Now here’s some news that, in moral discourse, might be called a dilly of a pickle. Yesterday Florida executed minister-turned-avenging-hand-of-God Paul Hill, who in 1994 shotgunned dead an abortion doctor and his driver outside a Pensacola clinic. Now this Hill, let’s clarify, was a twisted sick appalling shite by any valid moral measure. He made it clear during his exit interview that Florida was actually sending him (via lethal injection) directly to his eternal reward in North Bosomofchristville. General ranting frothing outrage about Hill and his crime and the sort of biblical loopholes that make his kind of violent hypocrisy possible – let’s just take that as read. Toodle-oo, deadboy, right?

But dang! No. I oppose the death penalty, and oppose it more the more I learn about it. Much as I find Hill and his kind revolting and little as I think he deserves to live, murder codified, directed, and carried out by the state gives me the creeps just as much – albeit in a more abstract and complicated sort of way. But let’s also take the death penalty debate as read – it’s out there for you furrow-browed internetniks – and suggest that, given that the appalling Hill is a hero to, let’s say, thousands of righteous kooks, it’s a bad idea to make a martyr of this particular scumbag. Many people did in fact make this argument to the governor of Florida, but really, what are the odds of a Bush commuting an execution?

So let’s see, religion-motivated murder plus state-sanctioned murder equals the holy martyrdom of Paul Hill. Light a candle for St. Paul of the Unwanted Embryos, ye faithful snipers for Jesus, before smiting those wicked in your sights!

Yes, ain’t it just a real moral choke-pretzel. But wait, there’s more! For the foundation for the whole sad story is the immensely complicated abortion debate, which has polarized to dangerous and stupid extremes that, at best, ignore the various moral, developmental, civil, and scientific subtleties that deserve serious attention, and at worst, get someone killed, and that person’s killer killed, etc. The whole thing is an American morality play.

Who sanctions the beginning of life? Who sanctions the end of life? What if Paul Hill’s God isn’t there? What if there’s no hell to send Paul Hill to? Yeah, it’s a doozy.

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