In the days before we all got too smart there were Gods and Goddesses who ruled the day. But, like us, they weren’t particularly smart.
And, like us simple folks, they were known to have terrible dispositions, especially after sucking down too much of the grape. Umbrage was taken at the slightest infraction. Punishment was swift.
In fact I wouldn’t be the first person to suggest that maybe there never was a devil; perhaps it’s just G-d when he’s drunk.
I mean, we all know that Prometheus ticked off Zeus when he returned fire to man, from whom Zeus had stolen it. His punishment was to be chained to a mountain cliff. And every afternoon the eagle swooped in and ate his liver.
And then there was the one about Narkissos. He was so handsome he was desired by all the maidens. Yet when he rejected the nymph Echo he was punished. Narkissos was made to fall in love with his own reflection in the water. And thus died of a broken heart.
Ho-hum. Another one down. Sixteen million still to go.
I never thought the Gods were too harsh, even as these parables swelled into the many thousands. In fact, by today’s standards I’d have to say that, like us, even the G-d’s have gone soft and reluctant.
Some guy speeding his gas guzzler down the highway shooting me the bird? Thor should pulverize the piece of wasted protozoa with his mega punch sledge hammer.
Look, the dilemma we’re having these days is that everybody wants to be the boss, or king or G-d, but few are willing to make the hard decisions. Or most any decision — more than just the unpopular close calls at the plate. Or the ones that not only lose you votes, but cause you to lose your appetite, your wife, your kids. Even the dog figures a way to hang itself.
For instance, I am for capital punishment. And I am sitting here with some friends much more conservative than I am – which isn’t all that hard — trying to examine why I shouldn’t be. Because I don’t know if I really want to be so obstinate about something that I so viscerally favor.
I would even pay for the privilege of pulling the switch. In fact I have offered to. Years ago I stated in one of my newspaper columns how the mayor of Philadelphia could raise a lot of money: Auction off the right to the highest bidder to zap enough wattage thru a convicted killer to incinerate a week’s pile of city garbage.
But this emotional hurrah is clouding my thinking. A law, or philosophical resolution, must be the result of reason devoid of all emotion. Or so I am told.
I know that capital punishment is not a deterrent. Then again, it does deter that particular individual from ever killing again.
I know that if DNA testing hadn’t come along a double handful, in Illinois alone, of those wrongfully convicted may have been executed. And in the last 40 years over 130 people on death rows have been exonerated.
But I also recognize that imperfect people can never administer perfect justice. Yet with today’s criminal-criminal justice system we’d take something that even looks like justice. Remember, justice must not only be done, it must manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.
Here’s another problem:
According to a 2004 study by the Center on Wrongful Convictions, at Northwestern University Law School, the leading causes of wrongful convictions in capital cases in the USA are — lying police and jailhouse informants
Let me state that again: lying cops who apparently worry that there are graver consequences if they tell the truth, and jailhouse snitches who are no doubt licking their brass balls over the grand idea that the ‘truth’ will set them free.
Hmm…. There is no need for this to be problematic. There are two very simple solutions, here. All that is needed is for some pusillanimous bozo judge to institute them:
1) cut out all jailhouse informants. They’re predators.
2) Shoot the cop. If it is eventually learned that a cop lied: fry his ass; in the chair, immediately. Or, if he has already passed on to boot hill, let it be known before he testifies originally, that any lying later uncovered – even after his death — will result in his oldest living legacy being sacrificed – and sprawled over the hood of a Chevy like dead deer.
I also know there is a documented track record of District Attorneys around the country who have done anything to win a capital case — except reveal the truth. Since DA’s are presently exempt from being sued, remove their veil of protection. No one should be above the law.
My conservative friends sitting with me aren’t being very helpful.
Then again, why should they be? They are perfectly happy with sending men into the electric bug zapper. Mostly, I just want them removed from being a burden on our tax dollars.
It’s wasteful. I understand that it costs three times as much to finally send a person – after all his litigation and appeals — to the chair than it does to keep him incarcerated for 40 years.
There’s something wrong with that. And dumber minds than mine should have restructured and refinanced this debt a long time ago.
So why haven’t they? Nobody want the job?
It just doesn’t seem as if we’re focusing, here. I mean, the g-ds of old obviously had this punishment thing worked out to a science. Sisyphus forever pushing that rock up the slippery slope. Hungry lovers kept apart except for a split second at dawn or dusk when one or the other was turned from human into animal form.
The g-ds perceived the fragility buried in the shadowy recesses of each and every one of us. The heroic warrior Achilles had his vulnerable heel. And Midas suffered at the touch of his own gold.
So, in many ways, I think it has to be said, we may think we put a high value on human life. But what we’re talking about is merely our own overvalued life that we don’t want sentenced, or sent, to its death.
Because, look at this: In the last 10 years alone we have sent thousands and thousands of innocent soldiers to their deaths mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan.
These weren’t wars. These are manufactured economic opportunities. We are sentencing our young men and women to die for a lie: Weapons of Mass Destruction, for one. Just like the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam was another.
Not only in war but in a variety of pitiful acts are men and women sentenced to their deaths around the clock: Preventable accidents; mistakes; greed; envy; jealousy; poor judgment, and all the rest.
Our ineptitudes, our non self-regulated desires cause the death of people every day in every way.
Meanwhile, you can’t talk about the absurdity of capital punishment without reference to Mumia Abu-Jamal. For those of you who have been sick or abroad or drinking in Buffalo, Abu-Jamal is perhaps the worlds’ best known death row inmate. He was convicted for the 1981 slaying of police officer Daniel Faulkner on the streets of Philadelphia.
He was convicted and re-convicted. And sentenced and resentenced. Meanwhile, for nearly 30 years he has been sitting in his death row cell writing books.
If we don’t want capital punishment to be the 900 pound gorilla in our criminal courtrooms, then we should simply remove it from the books and install another justified punishment. You know, like in the old movie “The Dirty Dozen.” Those criminal soldiers who had been sentenced to die, but who returned alive from the mission impossible to kill Nazis, were granted their freedom.
Or, we must have alternative punishments that, like a good hanging, focuses the criminal’s mind. You know, misery. Like having to sleep with my ex-wife for the rest of his life.
We seem to be clogging up the toilet with this issue, because we’re afraid of what we might be flushing away. Is it worse for a person to be executed, or live out his life sentence in prison?
Of course, we must end where we began: What would the G-ds do?
We know they would sentence the murderer to a punishment worse than dinner for cannibals. But our problem in America is that we can’t decide on what is cruel and unusual punishment – for him, and for the rest of us.
And dats yDrewIS on DIS penal colony.