law, LDS, mental health, narcissists, true crime, YouTube

Lori Vallow Daybell is finally going to get her day(s) in court…

A few months ago, I read and reviewed a true crime book about notorious Mormon child killer, Lori Vallow Daybell. The book I read, The Doomsday Mother, by John Glatt, is about a woman who professed to be a devout Latter-day Saint. She was beautiful and charismatic… and apparently, she was also more than a bit crazy. Lori Vallow Daybell was, at one point in time, just a toxic person who did things like alienate her children from their fathers. She had her son from her second marriage, Colby Ryan, daughter, 16 year old Tylee Ryan, and her adopted autistic son, J.J. Vallow, and professed to be a dedicated, loving, devoted mother to them.

But then she got involved with Utah sexton and doomsday Mormon author, Chad Daybell. That combination– Lori’s high conflict, narcissistic, paranoid personality, mixed with the doomsday visions of Chad Daybell, proved to be deadly for her children, who were brutally murdered and buried in a pet cemetery on Daybell’s property. Daybell claimed to be preparing for the “end times”, and he wrote about his views in his books, of which Lori was a devout fan. Together, they would also bring about the death of Daybell’s first wife, Tammy.

Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, shot and killed Lori’s fourth husband, Charles Vallow. At the time of his death, Vallow was seeking to divorce Daybell, stating that she “had believed she had become a god-like figure responsible for ushering in the biblical end of times“. Cox claimed he shot Vallow in self-defense, and he was never charged for the crime. Cox later died of an apparent blood clot in his lung.

In February 2020, when Lori Daybell was arrested in Hawaii, and was later extradited to Idaho, she was deemed too mentally ill to stand trial. Now, she has finally been declared mentally sound enough to answer the criminal charges against her. After months of being confined in a mental health facility, Judge Steven Boyce, who had ordered Daybell to undergo treatment so that she could assist in her own defense, has declared her mentally fit enough to stand trial. She is now scheduled to be formally arraigned in court next week. She and her fifth husband, Chad Daybell, will stand trial together early next year.

A video reporting about Lori Daybell’s return to competency. Nate Carlisle explains this latest development.

The Daybells, who married in 2019, are being charged with conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder, in connection with the deaths of Lori Daybell’s children 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan, as well as Chad Daybell’s first wife, Tammy Daybell. Ms. Daybell also faces charges in Arizona for conspiring to kill her fourth husband, Charles Vallow, with help from her now deceased brother, Alex Cox. Mr. Daybell has already pleaded not guilty to the charges, while Ms. Daybell hasn’t yet entered her plea. Last month, Judge Boyce denied Chad Daybell’s legal team’s request to have his case separated from Lori’s.

At this point, not much has been reported about Lori Daybell’s actual mental state or what treatment she has been undergoing. I can’t even imagine what mental healthcare providers had to do to get Lori Daybell ready to face the charges against her. I would like to know how one is deemed fit or unfit in cases like these.

I remember back on June 20, 2001 (my birthday), when Texas mom Andrea Yates was in the news for methodically killing her five children by drowning them in a bathtub, I had some sympathy for her. Yates, by most accounts, was a good person before she finally succumbed to mental health ravages caused by post-partum psychosis. She was legitimately and obviously mentally ill, and she couldn’t help the delusions that led her to kill her children. Hers was a case that certainly warranted an insanity defense. I can’t even fathom how truly awful it must have been for her to restore her sanity. Andrea Yates has even been offered the chance to leave the mental hospital, but she has declined to go.

I’m not nearly as sure about Lori Daybell. To me, she comes across as a woman with a very long history of hurting people. She probably was legitimately mentally ill when she was captured, but was she that ill in the years leading up to her violent crime spree? I really don’t know. I made a point of not following this case when it was hot news, but I am now interested in watching how it will go. I hope and expect that Lori and Chad will spend the rest of their lives in prison. I think that would be just, in this case. Their crimes were absolutely horrific, especially toward poor J.J., who was just a kid and was probably tortured before he died.

