Do you remember where you were, or how you came to learn about the execution of Anvent Enturrer? Did you watch it live, were you there, or did you catch a clip later? To bring up his name as Senator Bellaron did recently, is to call up those feelings, not just the facts.
I remember where I was. I was seventeen, and I watched the broadcast at home, though we could have had quite a view. We didn’t go because my mother was vehemently against the logistics of the event. It was a statement that someone involved in any way wasn’t making an appearance. My mother likes statements, and this was hers: “While his death should at least entertain us, a performance is not a democracy.”
The president, who was there to preside, could have incited a riot at his own rally. There could have been injuries, if not just being careless with the president’s safety, which my mother wanted nothing to do with. After being promised what they were, a crowd that size would have certainly rushed the platform to tear him apart themselves, had something gone wrong and the planned mechanism failed. Under normal circumstances performances are a dance between technical experts and a performer - who are always experts themselves.
But, I wasn’t struck by the lack of wisdom of inciting a mob to violent action - the democratic participation of a mob that hinged on something that had even the remote possibility of not working correctly - it was the point that performances, as she pointed out with some rhetoric, really aren’t particularly democratic under normal circumstances. It bothered me for a long time, in a way that I found difficult to articulate. So much of our lives are entertainment, though the Federation thinks it is entirely free. This is taken so much for granted that the president saw fit to make his show also something the population could participate in. But there’s a reason professionals rarely do this. What bothered me really was that in our entertainment, we found our replacement for the comfort of a dictator. But, in the end, I think I still feel it’s for the best.
When you are young, you process what is going on as best you can. You try to make sense of it, as if it already must make sense. Sometimes, you can convince yourself that it does. And when you can’t, I think that’s when you become an activist.
As an adult, I’m more bothered by idea we have executions anymore at all, let alone public ones, or ones meant to manipulate public opinion at a time when the president was serving what many thought of as an improper second term.
While my thoughts are informed by my understanding of logistics and what entertainment generally is used for, I think more saliently, capital punishment harkens to our lesser moments, as a Federation, rather than its best. It lacks vision, and it lacks idealism.
Treason is a serious crime. Generally, it is not a crime of circumstance, nor is it usually a crime of moral misunderstanding - It is not in a moment of weakness or ignorance, that you betray the safety of your people to a hostile power. By the time you have anything of value to betray, your fellows are not just your neighbours, but people that are trusting you to keep them safe. These things are in fact part of what makes a crime like this considered to be so serious. Because of the nature that treason has, it’s hard to argue that rehabilitation, as an ideal, has any relation to someone who acted in such an egregious, self-serving way. Education, generosity or punishment are unlikely to change the mind of someone who knew what they were doing, and did it anyway, perhaps thinking they would get away with it through the power they already hold.
That said, Bellaron’s proposal covers all capital punishment. Different societies handle crime in different ways. Each planet, and even each country has created different measures for what deserves capital punishment, and they will still have that right. My feeling to this, which I think may be hitting a nerve, is that there needs to be an acknowledgement of fault by governments outside of those crimes such as treason - crimes that depend on the actor having no other causes but self-centeredness and greed.
The idea that ‘bad’ people, criminals, are born bad is an outdated idea that we already know is false. Criminals are bred by circumstance and governments need to take responsibility for creating or maintaining those circumstances, and for mitigating these circumstances wherever they can. For the remainder that are truly mentally unwell, we should mix sympathy with our fear, and committing someone to death, or sometimes worse, simply for existing seems wrong, even as it also feels confusing to know what to do about it otherwise, in a practical sense. Not knowing what else to do is not a particularly strong reason to end a life, even one that we don’t, or can’t, understand.
Senator Faron Shu’s reaction is, in fact, an overreaction, and likely just to cause a scene for his cause (being a good spokesperson). Banning capital punishment would not in fact affect the situation on Chandille that he and most pundits, are referring to - but it may have the effect of opening up the issue to debate. But further, nor would it even affect Chandille’s governance of capital punishment itself, necessarily.
For the purposes of Bellaron’s proposal, which I should mention is broader than his original proposal years ago, indicates a growing weariness of the public towards destruction. A lot has happened since I was seventeen. We are in a difficult, historical time, and that Bellaron has floated an even more lenient proposal should be commended, and one assumes, reflects the attitudes of his constituents. Unlike a performance, that is a democracy.
Just the idea that a democracy works is a vote for idealism. Just the idea that many planets could work together is a vote that we can stay visionary, and improve the lives of each, without having to wait for benevolent dictators or gamble for enlightened monarchs. When I consider a large change such as this one, especially those at the Federal level, I consider more often than my own feelings if the change serves idealism; if it serves to cull destruction or encourage the best in us.