Thoughts On The Execution of Tim McVeigh
I get asked every so often if I really hate people as much as I appear to (yes) and why. Today is a perfect example of WHY I laugh when people say "The American People are smarter than we give them credit for." George Carlin reminds us to think about how dumb the average person is...and then remember that half the people on the planet and even dumber than him.
Today I got up to get ready, and one of the things I do when getting my shower and doing what little I can to make myself look presentable is to have the TV in my room on...mostly so I can get the weather and any big news headlines. I knew better than to have the TV on today. We've got an execution that The Today Show has been ready for about 3 months...and death is ratings after all, and ratings sell more toilet paper and air freshener and cars and mutual funds. So, the networks and their advertisers were expecting a ratings bonanza, which is a sick way to think about it. The death of a human being, brought to you by Snuggle fabric softener.
I remember the scene when Ted Bundy was executed...people tailgating, frying up "Bundy Burgers" on their grill saying they make the well done just like Bundy would be. Deep Frying "Bundy Fries". Yep, that's our fellow Americans, on TV treating an execution as if it were a playoff game. And yes, people were holding up the John 3:16 signs that are ubiquitous at sporting events anymore. About the only thing that was different (since both feature people saying "We're going to kill them") was that no one was selling foam fingers...probably because they couldn't think of a way to make an electric chair look like a finger.
I didn't want to put up with that this morning. Or any morning to be honest. I know that capital punishment is so popular in the US that it's not even a political issue anymore. The only thing done about the inequities in the system (well documented everywhere but in the US) is that they have called a halt to it in Illinois to look into why they have had to release people on death row who somehow had the bad taste to be innocent. But it's not going to go away when being against it can kill a politicians career, and being for it can make a local politician a national one. It's an issue that you either can't win if you are against it, or can't lose if you're for it.
I don't think capital punishment is a good idea, and not for any of the reasons that get tossed about by most people when they argue this.
Yes, I work in corrections and I KNOW that it's not a deterrent because nothing is a deterrent. People who commit crimes don't think about the punishment, because they believe themselves to be so smart that they won't get caught. But that's not why I'm against it.
My line of thought is: Do you really want to give a government to right to kill its citizens?
Sure, now it's only murder and rape that will get this penalty, but what about political beliefs?
Think it wouldn't happen?
Look at how we went fanatical about Communists in the 50's and how they were called traitors and accused of treason in Congress by politicians needing a re-election issue.
Then remember that treason is punishable by death.
Think you're safe? Maybe you are.
Nixon wanted to have all war protesters classified as traitors. Being a traitor is punishable by death.
That was 30 years ago.
Then think about the bill that comes up once in a while that would give the death penalty to drug dealers. Sure, drug dealers are evil, right? No one would ever come out in favor of drug dealers.
Then think about how the crimes we want people to be killed for are less and less about a measured response to a crime and more and more about punishing the re-electable ill of the day.
Then tell me you really want to government that is driven on creating crises and never quite solving them to have the power of life and death.
What Timothy McVeigh did was the kind of misguided evil that deserves more examination than a party and people singing "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead." He was manipulated by a system and a group of people who make their living of saying that the government is evil...while using the tools of that government to earn their living, or worse, get jobs in that government, running it and STILL coming home every 2 years to say that the government is evil and must be stopped and if you elect me, I'll do that.
McVeigh took his Army training, the propaganda he was fed, and decided it was time to start a war. He thought he would touch off a revolution, causing people to see the righteousness of his cause and join him.
In many ways, he is clinically insane, not knowing right from wrong. Like all fanatics, he feels that his cause is beyond good and evil, and not subject to the laws of a system he sees as corrupt. I won't get into about how I feel that killing him does nothing but make him a hero to those who would follow, and won't prevent a damn thing because that's not the issue today. "Capital Punishment is a deterrent" doesn't work with suicide bombers, fanatics and martyrs. In those cases, you are giving the criminal exactly what they want.
I thought that we were not to give criminals what they want.
The sheer caveman-like glee people are taking in his execution is understandable. Ill informed and primitive, but understandable.
Even National Public Radio, usually a bastion against such things, was covering this story with very little room for any other news. I knew better than to tune in to a commercial radio station, as we all know that their morning shows would be covering this, without the practiced solemn tone of even the FOX network. Since they can delve deep into the monkey mind and let fly with the caveman's "Kill him! Destroy him and burn the body so we can stomp on it!" in the same way that they caveman through interviews with strippers, attacking people who don't fit their demographics and looking through the "News of the Weird" column for cheap toilet gags.
No, I listened to NPR, whose anchors were calm, sedate and almost respectful, remembering that 168 people have already died for McVeigh's cause.
As I pulled into the parking lot at my place of employment, the warden came out and made the announcement. I stopped my car, grabbed my things, feeling a bit numb, remembering those who had already died, and hoping that no more would die in this "Crush the liberals, resist so we can have guns, remember Waco and Randy Weaver" bullshit that sickens anyone who reads the facts of the cases without emotion. If these martyrs had had drugs instead of guns or been black instead of white, we wouldn't have had the building in Oklahoma City blown up by a pissed off white guy who things the government tracked him and wanted to take away his right to have an arsenal. They wouldn't have even been martyrs, but a 10 minute segment on COPS or another report on the local news about how dangerous the drug trade is.
I just wanted to come in to work, do my job and not think about how a man had been murdered in my name. That's right. Before he was killed, they say, "In the name of the people of the United States of America, you are to be put to death. Do you have any last words?"
Sorry, warden, you didn't speak for me. I wanted him shoved in Charles Manson's cell for 20 - 30 years until he's no longer a martyr, but a sad, weak old man with a crazy plot in his fevered head...a warning to us that there are people who can use their insanity to end lives instead of someone who was killed by a government he felt was going to kill him anyway.
But as I grabbed my lunch and my briefcase, I saw someone sitting in their car. I wouldn't have noticed them if they hadn't yelled out their window "Ya-hoo!". I watched as they shook their fist in the air as if their team had just won the Super Bowl.
And I thought to myself that I just can't stand humanity.
People cheering for death. A president who claims to be a born-again Christian and takes the Bible literally...except for the book of James which says "Do not repay evil with evil. Vengeance in mine, sayeth the Lord" because it would get in the way of allowing executions. Those who say that we are too hooked on instant gratification wanting to end a life NOW because we don't want to wait to see what all the evidence is. Those who scream and cry that human life is precious, saying we need the death penalty because we don't want to PAY to feed and imprison people who's crimes we feel are the ultimate evil currently, making them decide the financial worth of human life.
We've given the criminal what he wants, we've given his followers a cause and we've shown the world that once again, we are all the bad things they have said about us.
We're number one.
We're number one.