Hopefully, she will be tried in January 2023, but it will depend on Lori’s mental state, and whether or not it deteriorates.

I’ve mentioned before that the reason I didn’t want to follow this case closely was because Lori reminds me a bit of Bill’s ex wife, although there are definitely some differences between the two women. Ex, at least as far as I know, hasn’t committed murder. But some of their behaviors are eerily similar. I realize that there but for the grace of God go we.

J.J.’s bio grandparents, who are from Louisiana, are waiting with bated breath for the trial. They can’t wait stare her down at the trial.

My best wishes and good thoughts go to the people who have survived the horrifying crimes allegedly committed by Lori and Chad Daybell. I can’t even fathom how absolutely horrific this must have been for them. I know they look forward to seeing justice done. Chad Daybell will face the death penalty, but the prosecution hasn’t yet indicated whether or not they will seek the death penalty for Lori. Generally speaking, I am against capital punishment, but I must admit that I won’t lose any sleep if these two get sentenced to death. That doesn’t mean I would vote for it if I was a juror, since I think the death penalty is wrong. But if either of these two happen to get that sentence, I certainly won’t be attending any protests or writing any letters.

I think Lori and Chad Daybell are very sick people… but they are sick in a way that medicine can’t cure. I hope they won’t ever see the outside of a prison again.

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law, memories, nostalgia, YouTube

Repost: Our “senior trip” to the Virginia State Pen…

It’s spring, and when I was in high school, that meant taking field trips. When I was a senior in high school, my government teacher, Mr. Eccleston, took us on a trip to Richmond, Virginia. This was something he did every year, although I’m pretty sure our class was the last one to go to the Virginia State Penitentiary. That’s because they closed the “Pen” in 1991, and tore it down. Here’s a repost of my 2013 blog post about my experience visiting Virginia’s old state prison… Meanwhile, I’m still thinking about today’s fresh topic.

Most high school kids go off to some interesting or exotic place when they become seniors.  I guess, in my case, the place my senior class went for the “senior trip” was exotic and interesting enough, though it wasn’t an overnight trip.  My senior year of high school was actually full of interesting field trips, to include a trip to a local medical school, where my biology classmates and I saw cadavers.  We also went caving, and visited the National Zoo in Washington, DC.  I skipped at least three other field trips because I didn’t have the money to go.  But probably the most interesting of all the trips we took was the one that took us to the State Penitentiary in Virginia.

Here’s an interesting talk about the former penitentiary, which was demolished just after our visit in 1990. If this subject interests you, I highly recommend watching this video. The speaker, Dale M. Brumfield, is very engaging and this is a fascinating subject.

The Virginia State Pen was a very old structure that had received its first prisoners in 1800.  If you click the link, you can see some photos of the place, which was eventually demolished.  It sat next to the James River in downtown Richmond, Virginia. 

In the spring of 1990, when we had our field trip, the Pen was about to be closed down.  There were still inmates there when we came to visit the place.  I remember how my classmates and I were each frisked, then shown into this huge cell block that had several tiers of tiny cells, which you can see in the featured photo.  The place was painted light blue and there was a smell of human filth, sweat, and detergent in the air.  The building was obviously very antiquated and unpleasant.  It definitely needed to be torn down or renovated.

Gazing up, I could see the huge windows allowed birds to come in.  They flew near the ceiling and probably mocked the inmates with their ability to come and go at will.  On the floor, I spied a dead mouse that looked like it had been there for awhile.  A heavily muscled guy with a mullet wore a wide leather belt with a set of handcuffs prominently displayed in a case as he led us through the facility.  He didn’t wear a uniform, though he obviously worked at the prison.

The inmates were in a different part of the prison when we visited.  I remember looking at the first big cell block, which was apparently vacated as inmates were transferred to other facilities.  We also visited death row, which had also been vacated.  Some inmates were in a yard nearby as we made our way to the death house.  They shouted and jeered at us.  I remember the death row cells were a whole lot larger than the ones in the cell block.  They had bars all around them and a lone television set was mounted on a pole that would have allowed all of the inmates to watch it.

