Everyone knows who James Holmes is by now. The horror and devastation he left in his wake in Aurora, CO, marks one of the worst mass murders in our history. Most of us are righteously (and rightfully) angry. Many would like to see him executed; some would like this to happen before Holmes is afforded a trial.

It has taken years of soul-searching to come to this decision: I oppose the death penalty. Yes, when I think of something as heinous as what happened in Aurora, I get mad. If someone did something like that to someone I cared about, you’d have to hold me back to keep me from clawing his eyes out. I feel deeply. But I also feel deeply about trying to be better than I am.

I am not opposed to the death penalty because only God should decide who lives and who dies, although that is certainly an appropriate consideration. No, it’s because I think we should at least attempt to be better than those we seek to punish. They are the death-dealers, not us. It should be our job as a people to show them that what they have done is wrong, and that we will not indulge in it. Because none of us should kill, even if one of us appears to deserve it.

There are those who would say that prison is too good for someone like Holmes, or any of his gory predecessors or antecedents. Perhaps they have a point. But we can only punish so much before we start treading on dangerous territory. We must not allow the evil of others to suck us in. If there is a true punishment to be had, I have to believe it will come, if not in this life, than in the next. And if there is no next life? If justice never happens? Well, I’ll take solace in knowing that I didn’t participate in harm toward another human being. That, at least, will give me a peaceful death. And if there’s nothing after this life (although I believe quite firmly that there is), a peaceful death is the best thing I can hope for.

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