Most people at the Fast and Vigil wear shorts and t-shirts with slogans like “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” or “I oppose the death penalty, don’t kill for me.” So when Dane vonBreichenruchardt walked up to the front table in a full suit and tie I looked twice. He had stopped to sign a petition against the death penalty after picking up some files at the Supreme Court.
When I asked his name, he whipped out a business card from his briefcase. “Bill of Rights Foundation,” I read, “Protecting our rights against Constitutional Contraventions.” Dane is a public interest attorney who says the death penalty is “a barbaric, totally irresponsible reaction in civil society…it is planned homicide.” A conservative libertarian, Dane has been opposed to capital punishment since his father taught him about the Nazis. Mr. VonBreichenruchardt Senior deserted the German army in World War II to fight in the Dutch and Norwegian underground against his own people.
“My father always said that Hitler was just a maniacal, incompetent boob except for his henchmen…Suppose no one did Hitler’s dirty work…And suppose everyone refused to put the needle in the arm of the people we execute,” Dane argued in a voice that re-affirmed the fact that he is an attorney. “People have to take personal responsibility for this barbaric practice. Don’t say the government ought to do something or pass a law—you do something.”
After hearing his words, I could not resist offering him one of my NCADP business cards. He gladly filed it in his briefcase. I also asked if he had any recommendations for furthering the abolition movement.
“You’ve got to look good,” he replied. I looked a bit confused so he explained. “It’s the anal retentive right wing that’s keeping the death penalty alive and they look at this stuff as fringe. The more they think they can identify with you, the closer they’ll come to seeing your point of view…I understand it’s hot, but it is possible to look professional in shorts and a polo shirt.”
Thursday, July 01, 2004
The Libertarian Perspective
Another report from the front lines of the 11th Annual Fast & Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty, again by NCADP's Kristen Bell: