Squeezing out one last post before I get on a plane later this morning.
Yesterday I was delighted to read the news that the legislature of Nebraska passed a law banning the death penalty, overriding a veto from the state’s conservative government. It made news, first and foremost, due to the fact that it was the first time in 40 years that this has happened in a conservative-led legislature. I noticed it because thanks to my Nebraska kin, Nebraska news always catches my eye now.
I might have noticed it even if it wasn’t in a state I watch, because I always look to see where we are on the death penalty as a nation. I am totally against the death penalty, a stance which will probably not surprise you. It feels like a blemish on our moral conscience – a regressive and draconian punishment that is eschewed by most Western nations, extends the victimization of families with long appeals and has been proven to not serve as a deterrent at all. Only China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq execute more people than we do. Pakistan, Yemen and North Korea (!) execute less. It’s time we stop this national embarrassment.
What occurred to me when I read the news is how much more similarity we have as a people than differences. The 24-hour news channels and the screeching talking heads have made us believe we exist in a nation that’s more divided than at any time in its history. That and other things have coarsened our national dialogue. But, ultimately, we have many issues on which we can come together. If a Republican-led governing body can overrule a veto to pass a law against the death penalty, we’re not as polarized as we’re constantly being told we are.
We have a lot of work to do as a nation. We’ve got to figure out what comes next in energy production. We have to address climate change. We must fix outdated drug laws and end mass incarceration. We all have skin in this game. Today I was reminded that the vast majority of us are somewhere in the rational middle, even though the extremists on both sides scream a lot louder. It reignited my hope that we’re going to figure things out after all. Such excellent news.