Google tossed this old post up to one of my referrals. I am reposting it although it is a year and a half old and some of the links are no longer active. Reading over it again, I recall how badly I was affected by watching a stoning video. I guess if the reader wants to see one it's out there to be had, but verbal descriptions are enough for me. Last week a family member rented the movie Blood Diamond and I had to find something else to do after seeing the savagery of how child soldiers are captured and trained.
So why repost this piece?
Because I want to remind myself and all who read it how close we are to our ugliest impulses. All are complicit. Stoning is not very different from other forms of capital punishment. Even if we as citizens don't personally participate, thanks to a modern, sanitized system, the final responsibility remains with us. This is especially true in representative forms of government. In totalitarian systems we might be able to blame a tyrant.
There is an online video of stoning linked at Pebble Pie. [Link no longer active] I started to watch it but stopped as soon as bloodstains appeared, so I can't report what is on the entire link. What I watched was all I needed. The person being stoned to death is bound in sheets, very much like a cocoon, then stood in a hole up to about the waist. The hole is filled in so there can be no escape and the arms remain bound. The stoning is performed by a crowd of people, presumably ordinary people who want to participate, using rocks, the size of which is also governed by Sharia law. Stones cannot be as small as "pebbles" which would have little effect (no play on words, I'm sure, for the blog host) nor large enough to kill the person with one or two blows, which would bring the punishment to an end too quickly.
This video is not just a documentary. It begins with warnings and other information that lean toward editorial comments, such as "Islam, the religion of peace." These ironic reminders appeared several times in the narrative lest the viewer forget what he is watching.
The images I saw were so haunting that I have been thinking about them for a day. I wish I had not watched as much as I did, but I have been thinking about the editorial screens as much as the content of the video. The comment screens are intended to underscore the savagery of what is being done, associate that level of cruelty with Muslims, and make peace-loving people cringe in horror that they are not even close to that level of barbarity.
After thinking about it, I have not come to that conclusion. As an opponent of capital punishment I find that video to be nothing more than another reason to remain strong in my opposition. As I have stated elsewhere, my objection to capital punishment is not what it does to the subject, but what it does to society, us - you and I, as executioners. In the same way that a very different value system practiced in countries guided by Sharia law seems barbaric to us, our own methods of executing criminals have isolated us from capital punishment in a way that most people cannot imagine they have anything to do with it personally.
A crowd of ordinary people casting stones is not very different from more clinical methods of execution. That execution is more easily understood as what it really is: society turning on one of its own for the protection of some greater purpose, whatever they imagine that purpose to be. We are a generation of meat-lovers but most people, except for hunters and fishermen, recoil at the idea of slaughtering even a chicken for dinner. As a recent link shows there are plenty among us who seem to have little problem with killing other people and celebrating what they have done, but those people are acting in the line of duty, don't you know. [Additional link May 11, 2007: This art "installation" by an Iraqi in America allows web visitors to fire paintballs at him day and night for a month. And they do.] [Followup LINK to the paintball story. Very revealing.] We have improved civilized behavior to the point that we have trained executioners instead of doing the job personally. Likewise, we develop trained warriors to kill designated enemies.
Spare me the indignation about stoning. The practice predates the New Testament. That does not mean I approve. Forms differ in the level of cruelty, but result is the same: society kills one of its own. We who are peaceful and loving have more civilized ways of expressing that love, don't we?