Arguing capital punishment in the boxing ring

I'm giving a boxing lesson to my student Tim.  He came over from England a few years ago and runs a public relations firm.

Tim is an amusing chap who cracks me up.  He's a chipper bloke.  I've been to England many times, and always felt at home there.  I like Englishmen.  I sometimes wish that America didn't revolt against England.

Tim is as bald as Yul Brynner and has the sense of humor of Rodney Dangerfield.  He is fifty years old but has a youthful humorous glint in his eye.  I would teach him boxing for free just to crack jokes with him.

He is strong.  Brits are often strong and courageous.  They're stoic and take a good beating without complaining.  When London sends boxing teams over to Gleason's, they always fight with a lot of heart.

Before we go out to box, Tim says out of nowhere, "I'm beginning to believe in the death penalty."

"That's surprising for a Brit," I say.  "You guys always pretend you're sympathetic to murderers unless they kill your daughters."

"I don't have a daughter."

"Good.  You don't have to worry about sacrificing her to the Syrians in Munich."

"What troubles me," he says, "is when they execute an innocent man."

"Who cares?  One innocent man here and there?  What about the thousands of innocent men, women, and children who get killed every day in the cities?  What about black-on-black crime?  What about Obama's home town of Chicago?  Isn't killing one or two innocent convicts worth possibly saving thousands of victims of crime?"

"I don't know if the death penalty would save the average citizens."

"If it saved one innocent, it would be worth killing the felon," I said.  "The innocent's  life is worth more."

"I don't know."

"That's because you're letting your liberal Europeanism dominate your logic.  And don't forget that murderers spend twenty years on death row before getting  executed.  Their victims die in a minute and don't get to live in jail.  I did two years in jail.  I liked it.  What do you know?"

"How would you feel if you got the death penalty and you were innocent?" Tim asked.

"I wouldn't care.  It would be more humane than being killed by a stranger in the street or suffering with cancer."

"But killing a killer will not bring the dead back."

"The purpose of punishment is not to undo the crime.  It's to balance the scales of justice.  It's retribution. It's to tell my child that if he were killed, the universe would pay back the killer.  I'd want that.  It does not do much good, but it balances the crime and just might (despite moronic criminologists) prevent another crime."

"I don't know."

"Why do criminals petition to stay on death row?  Because they all want to live.  Stiffen the punishments, and you might reduce the crime.  If it doesn't work, who cares?  You are only harming a killer."

My next student came in a bit early.  We nicknamed him Mongo because he is 270 pounds and looks like Alex Karras in Mel Brooks's Blazing Saddles.

"You guys want to spar each other?" I asked Tim and Mongo.

"Great," Mongo said.

"You want to get me killed?" Tim asked.

"You know I'm a big fan of the death penalty."

They suited up and got into  the ring.  Mongo is too strong for Tim, but the English know how to take a good beating and don't chicken out.

Tim lasted three rounds.  Pretty good.  He got wobbled a few times but not knocked down.  He's no spring chicken.  He's fifty – a lot younger than me, but so is almost everyone.  I'm sixty-eight.  I'm one of the oldest guys in the world who still gets in the ring and occasionally spars.  Can't do too much.  I still have some brain wave problems from the old professional days.

They got out of the ring, and Tim whispered to me, "I'd like to give him the death penalty."

"Now you're being honest," I said.  "Twenty years ago, Men's Journal printed a feature article about me where I said that I wanted to kill another fighter.  It's Aristotelian.  If we are to take something to the end, then killing is that end."

"I just got beat up by Mongo.  Do I have to listen to all this philosophy?" Tim asked.

"Why do you want killers to escape their punishments?"

"But I told you I'm changing my mind. "

"Well, then, next time I'll get you an opponent easier than Mongo."

"How about you?" he asked.

"Probably not," I answered. "I don't want to lose to a liberal."

"I'm not a liberal."

I looked over at Mongo and said, "Mongo, I'd rather die at your hands.  You'd give me the kind of execution Meursault wanted in The Stranger."