Editorial: March 2006
After I decided to write this month’s editorial on my abhorrence of the death penalty, I did some research and found ample evidence and information to fill this page with logic, reason and statistics to sway any rational and compassionate human being into taking a stand against this barbaric practice. But please allow me to dispense with such formality — you can Google ‘death penalty’ and find over 25 million pages dedicated to the argument; many more erudite than any I could write.
Let’s keep this personal.
I spent four extremely emotional, hard, and, I’ll admit it, at times thrilling, months working with various British press agencies starting mere hours after the body of Kirsty Jones was found brutally raped and murdered in a guesthouse in Chiang Mai in August 2000. We investigated, interviewed, researched, speculated and participated in events so complex, unsavoury and mystifying that they were worthy of a first rate crime novel (one I started, but with more loose ends to the case than on a Hawaiian grass skirt, will probably never finish). I was twenty six years old at the time and had rarely been more passionate about anything in my life than finding Kirsty’s murderer and bringing him, or them, to justice.
Coming home after a particularly frustrating day of being toyed with by authorities, my mother offered me a cup of tea and tried to tell me for the umpteenth time that I shouldn’t take things so personally. Annoyed, I snapped and asked her what she would do if I was brutally raped and murdered, as Kirsty was.
Speechless, I listened as my mother told me that she would do nothing. She would be sad, but she didn’t want to live with vengeance, with anger, with hate. She said that she would let go. She believes in karma.
Because I don’t, my mother’s apparent flippancy upset me. What about justice?
Which brought me to question justice itself. We humans, we fallible humans, have created this word, this moral equilibrium, this demand for an eye, a tooth, and at times, a life. Through
logic or in referral to divine interpretation — surely two very contentious sources – justice is measured. There are things which most of us agree upon: those who harm others should face consequences. But beyond that, things get complicated. What consequences? Societies have been pondering and reevaluating their positions on this for millennia.
On the first day of this year, Katherine Horton, another young Welsh backpacker, was raped and murdered in Koh Samui. Within days her murderers were arrested, the Prime Minister had announced that they should receive the death penalty and the judge passed sentence without having to retire home for dinner during a farce of a one-day trial.
What is wrong with putting them in jail for the rest of their lives? If a mistake was made, it can be rectified. If prevention of future crimes is the motive, then bars are as preventive as a needle. If the death penalty aims to save the tax payers from the cumbersome expense of feeding the murderous fishermen for the rest of their lives, then we have put a price tag on life. If it’s a requirement for retribution, then frankly, tough: morals and logic do not apply here, just vengeance. If it’s to protect the tourism dollars, then we should all be disgusted.
My mother’s views may be extreme – after all, she gets upset when I swat mosquitoes – but I would rather her extremism than that of a society which sanctions murder.
With cartoons inciting worldwide riots, states attempting to justify the use of torture, cries to wipe out Jews, terrorists and infidels from the face of the earth, and with people pissing each other off and threatening to kill each other for the tiniest perceived slights, perhaps we all need to learn to let go just a little bit.
“It’s only a tiny drop of blood darling,” my mother would say with a serene smile on her face, happily watching a mosquito feast on her arm, before sending it with a gentle wave, bloated – and probably burping – with blood, into the night.
Citylife this month:
Lovers of art will be pleased to find three separate articles on art in this month’s edition. Jacquelyn Suter writes of the emerging contemporary female artists of Burma, Chantana Jasper visits the Dhamma Park, a leader in eco-spiritual tourism in Lamphun which has been a partner of UNESCO’s programme for building Cultures of Peace and Peace Education for the Children of the World since 2000, and my story features La Luna Gallery’s second year anniversary exhibition, ‘2gether’, which challenges established artists to work in collaboration with a friend, lover or sibling.
Other features this month include Oliver Benjamin’s belated attempts at learning Thai, and two inspiring articles, one by Cindy Tilney on the School for Life project and the other by Moira Klassen on the William E. Deters Foundation for Gibbons and Wildlife Conservation Projects.
Have a lovely March.