Everything about tonight sucks.
This whole Tookie Williams thing has me in knots. I have a hard time arguing it because I'm not sure which route to take. There are two very different, but both very correct, arguments to spare his life. The problem with making the "he's a good guy now" argument is that it distracts from the main arguments against capital punishment - that it's racist in the way it's put forth, that it's not a deterrent, that it endangers our police officers, that it costs more money, that it's immoral. But the problem with all those arguments is that no one pays attention to them until there is a face to put to them. And Tookie Wilson happens to be a very good face. Not too many deathrow inmates are nominated for Nobel Prizes. Still, I hesitate to make these arguments because I don't want to seem like I'm jumping on a celebrity bandwagon of any sorts with the likes of Jamie Foxx. However, the honest thing is that, while I've always been vehemently against the death penalty, I don't think I would have paid as much attention to this one if all the hoopla was not surrounding it. So the argument needs his face, or at least a face, to gain momenum.
And I do think the arguments for his life are compelling, even beyond the simple arguments against the death penalty regarding human life and being against the government killing people. I mean, if even one kid hears Williams speak out against joining a gang, and doesn't do it because of him, isn't he a useful member of society? Of course he is. I certainly don't know if he honestly has reformed or is rehabilitated. My usual view of human nature is an optimistic one; when I hear Tookie Williams speak, I think of Morgan Freeman's character in The Shawshank Redemption, in the scene in which the old Morgan Freeman wants to tell the young Morgan Freeman what to do, but he barely recognizes him. But I don't know if Tookie Williams is that. But I also don't think it's relevant. I want him in jail the rest of his life without any chance of getting out. Period. It doesn't matter to me one iota that he might have found redemption. It's all about what he can contribute to society through whatever it is that he has found, and if he can still contribute something, then he still should be kept alive. If one kid is helped by his story, that's enough for me.
And if that argument doesn't work, then I'll just go back to the overall death penalty one, which is probably a better one. However, it's not going to convince anyone who has ever thought about it before, or are against it because they're ignorant about it in some ways, and they're the one who need to have a face on it more than anything.
Then there are people I really respect who say that they're offended that Williams is being canonized. Even though they're against the death penalty in all cases, they don't think this guy should be made into a hero because other death row inmates deserve it more - like there is doubt about their conviction, etc. However, what I say to them is this: why don't you canonize them, then? Tookie Williams is the face. He's the most famous death row inmate in years. Take him or leave him, or do your part to get another face as the face of death row. If you're against the death penalty, it doesn't make any sense to leap on the argument that he doesn't deserve clemency because you don't think he's the best poster child for clemency that there is.
The argument I think is worse is the argument that, "Well, that was his sentence, so it should be carried out." What a complete load of bullshit. If the criminal justice system wasn't unfair and racist in the way that capital cases were handed out, perhaps that argument would have some sort of relevance. But we're a long way from that. That argument makes no sense in our very imperfect justice system.
But it all sucks. It sucks that this argument has to be made at all.
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