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Charlottesville and the Symbolic Value of the Death Penalty

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We don't yet know all the facts about the Charlottesville murder, but it certainly seems on the present evidence to amount to this:  A Nazi or Nazi sympathizer ran down a fellow citizen, killing her, because she was in a political protest with which he disagreed.

I support the death penalty for a number of reasons, but the Charlottesville murder, like the Boston Marathon murders and Charleston church massacre, illustrates the main one. There is some behavior so pernicious, and so grossly outside the boundaries of peaceable life as we have come to understand it, that we as a polity have the right to say no and mean it.  Not merely to gush with remonstrance.  To act, with certainty and force.

I have my doubts that the death penalty should be reserved for "the worst of the worst," even supposing that phrase could be subject to any operational definition.  But even if I'm wrong about that, this episode, if it is what it seems to be, qualifies under any definition.

Nazism, Aryan supremacy, or racial supremacy of any kind has a history.  We don't have to guess where it leads.  Slave ships and the ovens at Dachau and Buchenwald tell us.  A society that lacks the moral confidence to put a permanent end to actors this barbaric lacks the moral confidence to do anything.

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