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Andrea Yates Part II. A Reminder of the Need for Execution By: Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, March 28, 2002


ANDREA YATES, the “Houston housewife” who killed her five children, just recently escaped the death penalty. She got life in prison instead.

She deserved execution.

Her case is a vital reminder of the legitimacy and necessity of capital punishment.

A society that rejects the death penalty is a society that makes itself impotent in making a moral statement about murder. Without the death penalty, ethics are taken out of the debate; society robs itself of the ability to speak with unequivocal moral certainty about murder being intolerable.

The non-existence of capital punishment disallows the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime. Because of this disproportional paradigm between crime and punishment, a grey area blurs the boundaries between civilised behaviour and barbarism. Moral relativism creeps in; social anxiety and moral disintegration give way.

The death penalty reminds all people that the highest price to pay for murder exists. It places an unambiguous moral value on murder –- and on life.

Andrea Yates engaged in such a diabolical act that she not only killed her five children, but she contaminated the soul of America. But what catharsis can a defiled community have if it has no right to stare evil in the face, label it, and punish it in the strongest way it knows how?

In order to deal with murder, society needs to do much more than just place it into a moral context. It has to allow a capital, as well as a communal response.

That Andrea Yates killed her children is a given. What often remains unspoken is that by doing so, she also perpetrated a crime against every single one of us. So how can we, and how should we, speak as a community about the evil that Yates perpetrated?

Society has the obligation to categorically state that the taking of human life is intolerable. By denying the severest penalty on the taking of human life, death penalty opponents not only trivialise, but also dehumanise, life itself.

The case for the death penalty is ultimately not so much about life as it is about the fifth commandment. And moral values do not exist on their own; they have to be nurtured by a society with action.

The death penalty remains the strongest deterrent to murder. It reminds not only murderers, but all people, that they will lose their life if they kill. Most people, therefore, will not even consider killing in the first place.

Anti-death penalty activists always point to the fact that innocent people have been victims of the death penalty. The execution of an innocent person is obviously a tragedy.

Everything humanly possible should be done to avoid wrongful state execution. But the justice system’s imperfectability has absolutely no bearing on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of capital punishment.

The “what if someone innocent gets killed” argument is based on the specious assumption that it would also be unfair to sentence an innocent person to life imprisonment. One could conclude, therefore, that life imprisonment should be taken out of the criminal code. And why stop there? Perhaps all forms of punishment should be eliminated, since someone innocent could be punished.

The bottom line is that talking about the potential "innocent" person that might be a victim of the death penalty simply avoids the subject of what to do with proven killers.

Capital punishment is the least that a society can do for the victims of murder. It is they who deserve justice. This is an issue, therefore, of retribution. And a civil society cannot remain civil without honouring the principle of retributive justice.

When we visualise the horrifying reality of Andrea Yates holding her children under bath water, we must ask ourselves: what is our moral state as a society? Do we have an obligation to take a stand on evil, and to have moral clarity about what to do about its manifestations?

If we do not, then what are we saying about the five innocent children that died at the hands of a woman who allowed evil to work its bestial deeds through her hands? Anyone who is familiar with the horrifying reality of exorcism is aware, as the exorcists and experts in the field will tell you, that the possessed always make the choice themselves regarding the road toward their possession. Even if they do not know, they know.

So what do we as a society say to the people that dare to make dark personal choices that lead to children being held under bath water?


Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.


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