I am firmly against the death penalty, yet I am also keenly aware that not only could I kill someone in the defense of an innocent--or myself (a sometimes-innocent)--but also, that I would be deeply conflicted if I were to face an actual, flesh-and-bone version of the ethical quandary so often posed as a hypothetical to philosophy students: namely, Could you kill someone if (a) he or she was already shown, in no uncertain terms, to be a murderer AND (b) if it were proven, positively, that killing him or her would save many innocent lives in the future?
If I'm honest, I'll admit I don't know how to answer that. The death-penalty-qua-death-penalty situation affords a comfortable space between the lofty atmosphere of Deborah's ethics and the sometimes gritty concept of justice-not-delayed. However, if I am inserted into the equation in a real-world sense--if I must do the deed, if I am to be the executioner--it is nowhere near as simple.
And once again, I find that Mill smacks into Kant. Meanwhile, the faces of those potential innocents saved? They float before a mother's eyes like pale and disembodied dreams--partly remembered yet surely there.
I believe justice was served yesterday.
UPDATE: Roger Ebert feels likewise, and on Twitter, he invokes Walt Whitman:
I am against the Death Penalty. I rejoice that Bin Laden was killed. "Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself." (Whitman)