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January 17, 2008

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What would any of us do? During a bygone Presidential campaign Michael Dukakis’s measured response to a hypothetical question about a heinous rape of his wife led to a quick freefall in the polls and his candidacy cast into the dustbin of history. Many felt that a visceral response would have established his “all too human” nature and not the automaton personality he presented. The 18 year-old in Texas, had he been one state removed (Louisiana) and had currently proposed legislation been enacted, might have been facing the death penalty for a crime other than murder. See Vivian Berger's article in the National Law Review . Is that a good solution to the crime of child rape? Some feel that since child rape often occurs within families, a death penalty for the crime would lead to under reporting of an already tragically under reported crime, as it is. Others feel that the threat of the death penalty would lead to quicker and easier plea bargaining and lighten the loads of overloaded court dockets. It is difficult to accurately know the future consequences of such a law.

What would I do? To conjure the possibility of such a heinous act visited on a person I love and wish to protect reduces my erudition to speechlessness and my spiritual tradition of forgiveness to an afterthought. Something in the gut boils and it is the classic dilemma of moral choice. The New York Times Magazine lengthy article on moral choices poses a number of questions and circumstances that make such a prediction for any of us a fool’s wager.

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