Marolt: It’s time to repeal the Fifth Commandment
If there is one of the Commandments that was developed for a bygone era and is clearly not applicable to modern society, it has to be “Thou shalt not kill.” I think it’s stuck around so long only because it appears to be so straightforward, but if you think about it, there is no easy way to interpret it, and that is why it should be officially retired as one of the major laws to live by.
We might not be able to simplify tax law, but I’m pretty sure we can reduce the burden of technicalities we have to adhere to in order to be good. Nine and counting; I like it!
The death penalty is a good thing. An eye for an eye — it keeps things balanced; never mind the silly metaphors about blindness and being left in the dark. The best part about the death penalty is that it justifies killing. There are things worth the price of death. Although satisfaction doesn’t come cheap, the judicial process completely removes the question about whether killing is right or wrong; the only question is whether or not it is deserved. The answer is “yes” if the circumstance is right. We decide.
This provides an easy way for society to ease itself into the idea of killing. It’s a process that nobody has to take responsibility for. The judicial system says a person should die for a crime they committed, and who are we to argue? The person who flips the switch or pushes the plunger is only doing their job to ensure that our system of justice is not compromised. All that’s left for the average citizen is to read about it in the paper and then make sure they recycle it after they’re through. Got to do our part to save the world, after all.
It is kind of telling that the abortion issue seldom centers on when life begins anymore. Who cares? Enough of the group project — it’s all about the individual’s right to choose this time. This is good because it takes the choice of ending a life completely out of the system’s hand. Cut and dried — you decide.
Neither is it about punishment for a crime any longer. A baby is a pain in the neck if you are not ready to be a parent; why put either of you through it if you don’t have to? Killing is an unfortunate thing in this case but in a good way.
Then there’s war. It’s the best. War eliminates any and all choice about whether to kill, and we get to kill human beings who are fully developed and have committed no crimes. The targets are young, strong people in the primes of their lives just like we are.
If a situation presents itself with urgency satisfactory to the nation’s best politicians, the government sends you into a situation to protect our interests. It says you will be defending your country, but I think the reality is that, once you get into a full-on war, you are pretty much concerned with saving yourself and your buddies amid a live preview of Armageddon in the hopes of getting home to see your family again; at least that’s the way it’s been conveyed to me by a few brave souls who have lived through it. Only the solemn remembrance of true heroes who didn’t make it back can sober us up for a moment to reconsider the severity of killing, but thankfully we have Memorial Day ballgames and barbecues to snap us back from those ponderous moments of what, at the time, seemed to be clarity.
Killing is a thing we have to live with. Worship money, use the Lord’s name in vain, hit the snooze button on the Sabbath, ignore your parents’ needs, have an emotional affair on Facebook, download a few songs for free, gossip about everyone, envy your neighbor’s Audi, fantasize about your other neighbor’s wife. At least you know you are not supposed to do these things, and there is no national debate about whether they are OK or not. But killing — who can be so sure?
Come to think of it, “Thou shalt not kill,” passe as it is, dovetails a little too neatly into what most consider the one sacrosanct law to live by. Our reality is that, if somebody really screws up, we kill them, but nobody wants to be killed themselves under any circumstance. That’s the essence of killing. Perhaps it’s time to consider the Golden Rule obsolete, too.
Roger Marolt believes murder will be a misdemeanor long before we cure global warming. Contact him at roger@marolt llp.com.
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