This is hands down one of the most engaging episodes of The West Wing ever made.
(See this page for more info on the episode.)
The substantive part of the episode appears to put capital punishment front and centre. This is an issue I feel strongly about and it is tempting to go off on a tirade using Gen 4:1-16 as a starting point, with particular focus on the ‘Mark of Cain’… look, there, I almost got started… will have to go into this later!
Back to the WW: what its really all about is personal responsibility.
Of particular interest is the discussion between President Bartlet and his boyhood Parish Priest in the Oval Office. Fr Tom asks the President if he would prefer to be addressed as Jed or as Mr President. Bartlet insists upon the title Mr President and then proceeds to explain why in an attempt to justify himself – he disassociates his personal decisions from those made in his capacity as the President in a transparent attempt to vindicate himself of responsibility for the execution that is occurring while this exchange is taking place… an execution that he could have stopped but for the political implications that he was unwilling to face.
From the finger-pointing between Adam and Eve over whose fault it was that they had disobeyed God, to Pilate’s hand-washing display prior to the execution of Jesus Christ all the way through to the modern home or board room… the unwillingness of each of us to take personal responsibility for our failings truly is a universal weakness that has endured from the beginnings of human history.
As I ponder this I’m reminded how beautiful and awesome is the mystery of the Incarnation. Christ was the first Man in human history to take responsibility, and it is only because God became one of us in this fashion that we can experience God’s Divine Mercy. It is now our privilege to be able to participate in Christ’s love by making reparation not just for our own sins, but those of others, for we are indeed our brothers’ keepers.