Wednesday, January 9, 2008

What's In A Name?

When I was earning my BA in school I had to take a Business Ethics class. The class was split into 2 week sections where each section focused on a different ethical point of view. Themes like, if something is good for a majority of people involved, it's ethical. The end justifies the means. If something is bad for the environment, it's unethical. If even one person is harmed, the whole darn thing is unethical.

One of the main lessons I learned in that class is that so many things are neither right or wrong but sometimes both depending on how you choose to examine the situation.

The other morning my mom and I had a discussion about the controversy surrounding lethal injection as a method of execution in California which has been on the news lately. If you don't know, the method is being examined in the courts because two doctor's refused to witness (as required by law) an execution of a prisoner sentenced to death because it would be in direct conflict with their Hippocratic Oath. Of course that got people talking about "cruel and unusual" punishment.

My mom and I both go back and forth on our feelings about the death penalty. Sometimes we're all for it, other times we wonder how we would be any different from the criminals. On the one hand we would be different because we take a far more humane approach to executing someone by lethal injection rather than they would have if they murdered someone, and it's far more humane than say firing squad, lynching, or using the electric chair.

On the other hand, someone is still going to be dead when it's all said and done. If that in and of itself is considered cruel, then does the method really matter?

Depending on how you look at it, either the fact that someone gets killed is irrelevant, or the manner in which you kill them is irrelevant. I don't think either point of view is right or wrong. It got me thinking about how much of our viewpoint is guided by the definition of just one piece of the puzzle. Sometimes a small piece. So often we are so sure of ourselves and our own definitions, we fail to remember that other people have different points of view.. and it's OK. It doesn't mean they're wrong.. it doesn't mean I'm wrong. It just means we look at the same situation from different angles. We would all do better to leave it at that and cut each other a little slack sometimes.