[Sorry about the hiatus – life called.]
I genuinely never thought I’d say this, but I am now convinced that the monster who executed this young woman in cold blood should, in turn, be killed as punishment for his crime.
Logically, I don’t have a problem with the concept of vendetta. I’m a peaceable type – I’ve never really been in a fight, let alone beaten anyone up – but if you were to kill one of mine, I would assuredly want to kill you or one of yours. Which would of course put me in exactly the same position as you – and so it would go on until there was nobody left, basically. The open-endedness of the vendetta is its major design flaw. In practice there is no equivalence between your loss of a son and my loss of a brother: each of them was a unique and irreplaceable person, and both deaths cry out for redress. Consequently each of us has a good and pressing reason for breaking the taboo on unregulated violence within our community – just this once, you understand… Vendetta corrodes community.
There are two basic approaches to managing the vendetta. At one extreme, it can be managed by the imposition of a superior authority – backed by the threat of superior force – on both parties: think of Mob feuds being halted by the intervention of a capo, perhaps with one final, sanctioned hit to balance the books. At the other, it can be replaced from below, by collective conflict-resolution processes which end in the imposition of penalties sanctioned by the community as a whole. The oldest Greek tragedy, the Oresteia, celebrates and re-enacts precisely this recognition of the corrosiveness of vendetta, and its replacement by sanctions imposed by a deliberative community.
These are two extremes; actually existing criminal justice systems have elements of both. The fundamental argument against the death penalty is that – as John Stevens unwittingly reveals – it moves us further from vendetta-replaced-from-below and closer to vendetta-managed-from-above:
the monster who executed this young woman in cold blood should, in turn, be killed
Should, in turn, be executed in cold blood by a monster. But our monster.
“For by art is created that great LEVIATHAN called a COMMONWEALTH or STATE” – ‘by art’, which is to say, by collective human will and intelligence and imagination. It’s a burden, and it’s a responsibility.