the life of
Stanley "Tookie" Williams
Oberg, TFF director
Lund, Sweden - December 9,
Moral leaders of our times - such as
those who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize - have
consistently been against violence in general and the
death penalty in particular.
If we kill a fellow human being, the
act can never be redressed. We can never say, I am sorry
if - later - it turns out that we made the wrong
The case of Stanley Williams is not
only about his guilt, but also about the doubts and
perhaps feelings of guilt you will feel forever as a
moral being: did he really deserve to die? What if I made
the wrong decision? How will I be judged for this? I am
stuck since I cannot make it good again.
Stanley Williams may have done very
bad things. We must think, of course, with empathy and
sorrow of the loved ones of those he may have done
violence to. But killing him will not make them less sad
or more happy. The victim needs, first of all,
recognition that the perpetrator has done wrong. And by
serving so many years in prison that is very clearly the
This case is also about the moral
power of reconciliation and forgiveness, about freeing
ourselves of the burdensome wish to seek revenge.
"Tookie" has obviously repented; he has inspired
thousands of young people by his from-bad-to-good example
to never go down the path of violence and destroy others
as well as themselves.
At some point a cruel deed has been
punished enough. At some point we must ask why some
people inflict cruelty on others. But we must never be
taken to just wish for revenge and, in a way, repeat on
them what they have done to us.
Gandhi said: "The principle of an eye
for an eye will one day make the whole world
"Tookie" deserves not to be killed
because he has repented so convincingly and because, if
you let him live, he can help many more to understand the
virtue and ethics of not doing harm to others.
Mr. Governor, before you make up your
mind, imagine yourself standing in front of Tookie with a
very long and sharp knife. Ask yourself whether you would
be able to kill him with it, spill his blood and see his
eyes the moment you do it. I don't know you personally,
but I cannot believe for a second that you would be able
to kill him by your own hands.
And if you can not see yourself do
that, then don't let anybody else and no medium take his
life. By saving his life - because that is what you can
do - you will join the moral leaders of whom this world
needs many more.
As Einstein once said about the
prospects of more violence - "Remember your humanity and
forget the rest!" I trust you will do so and set an
example for millions around the world.
Respectfully yours - and thanks for
Jan Oberg. PhD, dr.hc
Director of TFF
free articles &
TFF & the author 2005
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