American Psycho

Two months ago, I observed the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, and noted that there are very limited circumstances under which capital punishment is wholly appropriate, Timothy McVeigh’s slaughter of 168 innocents being one of them. That view of the suitability of capital punishment has been reaffirmed by the mass murder earlier this month in Charleston, South Carolina.

I want Dylann Roof to be tried, convicted and put to death for what he did on June 17, 2015. I reject the argument that it would be morally wrong to do so. To the contrary, it would be immoral not to execute this skinny supremacist for his crimes.

The same punishment visited upon Timothy McVeigh (and, under obviously different circumstances, Osama bin Laden) must be visited upon Dylann Roof. He is a homegrown terrorist, a self-radicalized ISIS-style jihadist, a clear and present danger to humanity. He must pay for what he has done with his own life.

I accept the argument that putting Dylann Roof to death would be a form of vengeance; Politifact would absolutely rate that claim true. Of course, it would be an act of vengeance–400 years of vengeance. Considering what terrorists like Dylann Roof have done to black people, brown people and progressive white people over the centuries, that vengeance is more than appropriate. If the state puts Dylann Roof to death, it would be the textbook definition of a justifiable homicide, a necessary decision to avert an undisputed threat, a rational act of social self-defense.

Put yourself in the shoes of a black man or a black woman in South Carolina, or anywhere else in this country. Imagine if Dylann Roof was merely sentenced to prison, and managed to escape. Imagine if he had obtained another firearm, and once again found himself free to murder as many blacks as possible. Wouldn’t you prefer that the state prevent this possibility by putting him to death? Wouldn’t you prefer that the state save lives by taking his?

So long as Dylann Roof breathes, we can’t breathe. So long as he avoids ultimate justice, we are left with ultimate injustice. The wounds of Charleston will not be healed until a jury finds Dylann Roof guilty and an executioner puts him to death.

As I noted in April, I am not unmindful of the flaws in the death penalty as administered in the United States. I do not dispute the fact that some innocent men have been put to death. However, plenty of guilty people have been put to death as well–and Dylann Roof deserves to be on that latter list.

The question is always raised to those of us who support a limited application of the death penalty: “Could you do it? Could you be the person to launch the process by which a life is taken?” My answer, in this case, is simple: I swear to God, and I swear to the memories of the nine courageous black men and women in that church, that I would strap Dylann Roof to the gurney myself.

UPDATE: I have updated this post to remove language that failed to take into account Dylann Roof’s basic humanity. I apologize to our readers for the use of such language.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.