Execution is part of the problem, not the answer to eradicating violence.


Published: Sunday, December 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 30, 2002 at 10:16 p.m.
As this holiday season begins, there is one question I want to ask of people: Did you ever have a friend or family member who was murdered?
One minute there is a person with a life, vital signs and warm body, and the next thing you know, the person's heart has stopped and a life is over.
Someone took your friend or loved one's life and what was taken can't be returned. That person is gone for good.
In the story books, fairy tales, fables and lessons our children are taught, the bad guys do the hurting and the good guys do the helping.
It's all black and white. We are on the good side, and they are on the bad side.
But in the first week of December we, the good people of Florida, have made plans to be the bad guys.
If everything goes as we have planned - barring a stay of execution - we will kill two men, two African-American men. The dates are set, the inmates and friends are bracing themselves and preparing for the worst.
A stay of execution was recently granted in one case. Then it was quickly lifted, and the killing is back on again. It is a game of cat and mouse, and it's for real.
So, what I write here is assuming that these two executions scheduled in Florida will go on as scheduled.
We are in the holiday season now. During Thanksgiving week, we all fill our tummies on Thursday, shop (or buy nothing) on Friday, work around the house or go to temple on Saturday, then rest up and maybe go to church on Sunday.
Then when we wake up on Monday morning and go to work or whatever it is we do, we might look at our calendar and remember that we have made a date with death at 6 p.m. that day.
By 6 p.m. it will be pretty dark outside. The news will be on the television. People will be driving home from work or eating supper. It will be business as usual; and in the death chamber in Florida State Prison in Starke, we will be killing a man.
His name is Amos King, and while he may be just a name to most folks, he is a friend to many who have known him. Amos has been in prison for 25 years, since 1977 when he was convicted of a crime he says he did not commit.
He claims that racial bias and a serious lack of justice exist in his case. Amos knows first hand about racism in the institution of "justice" in which he has worked hard to try and stay alive. His side of the story can be found at www.amosking.com.
Then on Friday at 6 p.m. we will kill again. Premeditated, calculated and supported by the masses. This time it will be Linroy Bottoson, another black man who has spent years on death row.
Statistics on the death penalty show two notable facts. Many more people are executed in cases where the murder victim is white skinned. And poor people are executed far more often than people who have money. These inmates are both poor and dark skinned.
In the process of researching the topic for this letter, I found a Web site, www.cure
national.org/~bells/, which promotes ringing church bells at the hour of each execution in the country.
I was dismayed to find that in our country, there are 25 executions scheduled between Dec. 2 and April 23. Twelve of these are set for the month of December. Here are the numbers: Texas 13, Oklahoma 5, Florida 2, North Carolina 2, Alabama 1, Mississippi 1 and U.S. Federal 1.
We the good people of the United States of America must face the fact that we have a problem and we are creating this problem. We are teaching our young to be violent and that killing is what helpful people do.
This causes much confusion in young minds. We're telling them, "Killing is against the law, but it's OK when the law says it is." Or, "It is wrong to kill, but we do it anyway."
In short: "Killing is wrong and in order to make our point, we simply kill."
We shrug our shoulders and claim that there is no other way to curb crime than to participate in it. Have we tried everything? No.
We just turn away, close our eyes, do the job and get it over with. Maybe if we kill enough, it will go away.
Sometimes people kill innocent people at random because they are angry with the society and the government.
If we, the good people, would invest more in compassion and less in violent acts of revenge, we might begin to break the cycle of violence.
Sometimes it seems the whole world has gone mad.
Being inspired with love and hopefulness while visiting with a close friend on Florida's death row in the past six years has been the most eye-opening experience of my life.
Before visiting death row in 1996, I pictured a hell hole, a place full of fire breathing beasts and horrible monsters.
I found people there with pain and love, regret and hope. I found people who need us to invest in solutions. One thing I know for sure. Execution is not the solution.
Shanti Vani is a licensed Family Child Care Home operator in Alachua County and organizes cultural festivals and events in Gainesville.

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