What is the value of one human life?

Once again our state legislators are debating the death penalty. It’s interesting that every argument for or against the death penalty at some time quotes one or more phases of the Bible. For what I know of the Bible and other religious writings, I know I can find a passage (either taken in or out of context) that will support almost any argument. The same could be said for any batch of statistics, data, religious beliefs or laws concerning this topic. But, in the end, the only thing that matters is the value of one human life. When we use arguments such as, “The victims need closure”, “An eye for an eye”, “It cost too much to house the lifers” and so many others, we are using our emotions to decide that one human’s life is not worth it. So why should we stop at murders? How about a drafted private in the army sent off to war and as soon as the battle begins, he turns and runs because he is afraid of being wounded, killed or worse, forced to kill someone else. Should he be hanged for dissertation? Why stop there? How about a terminally ill person. Why should we spend thousands of dollars to keep them alive for a few weeks or months? And the insane and mentally retarded, would any normal person want to live like that if they knew what normal life was like and what they were suffering? How about the ones who do not believe in the same God we do? After all, they are living in sin, spreading evil in the world and headed for Hell. Shouldn’t we just send them on sooner? Or the mother and child crossing our borders to escape crime and violence? Shouldn’t we shoot them as they cross our borders carrying some disease that any doctor can cure with a shot or two or take some job from one of our deserving citizens? How about the ones on welfare? Just think, if we sent them off to death row, how much would we save in taxes? (One thought, a few of our congressmen, senators and our president received some assistance in the past. If a death row sentence was in effect back then, they wouldn’t be where they are now.) Heck, I bet you could even come up with a reason to send persons who text and drive to Death Row? In the end, what we are asking ourselves when we are debating the death penalty is, what is a man’s life worth? And when we use the death penalty, are we no better than the ones we are killing? And when we do decide when a man deserves to die, where do we draw the line? How do we define where to stop? “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” — John Donne.

Charles T. Waggoner Sr. Dover

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