At the end of the hall was the electric chair, which Virginia used to execute a lot of men until lethal injection became the preferred way to put condemned people to death.  Several of my classmates sat on the big oak chair, outfitted with heavy leather straps with big metal buckles.  I remember one teacher actually pretended to strap a couple of students in.  Back then, it was kind of a joke, but today, it seems kind of inappropriate and not that funny.  Virginia is a notorious death penalty state.  (ETA: Thanks to former Governor Ralph Northam, the death penalty was abolished in Virginia last year. I never thought I’d see the day.)

I remember after we saw the penitentiary, we went to Virginia Commonwealth University for lunch.  Two of my sisters are VCU graduates, so I was somewhat familiar with the place.  By then, I knew I was headed to Longwood for college. 

It was an eerie day… and probably the day that I first started to have ambivalent feelings about the death penalty.  

Edited to add in 2022: In his amazing talk in the above video, Dale Brumfield, talks about the kinds of crimes that would land people in the penitentiary. At one point, he talks about how Black men could be arrested and imprisoned for being caught on someone else’s property. They could get up to ten years for just appearing to LOOK like they were going to commit theft. As he was talking about that, I couldn’t help but think about the Ahmaud Arbery case, and how he was gunned down by three White men who thought he was a thief. It’s so sad that we haven’t evolved much since the early days of the Virginia Penitentiary’s history.

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bad TV, fashion, good tv, memories, nostalgia

The “facts of life” one learns while watching The Facts of Life…

A few weeks ago, I got a wild hair up my ass and decided to buy a few box sets of favorite TV shows from the 70s and 80s. I bought The Bionic Woman, One Day at a Time, and The Facts of Life. I’ve actually only seen a few episodes of The Bionic Woman, since it aired when we lived in England, and I don’t remember it being aired in syndication much. I did used to watch One Day at a Time when I was a kid, but missed the earliest episodes because I was too young when the show started, and then it really jumped the shark. I was a BIG fan of The Facts of Life, which was a spinoff of Diff’rent Strokes.

Most every kid my age loved Diff’rent Strokes, but I guess the powers that be decided that Charlotte Rae should have her own show. So they had her get a job at Eastland School, Kimberly Drummond’s boarding school in Peekskill, New York. Boom… suddenly, we had a successful sitcom revolving around the lives of girls who went to boarding school and wore frumpy uniforms all the time. The Facts of Life started off with a large cast of beautiful young girls with flowing hair… except for Molly Ringwald, of course, and Kim Fields, who played Tootie Ramsey, the token Black cast member. After the first season, the size of the cast was slimmed down, as the girls progressed through puberty and gained weight.

I loved the first few seasons of The Facts of Life. I liked it less when the girls were moved out of the school to work at Edna’s Edibles. Also, as is so common on shows about school, the students didn’t graduate on time. It seemed like they were Eastland students forever. And then Charlotte Rae left the show, and they brought in Mackenzie Astin, George Clooney, and Cloris Leachman. The last couple of seasons were practically unwatchable! I didn’t like it when the plot moved away from the school, though, because the school was so central to the show. Also, I think they made boarding school look like a lot more fun than it probably is in reality.

I kind of find the theme song annoying, catchy as it is. Alan Thicke and his ex wife, Gloria Loring, helped compose it, and Loring belts it out in an over-the-top, obnoxious way… not unlike the characters’ personalities.

