This past summer, I had the opportunity to sit on a Toronto panel of chaplains and religious figures addressing a range of legal/ethical questions – organ transplant, contraception, battlefield ethics and more.
When the discussion turned to the death penalty, another panelist criticized the American use of capital punishment. An Anglican priest took the opportunuty to mock the American practice of giving medical treatment to prisoners on Death Row.
Part of me was upset because her point was morally repugnant – to suggest that prisoners should be allowed to suffer because they are going to be executed anyway is absurd, and would amount to legalized prison cruelty.
But part of me was upset as an American, taking her knock on the government and criminal justice system personally. The setting was wrong for calling her on it [the context was a talk with a group of Canadian, Israeli and Arab medical students – not the time/place to discuss America-bashing], so I had to let it go. But I stewed after that one for a long time.
I'm still surprised by how strongly I reacted. I am proud of much of America, but as someone who has wanted to make aliyah for the past 20 years, and as someone who has a decent degree of cynicism about American government and its system of justice, I would not have expected to take her comment so personally. Go figure.