I've been reading Oregon governor Barbara Roberts' memoir, Up the Capitol Steps. I just read about Oregon's 1978 passage of a death penalty bill, and Roberts' strong feelings against it. Today, Governor John Kitzhaber has taken a stand for justice. He has said he will not allow the execution of deathrow inmate Gary Haugen--or any prisoner--to occur while he is in office. He cites the unfairness of the way the death penalty is administered as his argument, but this is a turnaround for Kitzhaber, who in his previous two terms as governor, allowed executions to go forward.
I've long opposed the death penalty, since I wrote a research paper on the topic during my senior year of high school. It is at the core of my Christian beliefs that we should not take another person's life. Clearly, the situation becomes complicated when one considers whether there is such a thing as a just war. I acknowledge the difficulty of black and white stances on the matter. However, when it comes to the death penalty it's not just whether killing is wrong...one cannot disregard the fact that people of color are executed at a far higher rate than whites, for example, and most of the people in the courtroom are white. On the other side of the coin, however, I acknowledge that I might feel differently if I had a loved one who was the victim of a violent crime.
Perhaps Kitzhaber read Naseem Rakha's moving book, The Crying Tree, and this changed his mind. Who knows? For whatever reason, I commend his decision to take a stand. That seems to be rare in U.S. politics these days...unless you're a Scott Walker or Jan Brewer, who are taking stands for injustice instead.