Thursday, January 04, 2007


As we rapidly approach the date of the Christian “Epiphany,” I cannot help but think that this past week, the modern world had had what should have been an epiphany of a very different kind. The Epiphany, which is celebrated on January 6th, is supposed to be the day when Jesus was revealed as the Christ by the three Magi (wise men) and was baptized. But the word has come to mean any sudden flash of tremendous insight. And believe me, what was witnessed in Iraq involving a rope and a dictator should have been at least a wake up call, if not a full blown epiphany, to all who were paying attention.

Yes, we finally have seen the raison d’etre for the glorious Iraq War: our invasion has resulted in the death of a “berry, berry bad man,” as Seinfeld’s Babu might say. In truth, Saddam Hussein was worse than just “bad;” he was a butcher who slaughtered thousands and indulged himself and his sons in numerous sick ways. I wouldn’t compare him to Hitler, and indeed, he obviously served his purposes in keeping a Pandora’s Box tightly closed, but it is difficult to sympathize with him. He was a bully, a murderer, and a tyrant.

And yet … is it just me, or was there something sick about seeing the man executed, let alone executed in front of a cheering crowd?

Everyone seems to have a problem with the execution. The Administration didn’t like the “timing.” Some of my more conservative friends thought that it was too painless; they would have preferred torture instead, perhaps something Medieval. And then there are people like me who for some odd reason don’t care much for capital punishment. Somehow, we all seem to be gathering around the same position: what happened in Iraq was ugly. It was wrong.

I wonder if he want to learn from our collective reaction.

I appreciate that there exist more and more people calling for torture these days, but I’m confident that over the long haul, our society isn’t heading in that direction. Where, then, are we headed? To supporting capital punishment, but only in situations where we have been really, really deliberate about precisely the best time to kill? Or to opposing capital punishment under any circumstance – even when we’re dealing with a jailed former-tyrant? I’m getting the idea that this, or any other public execution is a reminder to many that maybe, just maybe, the anti-capital punishment crowd should be taken seriously. Viscerally, I think most of us look at such executions as ugly, horrible events, and we’ve been told countless times that they don’t deter crimes. Why then should we encourage our government to sponsor such things? If we’re not willing to choke a man to death, or give him a lethal injection, why should we countenance it when others do our dirty work for us?

Reflecting on the execution of Hussein, I’m reminded of the so-called “pro life” movement in the United States. They talk about how life is sacred – from womb to tomb. And yet most of these people don’t hesitate for a second to support capital punishment. They all but question the manhood of anyone who doesn’t. But why? What does that say about their commitment to the sanctity of life? Are they saying that only “innocent” life is truly sacred? Because if they are, I’d have to retort that who among us is truly innocent? Few people may be murderers, but many more are either rapists, crooks, perjurers, drug dealers, etc. Should we execute them too? And if not, why not?

Ultimately, these conservative “pro life” types appear not to be pro life at all. Rather, they are (a) pro fetal life, and (b) pro retribution. It’s a very different message, and I have to say that it is a whole lot less compelling than the consistent “pro life” position. Supposedly, the Catholic Church falls into that latter category, but from where I’m sitting, the Church goes crazy about fetal rights, but gives the capital punishment issue lip service at best. Frankly, precious few prominent people have spoken out passionately against capital punishment lately. Heck, few Democratic politicians seem to care enough about the sanctity of life to wax eloquent on this issue. Then again, they probably hadn’t witnessed a lot of public executions before cheering crowds.

Personally, I’d like to consider myself pro life. I’ve never cared for state-sanctioned executions. (That’s right, Bernard Shaw, I wouldn’t even kill the guy who hypothetically raped and murdered Kitty Dukakis.) Moreover, as a vegan, I extend my principles to not wishing, needlessly, to take animal life either. But as much as I am pro life, I am also pro choice. It is one thing to counsel people against abortions, or to educate people day and night about the need to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy; it’s something else to turn those who are determined to abort into criminals who must face dangerous coat-hanger type procedures. That’s not pro life; that’s pro injury and possibly death (in that case, to the mother).

I really don’t know how many were educated by the horrors of seeing a jubilant public execution. But if anyone got the picture that the event was barbaric, then that bastard didn’t die in vain. I, for one, would like all state-sanctioned executions to be performed publicly and in front of cheering crowds. Let’s get all the raw emotion out on the table. Let’s smoke out our own sentiments. Let’s grapple once and for all with the question of whether we are really Pro Life or just Pro Hypocrisy.

[Note: You now should be able to make comments to this blog, though there will be a bit of a delay as to when they are posted, because I will be screening the comments. Feel free to disagree with me. Believe me, I’m only censoring the real trashy, ad hominem stuff that has no business being on the Internet. If you want to send me trash, send it in a private e-mail, and don’t mark it “anonymous.”]

1 comment:

Finding Fair Hope said...

It's not that I don't want to comment on your blog, or even that I can't, since you've fixed it -- but I'm finding difficulty disagreeing with you!

The bizarre element of Saddam's execution was his apparent dignity in the face of his executioners, who behaved abominably. It was as if, in his mind, he had defended himself at his trial -- and had a few people who disagreed with him executed on the sidelines, had "paid his debt," and was willing to accept the final consequences, and here was his enemy before him, being vengeful and childish, while he comported himself with the grace of a statesman.

This is not what anyone wanted!