Rep. Kristin Conzet (R-32/Rapid City) favored me with a Tweet yesterday. Yesterday she was one of three Republican legislators who voted against killing House Bill 1183, Rep. Steve Hickey's (R-9/Sioux Falls) failed attempt to repeal South Dakota's death penalty.
During the discussion in House State Affairs, Rep. Conzet said something about how she wasn't sure how she would square her feelings as a mother with the law. Not sure where Rep. Conzet was going with this thinking, I tweeted, "There's a difference between how a mother should act and how the state and law should act."
Later in the day, Rep. Conzet replied via Twitter, asking me to clarify and wondering how I could comment on what a mother should do, given that I am not a mother.
A mother raised me. I'm married to another. Regardless, never should the state act like one enraged, vengeful citizen.
I have previously rejected and continue to reject the idea that the unique life experiences of any citizen render her or his actions immune to the analysis and judgment of other citizens. We should all cultivate a sense of empathy sufficient to understand and comment the actions of our fellow citizens. If any group of citizens has unique experiences that we do not understand, the proper response is not to wall off that experience as an excuse for any statement or behavior but, to the extent that it is relevant to public policy, share that experience and make it understood so we can come to a common agreement and agreed course of public action.
But in case Rep. Conzet wants to maintain the position that men like me cannot comment on the prerogatives of women like her, then I look forward to the South Dakota Legislature ending all discussion of abortion until it is comprised of a supermajority of women who have experienced pregnancy.
Now more specifically to the comparison Rep. Conzet may have been making and the clarification she may have sought:
Clarifying: Child at risk, parent kills to defend: OK. Victim dead, killer behind bars, state kills for vengeance: not OK.
We restrain the use of deadly force to avoid irrevocable error and check our innate bloodlust. We excuse the use of deadly force in extremis, but we do not vaunt or cheer it. Under the social contract, we mostly surrender our right to use force to the state, but we permit the state to use that force only when necessary, and only in proportion to threats at hand. The state does not need to kill a convict in chains, behind bars, subdued by the full weight of the corrections system.
With her vote yesterday, Rep. Conzet perhaps signals that she agrees. Or maybe she just wanted the full House to get a shot at grappling with the death penalty before making her final decision. But she didn't appear to want to carry on the discussion with me: since my response last night, she has deleted her tweet to me... which is a bummer, since I really get a kick out of talking with our elected representatives... as ought we all.
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Yesterday's hearing on House Bill 1183 included a wealth of important, heartfelt testimony on both sides. The Legislature would serve the public well by posting a written transcript of the entire hearing. Among the quotes I'd like to see highlighted:
"The more politically ambitious the prosecutor, the more likely he or she will use the death penalty." —Mark Meierhenry, former South Dakota Attorney General, testimony to House State Affairs, Pierre, South Dakota, 2014.02.21.