But there were a few really good years on that show, I’m in the thick of them right now. The writers took on a number of ambitious topics that were very important in the 1980s. Imagine my surprise this week, as I waded through the third and fourth seasons, realizing that subject matter that was timely in 1981 and 1982, is still timely and important today. In seasons 3 and 4, The Facts of Life tackled:

  • suicide
  • abortion
  • book banning
  • underage drinking
  • rape and sexual assault
  • teen pregnancy
  • breast cancer
  • mental retardation (this is what it was called on the show, rather than one of the more politically correct terms of today)
  • physical handicaps (again, how it was described on the show)
  • racism
  • fanaticism
  • crash dieting
  • religion
  • sexism
  • cross cultural issues
  • bullying
  • adoption
  • marital affairs
  • teenage prostitution

The list goes on, as I have only just started season 4, and there were a total of 9 seasons before NBC finally pulled the plug. But as I was wasting the late afternoon hours yesterday, watching the episode about book banning, it occurred to me that, in some ways, we haven’t really gotten anywhere in the last 40 years. The plot was about how a bunch of parents got upset that their daughters were able to check out books like Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, which they felt didn’t promote the right message or values. I was suddenly reminded of the recent controversy surrounding the book, Maus, by Art Spiegelman, which has had the effect of causing a bunch of people to buy and read the book in protest. I read Maus a few weeks ago, passed it to Bill, who finished it last weekend, and just today, he took it to work to lend to one of his co-workers.

If I recall correctly, I believe I decided to read Slaughterhouse Five when I was in high school, in part because it was mentioned on The Facts of Life as a banned book. I knew I liked Vonnegut’s writing, having read his short story, “Harrison Bergeron”, in the 9th grade. Sure enough, I enjoyed Slaughterhouse Five very much. Then later, I decided to read The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, because it was a banned book. My love for reading continues today, although it’s not as easy as it used to be, as my eyes aren’t as young as they once were.

Ditto, the episode about abortion, which was about how the character Natalie, played by Mindy Cohn, made up a story about a girl at Eastland who had an abortion. The story had the whole school buzzing, and soon parents were calling, demanding to know who the girl was. Natalie was threatened with expulsion, until a girl told her that she’d had an abortion. Natalie could have told the headmaster the girl’s name and saved her job as editor of the school paper. But she came clean and admitted she’d made up the story, protecting the girl’s identity. As the credits were about to roll, the headmaster said that he was relieved to “know” that abortion wasn’t an issue at Eastland. Of course, the audience knows better. Forty years later, we’re still fighting over abortion.

I even learned something about capital punishment in France, watching The Facts of Life. The character Geri, played by Geri Jewell, is the cousin of snobby rich girl, Blair Warner. She has cerebral palsy, and works as a comedienne. In one episode, she develops a romance with the school’s French teacher. He asks out Geri, and she says something along the lines of, “I don’t want to get my head chopped off.” She was referencing France’s famous guillotine, which was used to execute people. The French teacher says that France did away with the guillotine in favor of hanging.

I was surprised to hear that the guillotine hadn’t been abolished many years ago, so I decided to look up the device’s history, as well as the general history of capital punishment in France. I was very surprised to learn that the last time France used the guillotine was in 1977! I was five years old! The man who was executed was 27 years old and was originally from Tunisia. He was also missing part of a leg, due to a tractor accident in 1971. He was put to death in Marseilles in September 1977 for torturing and murdering a young woman, and forcing a couple of other women into prostitution. Oddly enough, I actually visited Tunisia in 1977. We lived in England at the time, and went to Tunisia to celebrate New Year’s.

In 1981, then French president Francois Mitterrand declared capital punishment illegal in France. It was formally abolished on February 19, 2007. But, up until 1981, the French constitution actually dictated that anyone who was executed in France would be killed by decapitation, or barring that, firing squad. Never having studied French myself, I don’t know much about its history, other than what I’ve seen personally, heard about in the news, or heard from friends. I have had the opportunity and great fortune to visit France many times, which is something I never thought would have happened in 1982. It seems like France was especially popular in America in the 80s! Back in those days, people didn’t travel as much as they do now… or did before COVID-19, anyway.

