The Blind Executing The Blind

I’ve noted this to some extent in this space before: Just being alive these days and looking around can really allow a person to witness some mind-boggling bullshit. Take, for instance, the temporary stay on executions in two states this week.

It seems that the state of Florida went to put to death the some-would-say ironically named Angel Nieves Diaz, convicted of murdering the manager of a topless bar 27 years ago, and, as it turns out, killing a person has the potential to actually cause him a bit of discomfort. It took 34 minutes and two injections, and the autopsy later showed that the reason for the delay was the the initial needle pierce went into and through the intended vein, so the initial spurt of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide, and/or potassium chloride, entered his tissue, not his blood.

Following this case, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, fresh from watching his Daddy cry like a wimp over him, said he’d sign no more death warrants until we can decide whether killing a person by injecting three drugs into his body might hurt if it’s not carried out in a textbook fashion, or, um, even if it is. And, quite clearly exercising his rabid commie California values, a federal court ordered that state to “revamp” its system of state-sponored killing, calling the current state of affairs “unconstitutional.”

Am I a simpleton for thinking that whether it hurts or not is not the central ethical issue to be concerned with here? Isn’t it time for the United States of America to stop dragging its knuckles on this and to catch up with all the rest of the other “civilized” nations of the world by banishing state-sponsored executions into the trash heap to join slavery, virus-laden blankets, and wiping with pine cones?

A new compelling voice is speaking about this issue: Robert Meeropol. Meeropol knows a bit of something regarding this issue. He is the son of Ethel and Julius Rosenburg. He is also a board member on the Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, a victims’ rights group that opposes the death penalty. I heard him interviewed on what seems my perennial source, The Rachel Maddow Show, last week.

Meeropol offered what to me was the most compelling argument against state-sponored executions that I’ve ever heard. This barbaric practice only gives birth to more victims, he said (I am paraphrasing). It creates more orphans, more widows, more families who’ve lost siblings and children and cousins. More hauntingly, the state-sponsored killing helps the initial shit splattered by the initial crime to end up all over the faces of the criminal’s family members. People point at and fear relatives of the condemned. So, it would seem that an execution spreads the trial, conviction, and eventual sentence, on to the innocent, spreading stigma like E. coli in a Taco Bell crudette plate.

Ghandi is reported to have said that an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. Here we are in this country, stumbling around like Clarisse in Buffalo Bill’s basement, still splitting hairs about how and when it’s okay for the government to end an adult’s life. The official stance is that the act itself does not violate the Eighth, but if there’s pain involved, well, lock up the guillotine.

I personally oppose the “death penalty” among other reasons because it cheapens liberty in a country supposedly built upon the principle that liberty means more to us than life. But Jeb and Judge Jeremy D. Fogel have brought yet another to light: Our awkward ethical mambo regarding the issue makes us look like a bunch of damned fools.   

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