Banned For Life, Banned From Life

Here’s a cardboard box, Mr. Sterling. Clear our your desk, hand over the keys to your owner’s box, take your virulent racism and get out. We’ve already taken the liberty of reassigning your parking space. The door is that way…

In a story that’s somehow–inexplicably–garnered more shared interest among media sorts and the public than recent revelations that more than two score veterans died waiting for medical treatment at a Phoenix-area VA hospital after being placed on a secret waiting list, Donald Sterling, the for-now current owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has received a lifetime ban from the sport and been ordered to cough up a $2.5 million fine for racist comments that went viral recently.

Says NBA Commissioner Adam Silver:

“The central findings of the investigation are that the man whose voice is on the recordings … is Mr. Sterling and that the hateful feelings are those of Mr. Sterling. The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply disturbing and alarming,” Silver said during a news conference Tuesday.

“As for Mr. Sterling’s ownership interest in the Clippers,” Silver said. “I will urge the board of governors to force a sale of the team and will do everything in my power to ensure that happens.”

At this point, it would likely do well to proffer a disclaimer to settle the banal retorts that commonly follow commentary on such issues: No, I don’t support what Sterling said. Yes, his comments are bigoted, ugly and without defense.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s interesting to discover not that some people apparently harbor ill-will towards blacks–racism isn’t endemic, but isn’t dead everywhere, either. Nor even the seeming double standard that accepts Sterling getting the heave-ho while Senator Harry Reid gets re-elected after having used racially-tinged language to describe Barack Obama without so much as a “pah-shaw” from anyone.

What’s noteworthy, however, is the response to Sterling’s comments. People have been making public faux pas since time immemorial. And in the past–it seems to me anyway–that the standard response was to call for a public mea culpa and apology. Such was the case with Reid, who later apologized to Obama, who let bygones be bygones.

No longer. We’ve reached the point in public discourse where seeking an apology is too droll for the Outrage Class, sooo yesterday. Deciding that bygones are for losers, they’ve pirouetted over public apology and headed straight for public destruction.

Brendan Eich met that fate. He was ousted as Mozilla CEO after a mere ten days for his years-old contribution to an ultimately failed initiative in California stating that marriage is between a man and a woman. No apology–as if he owed one–was sought. No explanation or commentary on his opinions was solicited. Nope. Just get out.

So too with Donald Sterling. No matter that his comments were made in private. No matter that there appears to have been no mistreatment of his staff, basketball players, or organization–Silver even admitted as much, stating that “I haven’t been that close to him, but never seen anything that would indicate that he held the views that were expressed in these audio tapes”. Pish-posh. When the Tolerance Brigade rears its ugly head, private becomes public. It’s all on the table. Discourse is out. Damnation is in.

Fall in line.

~ To the Midwest we go. Word comes from Oklahoma this evening that a death row inmate died of a heart attack several minutes after a botched execution in which the three-drug cocktail failed to perform as expected.

Clayton Lockett was convicted in the 1999 murder of 19 year old Stephanie Neiman, whom he shot then buried alive.

Again, at this point it would likely do well to proffer a disclaimer to settle the banal retorts that commonly follow commentary on such issues: I have no particular feelings about Lockett. He was duly convicted of murder. A young woman who ought be alive is not because of his act of cold brutality. Whatever emotion I have, I reserve for her.

Now, the death penalty. Of all the issues under the sun, this may yet be the solitary one in which I don’t fall lockstep with the majority of my peers on the Right.

For many reasons, I am against it.

The Declaration of Independence may not have the force of law that the Constitution has, I accept this. However, I would hope that the spirit of the principles contained therein would command the same adherence among my compatriots. Especially:

We are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Jefferson made clear that we don’t derive our rights from government. Nor do we derive them from our own understanding of right and wrong. Our Creator has endowed them, and the first is life. All other rights flow from the First Right, and the idea that we would empower government with the ability to deprive its own citizenry of that right, be it the unborn or the condemned, doesn’t strike me a principle of limited government.

Government can’t even get the post office right, but I’m to assign them the task of adjudicating a citizen’s life, its worthiness, and their ability to keep it? I’ll pass. If an unjust government can’t be trusted to remain good steward’s to the people’s resources, then how can it be trusted to discern the value of the people’s very lives?

It’s also difficult for me to align a Christian faith with the death penalty, either. Faith is, after all, supposed to inform our beliefs and our subsequent decisions. Naysayers may quickly point to Old Testament scriptures, particularly in the Pentateuch, in claiming that the Bible sanctions it. For the time it was written, absolutely. But whenever possible–I’m speaking to Christians, naturally–we should always seek out what Christ had to say in a matter first.

Fortunately, He provides enlightenment. In the Gospel of John, Christ is presented with an adulterous woman by the Pharisees, who ask him what the proper punishment is to be. At the time, Mosaic law was operative, which stated that adultery was punishable by death. Christ refused to condemn her, instead telling her to sin no more.

Christian faith holds that Jesus is the only perfectly just human who ever lived. In that capacity, only He could possibly have levied a righteous judgement ending her life, but He didn’t. Condemnation wasn’t his bag. He let her go.

Obviously, extramarital sex isn’t murder. Nor do I advocate letting such people “go”. But there are a lot of Christian conservatives I’m seeing that appear to support the death penalty quite strongly. Even treating news of Lockett’s apparent suffering with almost pleasure, or simple indifference. I don’t understand this. Given Christ’s response against levying death on someone, despite that being the prescribed punishment under the Law, introspection on this point may be indicated. We should seek out and follow His example where we can.

Stephanie’s suffering at Lockett’s hands wasn’t right. His suffering at government’s hand–and by extension, ours–shouldn’t be either. Human suffering is bad, or it isn’t bad. Can’t have it both ways. Lockett writhing in pain might be satisfying to some given the circumstances of his victim’s death, but I’m not sure that’s a constructive emotion of give in to.

Without belaboring the point further–I’ve gotten long winded as it is–my central view is that government shouldn’t be in the business of killing people to teach other people that killing is wrong. Conservatives and libertarians want government out of our lives to the extent possible, yes? OK, then literally get them out of our lives.

Ultimately, what does capital punishment accomplish in the grand scheme that life in prison with no chance of parole doesn’t? Both levy a consequence for an action. Death is the result of both, though one be delayed and the other expedient. Both remove the offender from society. Our idea of justice is still served. It strikes me as the far worse punishment to spend life being pilloried by thoughts of one’s transgressions. No parole means no parole. Is that not a reasonable accommodation to ensure that God’s endowment remains unalienable?

Author’s note: I had described the circumstances of Lockett’s death as arising from the failure of the three-drug cocktail failing to perform as expected. Just to clarify, the article I linked to suggested there was a “vein failure” that prevented the drugs from “reaching Lockett”. Whether it was some physiologic abnormality of his veins, or some adverse reaction to the initial drug that caused the failure, there’s no way to know from the article. At the very least, the fact that the execution was clearly botched indicated that something failed to perform as expected. I defer to the reader’s judgement. 

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About Michael Haugen

Michael Haugen is a full-spectrum conservative and recent graduate from Eastern Washington University (BS Biology). His main interests in politics and public policy center around health care, education and tax reform. He'll be returning to EWU in 2014 to complete a Master's degree in Public Administration. Follow him on Twitter: @HaugenTRA

3 Responses to “Banned For Life, Banned From Life”

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  1. Art Of The Illiberal | The Right Argument - May 3, 2014

    […] such a poisonous mindset, are the sorts who tomorrow will deprive future Brendan Eich’s or Donald Sterling’s of employment or ban them from the public square simply for holding private opinions or for […]

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