Even Russia and Ukraine were subjects of The Facts of Life back in the 80s. During the third season, Natalie’s Russian Jewish grandmother, Mona, came to visit her at school. Mona said she was from Ukraine, even though the name of the episode was “From Russia with Love”. In 1982, Ukraine was still part of the former Soviet Union, which, in those days, seemed like it would exist forever. Natalie found Mona overbearing and annoying, but once she and the other girls got to know her, they found out that she was a fascinating woman with many stories to tell. Watching that episode, especially given what is happening in Ukraine right now, and after having read Maus, was surprisingly poignant. Mona references being confronted by a rapey soldier in a corn field in Ukraine, as the Bolsheviks invaded during the Soviet-Ukranian War from 1917-1921.

Seventy years later, Ukraine decided to leave the Soviet Union, and there’s been trouble ever since. I have never been to Ukraine myself, but I have a friend whose wife is from there, and still has a lot of family there. I know that he and his wife and children are terrified for them. It seems that history is repeating itself. At the same time, I have known some fabulous Russian people, thanks to my time in Armenia, which is also a former Soviet Republic. In fact, that’s where I met my friend, who was working there after having served in the Peace Corps in Russia, back when Russia was briefly less menacing.

I remember that The Facts of Life was controversial to some people, especially during its most popular years. My former best friend’s mother would not let her watch the show. I seem to remember her mom was against the show because she happened to see the episode during the first season that referenced marijuana use. The show certainly didn’t promote the use of marijuana, but my ex friend’s mom was very conservative. She didn’t want her kid exposed to anything she was personally against. I seem to remember my ex friend was often doing things behind her mother’s back, and she was a lot more “experienced” in things than I was. My parents, by contrast, pretty much let me raise myself. We used to talk about how different our parents’ styles were, and we agreed that it would have been nice if there could have been a happy medium. My parents didn’t pay enough attention to me. Her parents, especially her mother, were too strict and intrusive. On the other hand, I don’t think her parents used corporal punishment as much as my dad did.

One thing I have noticed about The Facts of Life is that the characters could be very annoying, as well as very funny. My favorite character was probably Natalie, who was quick witted. I used to not like Jo (Nancy McKeon) much, because she alternated between being angry and snide, and being “vulnerable”. Now that I’m older, I appreciate that character more. I used to like Blair (Lisa Whelchel) more, although I still like Whelchel did a good job with her caricature of a spoiled princess. Tootie (Kim Fields) was pretty much always annoying to me, although she was pretty cute in the first season. During the show’s third and fourth seasons, Tootie did a lot of shrieking and whining. Some of the clothes were pretty hideous, too. Especially the knickers and gauchos… they brought back sad memories of childhood fashions.

But mostly, I’ve just noticed that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I really have been surprised by how forty years after The Facts of Life was a hit show, we’re still talking about, and arguing about, the same things. But nowadays, we have many more than than three networks on TV, and audiences are more sophisticated. A show like The Facts of Life probably wouldn’t last today, even though the writers tackled some courageous plots back in the day. Maybe it would be a good thing for today’s youngsters to watch that show. Maybe they’ll learn its lessons better than we did. But really, the best seasons were the earliest ones… as is the case for most long running shows.

Well, I guess it’s time to wrap up this post and get on with my Friday. Last night, Bill made a “stuffed meatloaf”, which is a dish I cooked for him when we were dating. It was one of the many tricks I had up my sleeve that helped me win his heart. It came out of a great cookbook called Virginia Hospitality, which was a gift given to me when I graduated college in 1994. It was put out by the Junior League of Hampton Roads, and since I was born in Hampton, it really is a relic from my hometown.

My husband’s younger daughter is pregnant, and when Bill told her he was making a stuffed meatloaf, she said that sounded so delicious. She had questions about it. So I sent her a copy of the cookbook, which also has a great recipe for cheese souffles. Below is a link for those who are curious about it. It’s definitely my favorite way to make meatloaf. I’m glad Bill learned how to make it, too. I hope she enjoys the book. It’s a gift that is uniquely from her long, lost stepmother. She really doesn’t know me at all, but maybe a cookbook from my origins will be a place to start getting acquainted.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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law, politics, rants, Virginia

Virginia… turning into a place I don’t recognize! And that’s not a bad thing!

