Wednesday, June 23, 2010

No Good Deed...

...ever goes unpunished. I can’t say that I ever understood that old saying as much as I do right now. At mail call tonight, I received twelve emails from close friends and supporters, all of which trended towards the irate, vis-a-vis my piece on Steven Long.

It strikes me that I must have been unclear on a few points, so please allow me to clarify an overly-nuanced position.

First of all, yes, I know what he did. Trust me when I tell you that Steven Long is not much liked around here. No one who kills a child lives a peaceful life in prison. Don’t think for a second that it was easy for me to speak with him, or be seen speaking with him. It was a test, one I nearly failed on multiple occasions. Everything is seen around here, and when I went outside to work with Steven on this, it cost me a chunk of my reputation back here on Level 2. I wasn’t asking you to disregard his past actions. I think I very clearly expressed this in the entry. Nor was I arguing that he should be set free, and that you should invite him over for tea and crumpets or to listen to Antonin Dvorak. Frankly, I don’t much like Steven Long, and I am not asking for you to like him, either. If I never have to say another word to him or about him for the rest of my life, I’d be quite tickled pink.

That said, doing what is right is seldom synonymous with doing what is popular. The point of the piece was not to start a Steven Long Fan Club, but rather to show that the State of Texas is using rage - your rage, my rage - to kill people in violation of the Constitution. That Steven is mentally retarded is beyond question. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that killing such people is a violation of the 8th Amendment. All I was attempting to show is that they are breaking the law here. Period. Morality doesn’t get vacation time when the weather turns ugly. Its called having a principle, and sticking to it. Because if you toss your beliefs by the wayside every time they become difficult to carry around, then they can’t have been worth a s*** to begin with, can they? Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.

Dislike Steven. Fine. Hate him; I’m cool with that. Tax the hell out of his commissary account (and everyone else like him, me included) to start a program where victims of violent abuse can get some psychological therapy. I’m for that; just show me where to sign up. But after all of that, stick the S.O.B. in a cell to rot for the rest of his life. And do this not because its the trend, or “cool”, but because its the law. More importantly: do it because it is right.

I’m surrounded by the broken, the evil, the lost. It is not always easy for me to see the right way to proceed with some of these guys. It would be easier to ignore them completely, to focus only on myself, my goals, my needs. That seems to be the opinion of many of you, that I am somehow “better” than Steven, that I shouldn’t give him the time of day. Don’t you see what you are asking of me? I’ve already tried that mode of living, and it didn’t work out so great, did it? This situation with Steven is screwed up. I get it. But if you discard my position, what is left? The gallows. So, make sure you understand which side of that line you are standing on, before you toss dirt in my face. It’s not easy standing beside someone like him to make a point. But I’d rather do that and face opprobrium than sit hand in hand with those who see death as a convenient tool of social policy. Kind of funny that the guy with “no conscience” is the one having to hand out lessons on ethics.

© Copyright 2010 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. All rights reserved.


Jules said...

How would I be able to email Thomas? Is it possible?

Tracey said...

You can send "emails" to Thomas via JPay at but understand however he cannot email you back. You will need his ID number 999522. They print the "email" at the prison and they are supposed to be delivered within 48 hours

Miss A said...

I think that even though the emails you received in response to your post on Steven were irate, it's important to remember that not everyone would agree. It is irrelevant what Steven Long did to get the death penalty, although I'm guessing that his actions would never have resulted in a different sentence. Emotion and justice do not go hand in hand.

Having read the psych report, and of course your post, I am in agreement that Steven should not be on death row, but then I am in agreement that nobody should be on death row. Not because I believe it's an unjust punishment, but because of the flaws in the justice system. Morality is a tricky thing to try and codify and to base an opinion on because it's utterly subjective. If an individual believes they have a right to kill (and I'm presuming that there are few, if any, people on death row who haven't caused someones death) they they surely have to accept that they have no right to life? Locke and Kant would have agreed.

My point is essentially that Steven Long did not have the ability to make a good decision and as such he did something that society considers morally wrong. He should be punished, but the justice system let him down and assumed he had the mental capacity and reasoning to decide for himself. I feel sorry for him, and ashamed that I live in a society (sort of, we don't have the DP here in NZ but I'm still offended by the flaws in the US justice system) that allows this to continue.

Donna Michelle said...

It often strikes me with Anti DP activists that they will stand up for men and women on DR, unless they’re faced with a crime which they do not agree with and then they jump the fence. Surely, Anti DP activists want to see the abolition of Capital Punishment in its entirety, not just for one or two crimes? I do not condone for a second what Mr Long did, but there is evidence on that page that he was let down by the system a long time before he ended up on DR.

Librul said...

I do not think the mental status of Steven Long has any significance on the crime. You do not have to have a high IQ to know the difference between right and wrong and I cannot for one moment agree that Steven Long did not understand when he took that child that what he was about to do was wrong; to suggest otherwise is doing a disservice to those in our society who are mentally challenged and have fought for years to be treated with dignity and respect. My issue with American justice is the election system. I do not think it is a fair judicial system when the key players have to rely on the votes of the majority to keep their job. Justice is supposedly blind, but not in a pro-death penalty state like Texas where the incumbent knows to hold on to his position, he has to put murderers on death row. I am neither for nor against the death penalty. I believe there have been men and women put to death who were innocent, just as I believe that some of those on DR are beyond redemption.