Death Be Not Painless

I’ve always had a problem with the death penalty. Vindictive old cuss that I am, I’m still a little squeamish at the idea of a civilized society killing individuals in peacetime as a matter of justice. More importantly, I’m horrified at the very real potential for error given the irreversible nature this particular sentence.

That said, I also believe that states which use the death penalty should go ahead and do it, without the constant obsession over the most “painless and humane” means of execution. Here’s a clue: there is no humane and painless means of execution. The knowledge that one is about to die is probably the most painful thing imaginable for most human beings.

As Chief Gillespie said (yes, as a matter of fact I was inspired by an “In the Heat of the Night” rerun, thanks), the only way to execute someone without torturing him in the process is to tell him he’s forgiven, set him free, wait for the smile to cross his lips as he leaves the room, and then shoot him in the back before he realizes what’s happening.

I had an boyfriend once who was not a vegetarian, but who would only eat ground beef or sausage, because it didn’t “seem like” part of an animal. The touchy-feely approach to the death penalty seems a similar contradiction to me. If you’re going to kill people (or eat meat, or have sex with members of your same sex, or practice copyright infringement, or whatever), at least have the goddamned balls not to delude yourself into thinking you’re doing something else.

Don’t blame the mechanics of the act when it’s the act itself that you really have a problem with.