Yesterday, as the evening was turning into nighttime, a friend of mine shared a Washington Post article about my beloved home state of Virginia making a couple of very noteworthy changes to the law. The first change is that the legislature voted to ABOLISH the death penalty! That is HUGE news. Virginia has a history of being a very pro death penalty state. And now, it’s joining more progressive states that have done away with the barbaric practice.

I distinctly remember in twelfth grade, visiting the Virginia State Penitentiary in Richmond, just months before it was demolished. My government teacher arranged this field trip, which allowed us a tour of the prison, as well as a visit to what was death row. We saw the electric chair, and some of my classmates even sat on it. I remember touching it, feeling the hard wood and thinking about all of the men who had died sitting there. Sadly, a lot of people were laughing… including teachers. At the time, I didn’t consider the gravity of it. I was still pretty conservative and black and white in my thinking in those days. It kind of gives me chills, now.

The other change is that the legislature has voted to legalize marijuana. Again… big news! Marijuana is a legitimately useful drug for many people with medical conditions. It’s also potentially fun for some folks. While some people have issues with weed consumption, marijuana is, by and large, less harmful than either tobacco or alcohol are. Virginia is a big time tobacco producing state, so there’s a lot of money tied up in tobacco. But tobacco is not that good for anything but killing people. Marijuana, by contrast, may not be healthy to smoke, but does help improve symptoms in many medical conditions– everything from glaucoma to seizure disorders to multiple sclerosis to cancer. I have seen, with my own eyes, how CBD oil has helped my dogs who have had mast cell cancer. There’s no THC in CBD oil, so there’s no high. There’s only the benefits that come from the oil.

I enjoy marijuana. I have only had it a few times, and each of those times took place during a 2015 visit to The Netherlands. I probably wouldn’t mind using it for recreational purposes, but I am most excited that it will be used for medical purposes. That will help a lot of people. What’s more, potheads are usually much less violent than alcoholics are.

I looked at a few comments about these two revelations this morning. Most of the readers were very enthusiastic about them. One guy was upset about doing away with the death penalty, claiming that taxpayers shouldn’t be saddled with supporting convicted killers for life. I was a bit flabbergasted by that comment. Many people are under the mistaken impression that the death penalty is somehow a money saver. It’s not.

Consider this. A person who is sentenced to death is going to get an automatic appeal. Since a lot of the people who end up on death row are also unable to pay for their own legal defense, taxpayers end up paying for that, as well as the associated court costs. Death penalty cases often require more attorneys, some of whom have special training for death penalty cases. Attorneys cost money.

Also consider that death penalty cases usually involve DNA testing, which isn’t cheap. The DNA testing is necessary, since we want to make sure the right person is being held accountable, especially since innocent people have been executed or just put on death row in the past.

A person who is on death row also requires more security and special housing. That also costs taxpayers money. And consider that it often takes many years for death sentences to be carried out. I’m not sorry about that, since there have been recent cases of people being exonerated due to the evolution of DNA and other scientific testing. Imagine being sentenced to death in 1989 and being exonerated decades later. That HAS happened.

In the 80s, we thought we had state of the art technology. Obviously, we didn’t. Meanwhile, some poor person has been languishing on death row in prison for many years. How does one apologize for a mistake like that? Often, the wrongly convicted person sues and wins a settlement, which also costs taxpayers money. I don’t think they’re wrong to sue, either. I would sure want to, if I’d spent decades rotting in prison, in fear for my life, for a crime I didn’t commit. All too often, prosecutors are focused on conviction rather than actual justice. It’s fine to want to win a case, but it’s crucial to make sure the right person faces justice, particularly when it involves an execution.

