Cowboys, Indians & the Death Penalty

There are adults who fantasize about taking a human life.  Some dream about being the hero, saving a damsel in distress, being pictured front and center in the daily news, cheered and admired by peers.  Others just want to experience what it would feel like to end a life.  Recognizing that this is considered both an immoral and illegal act, the fantasy is shifted to being forced to end another life in order to protect your own life or the lives of others.  Career choices in public safety or the military could legitimize this vision and may also end with admiration from others who perceive these deaths as acts of courage.  Still there are others who don’t care or even think about restrictive laws or moral standards.  The desire is to experience the ultimate feeling of power and control, being the one responsible for ending a life.  Just like powerful mood-altering drugs or degrading, deviant sexual acts, the allure can be intoxicating.

Fantasies may change with the changing times.  Back in the day, little boys and occasionally girls (aka, tomboys) would play Cowboys and Indians.  Arguments would break out at the outset because being a cowboy was always the coveted role.  You got to be the hero by saving the town from the savages, shooting your pretend gun and triumphantly killing the hapless Indian, who was armed with only a plastic tomahawk or bow and arrow play set.  Children were simply playacting what was seen at the movies or on television. Eventually they would outgrow this game.  It became boring, unrealistic.  Nobody really died, they always got back up, dusted themselves off, ready to die again the next day.  Besides, there were other heroes to emulate: astronauts, sports figures, police officers, teachers and more.  Maybe the message taught by parents and highly respected religious leaders who routinely stressed that killing people was wrong took some of the joy out of the game.  Also, society shifted away from demonizing certain cultures, eventually embracing political correctness and let’s face it, Cowboys and Native Americans just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Technology has changed the game plan.  Today there are not just videos games, but graphic experiences to continue our lust for bloodshed.  You get to choose or acquire all types of weapons as you steer the course, killing bad guys or whatever else you encounter along the way.  A bonus is that you can play these games in the comfort of your home, close to junk food and sugary soft drinks.  Who needs or even wants fresh air and exercise?  It’s dangerous out there on the streets where people have ready access to real guns and other weapons.  Plus, political correctness has stifled free speech, making it unpleasant to even talk face to face with people who have developed very thin skins and become easily offended at every utterance.  Whereas in the past, children played together outside under the watchful eyes of the neighborhood, the young today can hole up in a bedroom or basement, remotely playing these deadly games with other people from around the world.  This new international culture has expanded the fantasy into older age groups.  It takes longer to outgrow these games and some gamers become completely isolated, emotionally vulnerable, addicted to the experience.  Speech is free again in this alternate reality that bleeds over into other forms of virtual social media.  It is as if the pressure from being politically correct has set forth a geyser of anger, frustration and at times blatant hatred towards the same groups it was originally designed to protect.

With church membership at an historical low, there is no longer that well-rehearsed repetitive lesson that killing people is wrong, immoral, an act against God.  Religious leaders have fallen from long held pedestals as sex scandals and corruption headline stories across the globe.  Other heroes from the past have followed the same fall from grace as the 24/7 news cycle repeatedly report sex scandals, corruption and other newsworthy sins.  Mass shootings have now become commonplace news and instead of being horrified, “Where?” and “How many were killed?” is the stoic reaction.   Stories of heinous acts against children, human trafficking, murder, rape and other atrocities puts pressure on law makers to find a solution to these problems.  But how do you legislate a sense of morality?

Since politicians may also carry scandalous pastimes, conveying a moral message of forgiveness and redemption becomes dicey.  Anger, revenge, empowerment, an “eye for an eye” draws impassioned constituent support, especially when horrific crimes against children occur.  Lawmakers can live the fantasy of being the cowboy who kills the savage.  They can execute the bad guys.

When reinstating the death penalty legislation was recently introduced in the Iowa House and Senate, religious leaders lined up to oppose the passage of this proposed law.  The only religion speaking out in favor of this proposal was a small sect of purported Christian ministers who embraced the Islam belief that ending a life goes against God, “unless prescribed by law”.  They believe that Pontius Pilate’s enacting the death penalty against Christ demonstrates God’s approval for man to selectively kill other people.  Jesus’ proclamation upon the cross for forgiveness of those involved in ending his life seems to have been lost in translation or deemed unimportant, not even worthy of entering the discussion.

Discussions need to take place so that the current atmosphere of anger and ill-will can be released and the healing process can begin for a country that has been fractured by the quest of public figures, ravenous for attention and power.  Where victims are no longer being used as political pawns, but instead are supported by a compassionate community that allows them to truly heal through forgiveness and understanding.  People will once again be able to say whatever comes to mind without having to tip-toe around a mine field of egg shells.  Well, we all have our fantasies.


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