MY LETTER TO THE EDITOR of the El Paso Paper

Dear Sir or Madam,

The death penalty isn’t an easy issue to talk about. In fact, very few of us ever, truly, discuss or debate the issue. Why? Simply because, as you stated in your editorial, it is a “no-no” for dialogue, even on talk shows. Simply put, the death penalty is confusing, maddening and painful.

And this is the very reason the death penalty SHOULD be discussed.

The fact of the matter is that Texas executes more people than anywhere else in the United States; Texas alone is right up there with Iran, Iraq and China in terms of overall worldwide executions. Yes, there are people on death row who have done monstrous things, and, yes, they should spend life in prison with no chance for parole, but what about those executed with no voice or choice who were innocent? Shouldn’t we be finding ways to deal with the guilty in modern ways that don’t leave us with blood (or questions) on our own hands, as well? Aren’t we capable, as a society, of using our heads to find new answers to old problems and broken systems instead of letting others make our decisions for us?

This is why I agreed, as a musician, to spend one evening a month for twelve months traveling across Texas to get people for, against or confused by the death penalty to hear, talk, sing, cry and argue about it. Trust me, it wasn’t easy or fun. But, as a Christian, I couldn’t understand why there couldn’t be thoughtful, diverse dialogue so we could educate one another and, perhaps, find new ideas. After all, Christ is the greatest example of an innocent man being put to death….

So, when I asked some of Texas’ mayors to come out and speak, no matter what their stance, I was stunned that one of them actually responded AND began to attend. On his own dime and on his own time. That person was Mayor John Cook, and let me tell you why El Paso citizens should be proud of his involvement.

Here is a man who took an oath to lead a city and to make the best decisions for his constituents. And that is what he is doing: leading.
If, as you say, the death penalty is a “no-no” subject, then who better
to create conversation around this issue, and other “no-no” issues, except someone in a position to lead and get people to think? Isn’t that why
we call them “leaders”? Shouldn’t politicians be able to voice their
concern and, yes, even their personal beliefs so that we, as citizens, can be educated to make our own decisions? To what end do bland, non-decisive canditates with no positions on anything bring us, as citizens, closer to attaining the ability to think politically, morally and ethically for ourselves if they just agree with the popular agenda of the day?

It takes courage and conviction, patience and, yes, even wisdom to be able to see what could be a greater world for all of us and to share those
dreams and conversations. It’s easy to be a politician that just glides through their term and then waits for re-election. But it is the policy makers who challenge us to THINK that create change, growth and hope. We don’t have to agree with everything a politician believes, but
isn’t it refreshing to know what one of them is thinking?

As a paper, you are guaranteed the freedom to speak your mind because of our unique and amazing constitution. Because of our founding fathers—men who debated when diversity of thought was the order of their day–this same right should be extended to our current politicians, as well.

Whether you agree with Mayor Cook’s position or not, perhaps we can learn to be grateful that he has one. That alone takes courage in today’s society of sameness and followers.

Thank you for allowing me to share my feedback,
Sara Hickman
Austin, TX

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