Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wendell Berry Makes Public Statement on the Death Penalty

Noted Kentucky author, philosopher and man-of-letters, Wendell Berry has authorized me to use the following statement of his position on the death penalty:

[Not to be altered in any way without the approval of Wendell Berry]

“As I am made deeply uncomfortable by the taking of a human life before birth, I am also made deeply uncomfortable by the taking of a human life after birth. Obviously, it can be well argued that the world would be better off if certain people had never been born or if they had been killed in early youth by a fall from a tree. And I certainly can imagine circumstances in which I might kill another person. But I don’t believe that mere humans have the mental or moral capacity to decide rightfully, let alone infallibly, that another human should be killed. As I don’t condone the illegal killing of a human by a human, I cannot condone the legal killing of a human by a human. One killing is not rectified or atoned for by the addition of a second. An illegal killing is in no way made better by a legal killing. A society is not made saner or more morally secure by the deputation in it of legalized killers. Whereas many illegal killings are done in hot blood, legal killings are always done in cold blood and with a procedural deliberation that is horrifying. Hot-blooded killing is of course horrifying also, but to me it is more understandable. Probably we have no choice against illegal killing, which continues to happen against the wishes of nearly everybody. But it is possible, morally and rationally, to choose to withhold one’s approval from legal killing, and I so choose.”
[Not to be altered in any way without the approval of Wendell Berry].
--Wendell Berry
Port Royal, KY
January 23, 2009


Eric B. said...

What's next, are we to object to "legal kidnapping" (i.e. imprisonment") because we object to illegal kidnapping? Wendell Berry says a lot of deeply insightful things about economics, but he's a weak ethicist, and I take this quote for sentimental tripe. One might object to the death penalty for various reasons, but if we believe in government authority at all, then we believe the government should do things that individuals shouldn't. Should we object to taxation on the grounds that we don't believe in robbery? Childish thinking.

Anonymous said...

Life is a precious thing, and once you take someone else's, not in defense of your own, you lose the right to live it as have the victims. If someone were to kill me or someone I loved, I feel their remaining on the earth under any circumstances would be neither fair nor just. There is no brutality in the current form of iv injection, only justice, and however regrettable the act is; it is appropriately cold. While I too find even lawfully approving of murder disturbing, I find it more disturbing imagining an individual who viciously killed you or your wife or your child, is perhaps somewhere enjoying a hot meal, a shower and a jovial conversation with a bored prison guard.

Carol Crossed said...

The consistency of this is mind-blowing. So uncomplicated. So wise, but simple.
Berry is an endorser of The Consistent Life Network, 200 groups that oppose abortion, the death penalty, war, poverty, racial violence and euthanasia.
There's something in that to offend everybody and no one does it more articulately that Wendell Berry.