alex lantsberg wideye at
Thu Aug 19 13:01:02 PDT 1999

....Another example of a left fetish is death

penalty. Opposing it made a lot of sense for the Left in the time of Sacco

and Vanzetti - but today this issue is mostly a shibboleth, a spirit of the

past struggle Marx talks about in the "18th brummaire" - which at best has

a marginal significance for the working class, but at worst alienates left

activists from working class who see this position as being 'soft on crime'

(rememeber that crime disproportionally affects the poor and the


But the death penalty also disproportionately affects minorities and the poor, so i dont see how that particular argument holds up.

the campaign to end the death penalty is a combination of symbolism and reality. the fact that the US is the only advanced industrial country (am i right on this?) that uses the death penalty is an extreme symbol of the dehumanizing nature of america's justice system. the reality is that the death penalty often ensnares the innocent, the poor, and the mentally ill.

but the right is also real high on symbols. look at the drug war. even talking about compassionate use of marijuana or needle exchange gets the response of "what kind of message are we sending our kids?" if that's not pandering to symbolism, then what is? it doesnt end there. the reactionary right says the same thing about sex education, gay rights, and evolution (listen to Tom DeLay).

Its plain wrong to discount the power of symbols. they define the foundation of our reality. what the left needs to do is actually have the symbolism link to reality based programs.

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