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“I just think it’s tacky.”

Will Campbell, a folksy, down-home, and some would say, renegade, Baptist preacher often wrote and spoke about debating the death penalty one evening on a college campus. As I recall the telling of it, he was up against a sharp opponent so Will chooses to go first and say little so he finds out what his opponent plans to say. Will stood, mused, and said, “I just think it’s tacky.” And sat down. His opponent was a learned scholar and gave a lengthy argument in support of the state’s practice of killing its own citizens.

The debate moderator, then urges Will to come back up to the microphone and say more.

“Now, come on,” the moderator remarked. “Tacky is an old Southern word, and it means uncouth, ugly, lack of class.”

“Yessir. I know what it means,” says Will. “And if a thing is ugly, well, ugly means there’s no beauty there. And if there is no beauty in it, there is no truth in it. And if there is no truth in it, there is no good in it. Not for the victim of the crime. Certainly not for the one being executed. Not for the executioner, the jury, the judge, the state. For no one. And we are enjoined by a well-know Jewish prophet to love them all.”

An entry in the Ugly Lamp contest at the 2012 State Fair, makes a similar statement visually and at least one passerby responds to the exhibit when proclaiming, “This is disturbing.” We agree.

To see the names of our winners of the daily prize given away at our State Fair booth click here.

Video: River Birch Productions

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