The bottom line is, I only think the death penalty is appropriate in cases in which there is absolutely NO DOUBT of the accused’s guilt, no doubt that the person would kill again, and public safety is definitely at risk. Most death penalty cases don’t fit that criteria. So I’m glad to see that Virginia is going to abolish the death penalty… at least until someone comes along and decides it needs to be reinstated. But hopefully, that will never happen.

I noticed another person commenting about how Virginia now isn’t a “Southern” state, but a “Mid-Atlantic” state. Or, really, what he said in very excited, hyperbolic terms is that we should stop referring to Virginia as part of the South. He doesn’t want Virginia to be lumped in with the Carolinas or Tennessee or Kentucky, mainly because Virginia went from red to blue.

I kind of bristle when people say that. I am a southerner, and I was born and raised in Virginia. I don’t think that has anything to do with a person’s political leanings. A person can be southern and not be a Trump supporting, racist, sexist, redneck. The southern United States has an ugly past. Virginia was very much in the thick of it. Trying to whitewash or deny that past isn’t useful. Moreover, not everything about the South sucks. I, for one, miss southern cuisine very much… and southern accents, which I hear every time my mom speaks. I used to hear it from my dad, too. And I have read some thought provoking, imaginative books by southern writers, who have a way with words… and have listened to great music inspired by the South. Being southern isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

No, Virginia is not like Mississippi or Alabama or Georgia (which has also turned blue, though perhaps temporarily). I’ve been to all of those places… and there are wonderful things about each of them. And they’re all going to have the history of the Confederacy in common forevermore. Changing and denying Virginia’s culture and whitewashing its history isn’t going to change its past. Why not let Virginia stay southern while cheering on its progression into the 21st century? Why not recognize that there are some proud southerners who are not like the worst southern stereotypes?

It seems to me that turning “southern” into a dirty or pejorative word is kind of an antithesis to progression, isn’t it? Don’t progressives like to embrace inclusiveness? Aren’t we always preaching about tolerance? Isn’t it a sin to dismiss an entire region and culture based on the bad actions of a few? And aren’t there racists and backwards people everywhere? I mean, if a person doesn’t want to be considered southern because he or she is from Virginia, that’s their right. But I am not unhappy to be a southerner. I’m a southerner who doesn’t embrace the backwards and toxic history of my origins. That’s a good thing, right? I don’t have to divorce my heritage to be able to do that… although if I’m being technical, I’m not really American, either. I’m a European who happened to be born in the South. But that’s a topic for another day.

Anyway… kudos to Virginia. Maybe, if we ever get back to the United States, we will move back to the place that will always be my home.

Today’s featured photo is of glorious Goshen Pass near Lexington, Virginia. I took that photo during my latest trip “home”, in November 2014.

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law

Yes, I’m pro choice. I’m also against the death penalty. They’re completely different issues.

Yesterday, after I wrote about Lisa Montgomery, I shared a link to the post on Facebook. A pro-life friend of mine was surprised that I’d be anti-death penalty. She commented that it was a very “pro-life” stance. Although she didn’t mention it, I have a feeling she was surprised I’d be against the death penalty because I also support a woman’s right to choose whether or not she wants to continue a pregnancy. But she should not have been surprised. I think there’s a huge difference between someone waiting to be executed by the government and a person deciding to terminate a pregnancy for whatever reason.

I’ve actually written several times about this phenomenon of people conflating a person’s views on abortion with their views on capital punishment. I know most of my friends are smart enough to know that there’s a big difference between killing a person who has already been born and has a concept of life and death, and terminating a pregnancy, especially in the earliest period of gestation.

In my 48 years of life, I have yet to meet a single person who remembers what life was like in the womb. As near as I can tell, developing fetuses are basically unconscious until they’re born. No one I know remembers the process of being born, or even their earliest days after being born. That does NOT mean I think it’s okay to kill babies that have been born, nor does it mean I think late term abortions are appropriate in every situation. Fortunately, the data suggest that the vast majority of late term abortions are done in dire medical situations that involve the potential death of the mother or the inevitable death of the fetus. They are also exceedingly rare.

