Sunday, January 15, 2006

Execution of Clarence Ray Allen

As an opponent of capital punishment I am used to peeing in the ocean, so here is yet another anti-death-penalty snip that I find compelling, in a cute kind of way.

I grew up in the Seventies when the death penalty was abolished and folks dreamed of a kinder future. I couldn’t have been more than twelve when I first saw the poster in my friend’s big sister’s room (next to her Peter Max print). It read simply, “Why do we kill people who kill people to show killing people is wrong.” I have never once heard a pro-death penalty advocate successfully counter that simple logic. Then in the Eighties Reaganisms “Greed is Good” captured the zeitgeist and by 1988 the death penalty was back on the federal books.

Yet here we are in 2006. Why are we still executing anyone, let alone a half-blind, diabetic great-grandpa cripple the day after his birthday? His illnesses only highlight the barbarism of this medieval punishment. What happens on Monday? Maybe he tells the orderly (that he cannot see because he is blind), “No insulin injection today, thank you. I’m getting another shot tonight. And screw the diabetes anyway. I want a birthday cake full of sugar. Maybe wash it down with a real Pepsi. I always hated that Splenda crap.”
Yeah, I know. That's one less rotten sonofabitch the state has to feed and care for, so goodbye and good riddance. But my core objection, as usual, is not what the death penalty does to the perpetrator. It has to do instead with what it does to us, to me -- you and I. You, the reader, probably share with me the same feeling...that everything we know pursuades us that this guy had it coming, sooner rather than later. And it is that very impulse in me that I take to be a symptom of some sub-Christian part of me that continues to live. No, that is not completely true. It not only lives but rears its head triumphant, pleased that another worthy bastard is getting what he deserves. I came across one suggestion to think of this execution as euthanasia.

May God forgive me for these savage impulses. The execution of this old man takes out a miserable life that is more the creation of the state than any union of man and woman. The state fails miserably at parenthood. And has no feelings of regret about failures. And erases those failures without blinking an eye.

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