Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Philosophical Tug-of-War over Death

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Philosophical Tug-of-War over Death

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods, Times-Union columnist

STARKE -- The people will come. If you hold an execution, they will come. And this isn't just any execution. This is a first -- the execution of a man who killed an abortion doctor.

So while Starke was relatively quiet yesterday, the primary hint of any commotion being business signs welcoming football fans, that will change today.

The death penalty and abortion will converge, bringing with them a media circus and an array of demonstrators who, for all their differences, have one thing in common.

They believe.

They believe in a lot of different things, falling on both sides of both issues and all kinds of chaotic combinations of the two. But they believe. Boy, do they believe.

In the past I have looked at all the passion surrounding executions -- one side holding candlelight vigils, the other counting the seconds until death -- and felt twinges of envy and guilt. Envy that these people believed so completely. Guilt that I didn't.

When it comes to the death penalty, I am utterly and profoundly ambivalent.

I looked up "ambivalent" yesterday to make sure this word describes how I feel. When I saw the definition -- "simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings toward an object, person or action" -- I nodded. That's exactly how I stand. Legs twisted like in a game of Twister.

It's not that I lack emotion on the issue. It's that my emotions are all over the board.

I have always thought of this as a character flaw. It's one thing to be wishy-washy when it comes to picking a favorite ice cream. But capital punishment?

This is life and death. How can you live 42 years and not be firmly entrenched on one side?

Through the years, I've tried. I started off trying to be against the death penalty, probably because that's where I sensed my parents, a minister and social worker, fell on this issue. …

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