Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Why do we kill people? Yup, this one hurts

Why do we kill people who are killing people to show that killing people is wrong?

Holly Near, Entertainer, Teacher, Activist

The State of California killed another man this week.

Clarence Ray Allen was convicted of killing a lot of people. He set up some of the murders from his prison cell.

From the news reports, it appears that he was a cowardly, ignoble, disgraceful example of the human race who did nothing to redress his wrongs or show remorse for his actions. In fact, he seems to have gone to his death proud of his life work.

Reading Allen's story, I am hard put not to feel hatred for him. My personal ethics are sorely tested.

Still, if I judge Allen for his heinious crimes, so must I judge myself, for there is no good killing, and the State of California, my state, killed him in my name, and in yours, if you live here.

There is more to it than that, though.

Somewhere along the way we, the global family of Clarence Ray Allen, failed him. We failed because we did not meet the fundamental needs of the child who grew up to kill.

One of the guiding principles of Ordinary is that every child is wanted, welcomed, and nurtured throughout her lifetime. Every child deserves to be loved and raised in a healthful, peaceful environment.

Such children grow up to be strong, responsible, nuturing adults possessed of the capacity to give more than they receive.

It is our responsibility--yours and mine--to create that environment so that no more children become adults with a desire or need to rob, torture, or kill.

The task is daunting. I am only one person. You are only one person.

Neither you nor I have a right to stop before we begin just because the task is overwhelming.

Pema Chadron tells us, start where you are.

So I begin, and I urge you to begin, by making peace in your life every tiny step of the way.

At work when conflicts rise, at home when the dishes pile up, at weddings, funerals, and holidays when family get-togethers revive unresolved pain and suffering, take timeouts, breathe, dig deep in your heart for compassion.

Do whatever it takes to turn that moment of conflict and suffering to peace.

Most especially, if you have children, teach them through your example how to live peaceably in the world, how to respond with forgiveness, understanding, compassion, and love.


  1. Why do we kill people who are killing people to show that killing people is wrong?

    This is a really great question. The death penalty has never made much sence to me. One would think that a society trying to pass itself off as compassionate would forbid such an act.


  2. Sybil Meyer2:54 PM

    In her book, For Your Own Good, Alice Miller showed how domination and punishment models of child rearing are from the European tradition. Parents desperately need lessons in nonviolent child rearing practices, and parenting support of all sorts from the community. Most parents feel guilty for needing help with parenting-- that has to change if children are to be raised without violence, which is the root of all the social violence.

  3. Excellent points, Sybil, on all counts. I hadn't thought about parents feeling guilty about needing parenting help. Thank you for that insight.

    You are so right. In our culture, we do not teach young people how to parent, and violence--like peace--definitely begins at home.

  4. Anonymous12:31 AM

    when the state kills people for killing people it teaches people to kill people


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