SPOTLIGHT ON:


State-Sponsored Violence


BY MAX OBUSZEWSKI


311 East 25th Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
June 25, 1997

Gov. Parris Glendening
State House
Annapolis, MD 21404
Fax: 410-974-5332

Dear Gov. Glendening:

In Neither Victims Nor Executioners, Albert Camus argues, "There is no suffering, no torture anywhere in the world which does not affect our everyday lives." This classic essay, which opposes the use of violence to gain political objectives, calls for an international code of justice "whose Article No. 1 would be the abolition of the death penalty."
While reflecting on the values espoused by Camus, I write to urge you to reconsider your decision to execute Flint Gregory Hunt. As a pacifist, I recognize killing to be wrong, whether practiced by individuals or by the government.
In a city like Baltimore, which is plagued by homicide and other acts of brutality, we must work extremely hard at conflict resolution and violence prevention. But an execution will only exacerbate the situation for those of us trying to alleviate the violence. When the state kills to teach that killing is wrong, a very confusing message, that the stronger may prey on the weaker, is sent to minds still developing moral values. And a decision to execute a prisoner exposes the state to being above the law.
As I write, I think of the Adolfo family who still suffer greatly, after twelve years, because of Hunt's heinous act of violence. So I resolve to continue to work at violence prevention to possibly spare others the trauma caused by the loss of a family member. And I urge you to join the anti-violence movement.
Vengeance should not be official government policy. Instead of sending Hunt to the gas chamber, you would better serve society by making a statement that you refuse to perpetuate the cycle of violence. Such a position could teach impressionable children that violence is not the way to settle conflicts and that revenge is counterproductive.
On June 12, at the Baltimore Museum of Art, I saw the classic "A Man for All Seasons," Fred Zinnemann's film about Thomas More's clash with Henry VIII over the break with Rome and the formation of the Church of England. More follows his conscience, despite attempts by associates, family members, foes and friends to persuade him to sign a loyalty oath. Today, we embrace the courage and conscience of Thomas More, which resulted in his execution, and abhor the behavior of Henry VIII.
The film is a classic tale of individual conscience against uncompromising power. I urge you to watch a video of "A Man for All Seasons" so that you can gain the strength to go against the grain and spare Hunt's life. Your wife and son should also watch the film, as Hunt's execution will stay with you forever and have a profound impact on your family as well.
Of course, it would be easy for you to execute prisoner #182-522, a former drug dealer and now a killer on death row. After his execution, your poll ratings might actually improve among those who think of you as being tough on crime. And you could dodge the moral issue by using that standard alibi-merely following orders.
But I beseech you to find the courage of a Thomas More and spare Hunt's life. Many Marylanders who recognize that capital punishment will not cure our crime problems would applaud this act of mercy. We would then ask you to be an outspoken advocate for the abolition of capital punishment and pursue a stance much like the one you have taken against gun violence.
As part of a campaign against state executions, you could stress a legislative program undertaking a holistic approach to solving society's crime problems, including adequate funding of drug treatment centers, improved educational institutions, living-wage employment opportunities and a plethora of conflict resolution programs available to all citizens. As you give my suggestions your consideration, let me leave you with the final sentence in Neither Victims nor Executioners: "...the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions."


In the spirit of peace and nonviolence,


Max Obuszewski


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This story was published on July 3, 1997.