At a little after 9:06 PM on Tuesday, November 10, 2009, a representative of the Virginia Department of Corrections injected John Allen Muhummad, the D.C. Sniper, with a lethal cocktail and shortly thereafter he expired.
And on Wednesday morning, I awoke to find a plethora of headlines such as this one taken from the NY Daily News Online: “Families of DC sniper victims celebrate John Allen Muhummad’s execution.” On my Facebook page I ventured upon a status that read simply, “I’m glad that monster is dead.” And “He’s finally dead, and I am elated.”
I, like most rationally people, find John Allen Muhummad’s actions to be completely and utterly reprehensible and inexcusable, but in the same instance, should we really be celebrating or cheering the death of another human being? When is it acceptable to gain pleasure from the death of another human being?
And this is not about the death penalty though I do have a few qualms about it. For one thing, those sentenced to death in this country are disproportionately minority and poor. Not only that, the number of people released from prison recently after evidence was found that exonerated them only works to convince me that all on death row, or in prison for that matter, are not necessarily guilty.
If you remember, in 2003 once the governor of Illinois realized the flaws inherent in this nation’s death penalty system he took the unprecedented step of commuting the death sentence of everyone on death row in the state of Illinois.
And before you charge me with being insensitive to John Allen Muhummad’s victims and the victims’ families, you could not be more wrong. I am completely sympathetic. I shudder to think what would happen if one of those victims just happened to be my son or daughter, or my brother or sister, or my mother or father, or even my spouse. I don’t think I would ever be able to get over it.
But however deep my grief over the loss of my loved one, I am not sure how the death of another could work to quell that grief. Again, my heart goes out to John Allen Muhummad’s victims and their families, and I pray that someday their hearts will finally heal. However, I find celebrating or cheering the death of another human being to be fundamentally wrong no matter who that human being is or what action he or she has committed.
After all, despite their actions, they are still human beings. They are still somebody’s child.