Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Get a grip on Death in 2007

I've been following the debate on the showing of the execution of Saddam Hussein with some interest. Initially I was on the - does this really need to be shown" - side of the argument. Even seeing it as voyeuristic and wrong - Sam Leith had a article in yesterday's Telegraph on this.

But I've changed my mind. Why ? Because it is not enough for justice to be done - it has to been seen to be done. Those who support the system of justice have to bear witness to its results. If you can't stomach those results then you should not support that system of justice. ( Yes I know its a pseudo-Iraq court - but in many ways the British and American governments have brought this about, and we are the subjects and citizens of those countries.) [Update: By this I don't mean that we all approve of what is being done in our name - but that we should be fully aware of it.]

Saddam Hussein is one of those rare cases where the crimes are beyond doubt, and terrible to contemplate. The great problem with the death penalty is the execution of innocent people, but it hasn't applied in this case.

Which brings me onto the subject of the post ( yes I'm getting there ).

I personally always feel some empathy with the person about to be executed. I wonder how I would react and feel under the same circumstances. ( This is perhaps part of the voyeurism that is worrying some commentators. )

I am also interested in what that person says or does at the end of their life, as what is the point in spin or lies when in a few seconds you'll either be dead or in front of God ( what you believe will happen makes no difference - the big question is about to be settled, although if God doesn't exist you'll never know.)

Saddam clung to his refound religion when the chips were down. Given his crimes and his failure to appeal to Christ - whom could have saved his soul even at the last moment (I don't think forgiveness on this scale is on that cards in Islam - so even if the Muslims are right, which I don't believe) his chances have to be very poor of escaping justice in the afterlife.

What should fill us with dread from all this is not the moment that the executed prisoners neck is broken, but the judgment that may follow.

On a similar line the sermon from our local vicar went along the lines of Happy 2007, but what if 2007 is your last year ? (He's normally a fairly happy camper - and the sermon itself wasn't down beat, he was just pulling us up a bit.)

We hide from the fact of death and what we don't know about any afterlife. Often we live on the assumption that our current life is immortal - saving for pensions, planning for careers etc. There are few moments, in the west, to make us doubt this unless we are getting to the second half of our lives. ( We had someone wonder into our Church after 7/7, starting to reappraise her priorities after the shock of possible sudden death - but I've never seen her again - the normal comforting assumptions of life soon reassert themselves.)

But why be miserable with all these thoughts of death, when nothing can be done ?

My answer is because somethings can be done. I can review my priorities and what I spend time on and how I act. Christianity offers hope and meaning in life today and for the next life - even Saddam Hussein could have been saved.

Every so often we should all take some time to review the larger questions in life - death certainly is high on the list and we should occasionally take the time to think it over. Not to live in fear, but to live as we always intended to with purpose and confidence.

Happy new year !

Mine's going a bit better now I've just dealt with life's other certainty - filling in my annual UK tax return ! ( HMRC are to be congratulated on their online facility that is cheering up my annual Christmas effort to fill in the tax return. Doing it by hand was a nightmare.)

Update: HMRC are clearly allergic to the pat on the back - and are busy trying to undo their good work now I'm onto Tax credits. On the plus side I bet you don't do tax returns in the afterlife !


james higham said...

Man in a Shed, I like your shed, I like your philosophy here and if it's of any interest to you, check my Blogfocus this evening.

Man in a shed said...

I'll be over to have a look ...

Ellee said...

The question now seems to be, should Saddam have been shown more dignity during his last seconds of life? Surely there is no right or wrong way, no easy way of doing this, and someone with Saddam's history cannot expect an easy ride. It's all very sordid and horrid, but I don't feel we should pontificate on this when the real issue now is to rebuild Iraq and help restore its dignity.

The Shaved Ape said...

I agree with your take on the execution. It is something too crude to be shown to the public, yet it was important for the world to see. If it wasn't shown, conspiracy mongers would claim "Saddam's alive!" more than people say "Elvis is alive!"

I don't have a moral problem with capital punishment. I do believe there are some crimes that should cost a life.

In our system (USA), I'm against it on monetary grounds. Because of the appeals process, court and governor interventions, etc., capital punishment costs many times more (up to 20x) than letting a man live out his life in prison. My opinion is that my money is better spent on life in prison.

Back to Saddam: He deserved a dignified ending, regardless of his crimes. The hanging was supposed to be the punishment, not the pathetic taunts in his final moments.