“The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword…”

“…If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.”

“A ruler who hides behind paid executioners soon forgets what death is”

— Eddard Stark. Game of Thrones, by George RR Martin

This is one of the most powerful quotes I have read in my entire life. It has influenced much of my views and thoughts on bravery, hypocrisy, and cowardice. To think that every day we cower behind people to do our dirty work. To think that we are all hypocrites in this way: too afraid to do what we think is right with our own hands. To think that we watch bombs drop day and night on people across the globe and call it legitimate, while too afraid to do it ourselves. If we cannot bear to bring death to others with our own two hands , then perhaps those we think are worthy of death do not deserve to die.

Unless Obama was willing to explode a young teenager with his dad knowing that that was the only way to kill his father. Unless Bush was willing to shoot everyone of the hundreds of thousands people his pawns shot with his own AK-47: the innocent women, children, cripples, and clergymen that had no involvement in anything or no inclinations to violence. Unless President Bashar Al-Assad took chemical weapons with his own hands to fight the rebels of his country, or unless Mao Zedong lit fire to villages with his own matches….perhaps those people did not deserve to die.

The thousands that have been executed under our court systems, many of which died because of racism, failed court rules, or mistreatment from society, were executed behind paid executioners. The judges and the juries that sentenced them, perhaps, have forgotten what death is. The American Presidents that ordered massacres of villages and assassinations of children, perhaps, have forgotten what death is, just like the British Prime Ministers or the Saudi Arabian Kings. People like you and I, who voted in favor of this war or the other, or served in the military of this country or that: perhaps we have forgotten what death is.

Let’s not play the blame game, or equate this political leader to that one. Let’s not fight over things that happened decades ago or judge people for decisions you and I couldn’t make better. But let us remember. If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.

And I don’t know about you, but I cannot bear to do that.

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