Only about 1.3% of abortions in the United States are done after the 21st week of gestation; they cost a lot, typically aren’t covered by health insurance, and there is a huge stigma attached to them. Personally, I think people should have a lot more compassion for women who have late term abortions. They are usually losing babies that they wanted, typically due to a catastrophic medical issue that, frankly, is no one else’s business. Most abortions done for less tragic reasons happen much earlier in a pregnancy. And that is how it should be. Abortions are always going to happen. Laws intended to restrict them do nothing more than force women to wait longer or cause them to seek alternative arrangements that may be unsafe.

I have a lot of reasons for not liking capital punishment. The main issue I have with the death penalty is that, in so many cases, there’s a chance (no matter how small) that the person being condemned is actually innocent. If there is even the remotest chance that a person is innocent, I don’t believe the government has any business putting them to death. To this point, I’ve heard many people say that we’ve gotten “very good” at determining guilt thanks to DNA testing and what not. I hear that… however, I’m sure that people in the 70s and 80s were sure they had the most advanced technology, too. And back then, they did– but as years passed, the technology advanced, and there have been recent cases of people who were put on death row being exonerated.

How does one apologize for a mistake like that? If they’re lucky, the innocent might get released from prison or at least put in a much less oppressive prison environment. If they’re not lucky, they’ll be executed. What do we say when that happens? “Oops? My bad!”

Another reason I don’t like the death penalty is because not only is it very expensive to implement, but it tends to give criminals a platform. Aside from that, many of the cases involving capital punishment are politically motivated. Some lawyer, judge, or politician wants to make a name for themselves, so they use a “tough on crime” stance to further their own careers. That’s not fair.

I know many people will ask, “What about the victims?” And I agree, the vast majority of murder cases are absolutely infuriating. I remember getting extremely wound up a few years ago over a case in North Carolina involving an elderly pastor and his wife, who was a college professor. Thieves broke into their home, robbed and beat the elderly couple, forced the wife to go to the bank and withdraw more money, then brought her back to the house. The pastor and his wife were tied up, then the criminals set their home on fire and left them to die. The pastor was able to escape, but his beloved wife perished. I was really angry about that case and I would not shed a tear if the men involved were executed. However, I also wouldn’t shed a tear if they spent the rest of their natural lives locked in a cell.

I believe that capital punishment damages more people than the person who is condemned. Most condemned criminals have families who will also suffer. There are also people involved in the actual process of executing prisoners who, no doubt, grapple with what they’re doing. Some of them don’t have a problem with executions, although I would submit that people who are that callous probably shouldn’t be involved with administering justice. I would hope that civilized people would want to see justice tempered with mercy.

And finally… regarding Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row. I wrote about her yesterday. Someone commented that maybe it would be kinder to execute her, given her lifetime of mental illness, anguish, and pain. I was a bit taken aback by that comment. It’s one thing to administer a mercy killing on someone in great pain who asks for help dying. We all have to face eventual death, and sometimes it really is a kindness to help people die with grace and dignity. It’s quite another to observe the life of another person who has already been born and assume it would be kinder to kill them because you’ve judged their lives to be worthless. That’s getting a bit close to Nazi territory for me.

So– regarding abortion– I think it should stay safe and legal. I think women who are considering them should be encouraged to have them as early in a pregnancy as possible. That’s because developing fetuses are a part of their mother until they are born, and it’s her body, her life and health on the line, and her name on all of the medical bills. And I don’t think a person’s religious beliefs gives them the right to force another person to give birth.

Regarding capital punishment– I believe a person who is already born and has a concept of life and death is not the same as a developing fetus, who is unaware of what life and death are. We should never execute anyone unless there is absolutely zero doubt of their guilt and it’s a matter of public safety, rather than advancing someone’s political career or getting revenge.

So that’s how I can be “pro-life” and “anti death penalty”.

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