Monday, November 9, 2009

A Pointless Death

It seems...well...a very long time ago. It was the end of 2001, and the denizens of Metro DC were having the worst season I can ever remember. The 9/11 attack on the Pentagon began it. It was followed by the anthrax attacks and the ensuing paranoia. And then, for what seemed like forever, there was one killing a day, every day, as the Washington area snipers carried out their brutal efforts at extortion.

I remember the fear, that tension that shimmered in the air, as hundreds of thousands of people looked over their shoulders into the darkness, or moved swiftly to their cars. It was a gnawing anxiety that none of us could shake. Our blinds stayed closed. My wife anguished when I'd go out at night for medicine for our kids. I remember the sorrow, as families mourned those murdered. And I remember the relief and exultation, finally, as John Allen Muhammad and Lee Malvo were finally captured through the valiant efforts of law enforcement.

Tomorrow, nearly ten years later and barring the unforeseen, John Muhammad will die. For all of the anguish he caused, and for each of the lives he ended, his life will be ended by my home state of Virginia. He will feel fear, and the sting of a needle, then nothing, then...

His death will serve no purpose.

For the city he terrorized, he is no longer a threat. The fear is gone. For the families who lost loved ones, the pain of their loss will not be diminished. And justice? Justice will not be served. He has only one life. How can his one death somehow balance out the lost promise of so many lives, and the anguish of all of those who mourned and wept? It can't. Will his death sentence dissuade others set on murder and mayhem? If we limit ourselves to Virginians, it doesn't appear to have had any effect at all at Virginia Tech. Or at Fort Hood.

It isn't that I don't believe that justice will be served for John Allen Muhammad. True justice awaits him tomorrow evening. But the actions of the Commonwealth of Virginia tomorrow are not what will bring that about.

If we were a truly Christian nation, we would understand that.