, It was botched.

Let me clarify something, as I ramble. I have no love for Saddam Hussein. I can't say I'd shed a tear if he was killed in prison. I don't care if he took his last breath in prison. I don't care that he'll never breath again. He was a thug. But what I do oppose on its very principle is the death penalty.

I want to say again for the few people who might read this and think I weep for Saddam: MY OPPOSITION TO THE DEATH PENALTY IS NOT BASED ON SYMPATHY FOR THE PEOPLE WHO DESERVE IT. It is simply based on objecting to execution.

In a related measure, a New Jersey legislative commission found that the death penalty was "inconsistent with evolving standards of decency." They are recommending that New Jersey abolish its death penalty laws.

That's it. That's why. Execution is indecent as an evolving society. It is neither compassionate nor wise (see the quote at the start of the post).

Worse than the excution of Saddam is what we have done to alleged apartment-bomber Jose Padilla. What are we...who are we...when we allow this to happen?

We screwed up evidence against him. We screwed up legal procedures around him. But worse of all are the litany of things we have done againt an American citizen. What is happening to him is why we have the system of justice we do. Here's the list of what we do to our citizens:
According to court papers filed by Padilla's lawyers, for the first two years of his confinement, Padilla was held in total isolation. He heard no voice except his interrogator's. His 9-by-7 foot cell had nothing in it: no window even to the corridor, no clock or watch to orient him in time.

Padilla's meals were delivered through a slot in the door. He was either in bright light for days on end or in total darkness. He had no mattress or pillow on his steel pallet; loud noises interrupted his attempts to sleep.

Sometimes it was very cold, sometimes hot. He had nothing to read or to look at. Even a mirror was taken away. When he was transported, he was blindfolded and his ears were covered with headphones to screen out all sound. In short, Padilla experienced total sensory deprivation.

During length interrogations, his lawyers allege, Padilla was forced to sit or stand for long periods in stress positions. They say he was hooded and threatened with death. The isolation was so extreme that, according to court papers, even military personnel at the prison expressed great concern about Padilla's mental status.

The best part is where the government says "that whatever happened to Padilla during his detention is irrelevant, since no information obtained during that time is being used in the criminal case against him."

So, we can beat, torture and rot you so long as we don't use anything you said in your pain and fear.

Makes me feel really comfortable. Go check out the whole article linked above.

Here's the deal: Padilla was a bit-player in the larger plot. I seem to recall that we locked-up McVeigh and gave him a trial and all (however, see penalty; death, above). That being said, Padilla is probably guilty of some part of the plot, no matter how "bit." But now he is not mentally competent to stand trial. Anything we could have gleaned, we can't. Anything good we could have done, we won't. You see, we have the system of justice we have because it serves justice and peace. It allows good to come of wrongs.

It is the union of compassion with wisdom.

Instead, we lose an opportunity, we tarnish our justice system and we have ceated a drooling animal of a human being.


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