Death Penalty

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Thu Mar 4 16:20:52 PST 1999

Dennis R Redmond wrote:

> On Thu, 4 Mar 1999, J. Barkley Rosser, Jr. wrote:
> > Last time I checked, Russia still had the death penalty. I think it
> > also still qualifies as "an advanced industrial country," sort of.
> Hmm, I dunno, then you'd have to include Thailand, Brazil and other
> countries with industry as advanced. How about "dependently industrialized
> countries"?

A problem of rhetoric: how to utilize a popular cliche against itself without merely reaffirming it. "Industrialized" is a code word for "civilized" as that word echoes in the brains of Americans. And the problem is serious. Back during the Iran hostage crisis my students seriously spoke of Iran as "uncivilized," and many of them would not back down an inch when confronted with history. I think one could do a modern history of this part of American mythlogy in terms of a study of the comic strip Prince Valiant. Images in that strip from the 1930s contrasting civilized (and militarily undefeatable) "white" Prince vs. little savage mideasterners still bang around in the back of my memory.

So the implicit rhetoric, which can't be explicitly used, of "industrialized nations" is "Look it -- America is the only civilized nation that still uses the death penalty." If anyone could come up with a better rhetoric here they would give real help to the anti-death penalty struggle. The present rhetoric has a real racist edge to it.


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