Soon after WW2 this true story was published, it may have been in Reader’s Digest. On a train trip to visit Herr General at his post, the wife and little twin sons of a German army general had by some mistake boarded the wrong train. The destination was a concentration camp debarkation point, where they were stripped naked and shunted off to death with the Jewish women and children. My initial reaction was one of horror that such a tragic mistake could be made, before the divine irony hit me.
Atrocity of horrors, a teenage boy, a college student and his older brother drop package bombs near the end of the Boston Marathon. Moments later they explode the bombs, killing and maiming innocent people. There is no nonsense about “alleged,” the two are recorded in the act, identified publicly, the older brother killed trying to flee, the teen apprehended. Now, months later, it’s not about “guilty” or “not guilty” but about a suitable penalty: death or not-death.
It isn’t about weasel-wording that he should be kept alive suffering in prison for the rest of his life it’s about death or not-death: should we kill him, or not? It isn’t about the cost and unfairness of appeals for the next twenty years while the public pays and the victims’ families wait for “closure” until the teen murderer passes late middle-age, it’s about death or not-death: should we kill him or not? Neither is it about humane and painless execution, it’s pure and simply about death or not-death: should we kill him or not? And it isn’t about Massachusetts has abolished the death penalty, this is not a state prisoner this is our national prisoner up on federal charges: should we kill him, or not? Should we kill him or not? Should we kill the boy, or not? This is our opportunity to decide, not about justice for a merciless murderer, a moot point,
but about America. Not what is he and what does he deserve, but what are we? For me, a conservative Southerner, this is a struggle. It is a struggle because I make it a struggle with myself every time I see contemptible human garbage executed for some heinous crime while bleeding hearts decry his suffering. The issue is not his suffering, but what we are, and my name is Isra.
On the same day America decides to seek the death penalty for that teen murderer, an American college student studying abroad, a girl my child’s age, is convicted for the murder of her housemate, an English girl the same age, in Italy. Italian jurisdiction, Italian law prevails: it is the third trial and there will be a fourth trial before it’s over. Dragging out more than five years with more years to drag, it has come to be not about evidence and facts and justice and reasonable doubt, but an angry international struggle of Italy against America and England against America, and an especially ugly imprint of anti-Americanism. Were it not so horribly, gruesomely tragic and true, it would be material for an Italian fire-drill comedy of errors. Everyone has an opinion: where do I stand? A father of beloved girls, my name is Isra. I would rather have lived in some other age than watch this nightmare.
My name is Isra. Isratom. My struggle is with myself, and I am losing.