There are certain subjects I know to avoid in my daily conversations with Russians. Mostly because I don’t have the vocabulary to eloquently present my position, but also because our paradigms on some issues are just so different. Take marriage equality for example: a person’s right to marry a consenting adult of his or her choosing is something I strongly believe in, but in Russia homophobia is still so wide-spread that it’s hard to even convince many people that homosexuality is natural, and not a threat to Russia’s diminishing population, nevermind discussing marriage rights. So I avoid this issue, because discussing it only upsets me.
I had no idea that capital punishment was another topic I should be wary of until a few days ago. I’m not an active advocate against capital punishment, but mostly because I’ve never lived in an American state where it’s a legal punishment. In general though, I think it’s expensive to tax payers, ineffective and inhumane. It’s been banned in Russia since 1996, when Yeltsin made changes to appease the Council of Europe, and I’ve used Russia’s ban as an example of how backward the U.S. is in debates with American friends. So, when a Russian colleague said to me, “you have the death penalty in the US, right?” I quickly said “yes, in some states, but I’m really against it.” I was not expecting the inquisitive “why? I’m definitely for it.” I received in response.
It turns out, according to a 2009 survery at least, that about two-thirds of Russians would like to lift the ban on capital punishment in Russia, because they think it would lower crime rates. Most likely Russia’s political leaders have continued (and reinforced) the ban for international political reasons, but I have to say, I completely agree with бывший/будущий президент (former/future president) Vladimir V. Putin when he firmly stands against capital punishment and says it is not the answer to solving high crime rates.
Today, I happened upon this article about a kind of entertainment industry around capital punishment in China. Interesting stuff.