The years drift by; the seasons change yet they remain the same…
It is England, the late 17th century. It is a cold, damp, lead-gray late winter day but hundreds, if not thousands of people gather for a bit of entertainment. Vendors noisily sell food and trinkets doing brisk business. The crowd includes adults, the old and children; people of all social classes are here. They are giddy with anticipation.
It is Execution Day.
The star of the show is a person found guilty of “Grand Larceny.” He is a pickpocket convicted of filching more than 12 Shillings off of his victims (equivalent to a few hundred bucks in today’s money). It is during the time of the “Bloody Code” where a wide variety of petty offences were dealt with by the death penalty.
Today’s execution will be a hanging. This is before the introduction of “the drop,” where the hangman aims to break the neck of the convicted (and grants a near instant death, which has poor entertainment value). The pickpocket is lead up to the gallows and up a short ladder; the noose is fitted around the neck. Then the hangman pushes the condemned off the ladder and the body swings out.
The public now gets what it came for: 10 or so minutes of strangulation, the struggle for life, the Dance of Death.
But not everyone is transfixed by the scene; one small fraternity has their attention on other matters. They are pickpockets; the ideal place for them to work is executions since their targets are so engrossed in watching the petty thief die that they are oblivious to what the pickpockets are up to.
The Deterrent Value of this day’s state sponsored killing? Zero
Whenever I hear someone going on about the deterrent value of capital punishment I think back to the hanging pickpocket and I see how silly the whole notion is.
Let us leave this scene and wander forward to our era; what we proudly consider a more enlightened time.
For inspiration I went to George Carlin (late and very much missed comedian) on You-Tube doing his routine on the death penalty.
An interesting observation by him: The two things people are most concerned about are Capital Punishment and the National Debt. He proposed (tongue only half in cheek) combining the two by televising executions and balancing the budget by selling commercial time.
Have we as a society advanced so little since that day of the public execution of the pickpocket over three hundred years ago? Maybe yes, maybe no…
In a time where there are people advocating on the blogs all kinds of gruesome ends to “Tweakers;” just think how televised public execution would go down.
If capital punishment offers no real deterrent to our fellow citizens killing other fellow citizens then why do we indulge ourselves?
One word: Revenge.
Is the emotion of Revenge a reasonable cause to deliberately kill someone? You know, “Your Pa killed my Pa so now I’m gonna kill your Pa.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as emotional as the next fellow; perhaps even more so. When I hear of a killing I have the feeling, as many of you may do, that execution for these scum is just too good for them. I too feel the need for, the spirit of, Vengeance.
Right now we are in the midst of a Capital Punishment Season. Soon the DA will determine the potential fate of two alleged murderers. The DA has recently decided a third murderer will not be tried for his life despite killing two people over a young woman’s refusal of his drunken sexual advances (allegedly, keep that in mind folks).
The two others:
A man who killed a woman in Hoopa; then while he was still in the mood he ran over three women jogging on the opposite side of the road from him on Myrtle Avenue, killing one of the women and seriously injuring the other two. (Allegedly)
And a man who celebrated the New Year’s by (allegedly) torturing to death a Catholic priest.
The DA will soon determine whether the death penalty will be sought for these two (alleged) killers. Emotionally, my thoughts towards these two, if found guilty, are as dark as yours.
“Make the bastards pay!” says the less than warm and fuzzy side of me.
If one is making the argument, “the punishment should fit the crime,” then putting a needle in the arm of a convicted killer and putting that killer “to sleep” like a beloved suffering pet doesn’t sound likely to fill the bill.
We could reenact the original murder with the killer now the victim. Better yet, make the execution even nastier since we have to take into account the pain and suffering of friends, family and the community. Vengeance, Right?
Right? Then what would be the difference between us and the creatures we are trying to remove from our midst?
We can’t have REAL Revenge against a monster without becoming monsters ourselves. Society must stand above emotions like Revenge or risk descent into the darkest realms of its member’s imagination.
If the “rational” aim is to take a killer out of society then life imprisonment without possibility of parole works just as well (and is a hell of a lot cheaper). It has the added benefit of when the Justice System makes an error and condemns the wrong person we can at least say we’re sorry and let the victim of that error go free.
I am not claiming to be righteously inspired. I believe capital punishment is worthless; producing more problems than it solves. I’ll leave the moral “right or wrong” arguments to others.
All I am saying is: Before the inevitable screaming for blood, before we go down the state sponsored killing route yet again; we should think very carefully about where it is taking us.
I can hear it now: “We liked your funny stuff better.”
Standard Disclaimer: My opinions are my own and not necessarily those of the Tuluwat Examiner. I am not on the Staff of the Tuluwat Examiner. I don’t even know who these people are. But I have reason to believe they are really a group of Capuchin Monks (MONKS, not monkeys) who are trying to finance the distribution of their first album of Gregorian chants, “Doin’ it Gregory Style!”, by operating a progressive political blog.
Obviously, their Business Model sucks.