Friday, December 21, 2007

Positive Trends on the Death Penalty

One of the clear future trends that leaves me with an optimistic view that civilization is slowly but surely advancing and leaving its more barbaric past behind is the gradual abolition of the death penalty around the world. This is the news from the NY Times yesterday:

The United Nations General Assembly voted on Tuesday for a global moratorium on the death penalty. The resolution was nonbinding; its symbolic weight made barely a ripple in the news ocean of the United States, where governments’ right to kill a killer is enshrined in law and custom. But for those who have been trying to move the world away from lethal revenge as government policy, this was a milestone. The resolution failed repeatedly in the 1990s, but this time the vote was 104 to 54, with 29 nations abstaining. Progress has come in Europe and Africa. Nations like Senegal, Burundi, Gabon — even Rwanda, shamed by genocide — have decided to reject the death penalty, as official barbarism.

Wow, 104 to 54 - that's a rather lopsided victory after a long string of past defeats. Of course, the news was not entirely positive. Some nations still have a way to go.

The United States, as usual, lined up on the other side, with Iran, China, Pakistan, Sudan and Iraq.

But we'll get there. The state of New Jersey just set a fine example and outlawed the death penalty in their state. Other states will follow in the coming years. Thanks to Senegal, Burundi, Gabon, and Rwanda for also setting fine examples that the United States can someday aspire to follow. It's just sad that we no longer find our country in a leadership position on so many important trends.

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