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There's no sex in your violence

by anna at 11:46 AM on May 24, 2003

Somebody's going to get shot soon in Salt Lake City, Utah. Five gunmen will open fire on a shackled, defenseless man. How do I know this? Well, I'm psychic. But seriously, the state has arranged it. Evidently it's like, a Mormon tradition to punish killers with actual bloodshed. More astounding still, these guys chose this method to die.

This sort of thing irks death penalty opponents to no end. They get far more worked up over it than they do over lethal injection, electrocutions or even the occasional hanging (still an option in Washington, Delaware and New Hampshire.) And while I fully understand their emotional reaction, logically speaking, it's a fallacy. Surefire death via firing squad is more efficient and less likely to be botched than either of the favored methods.

Still, you can bet they'll turn out in droves to protest. They'll tote vigil candles by the crateful. They'll sing an off-key rendition of We Shall Overcome. Nothing will be overcome. These two will be shot on schedule. There'll be no Executioner's Song made about them either.

One wonder what manner of fits they'd pitch were Utah to follow the lead of our pals in Saudi Arabia; where the disgraceful practice of stoning remains a popular pastime. Hollering "God is great," maniacal Arabs hurl jagged stones at neighbors buried up to their chins in sand. God may be great but rest assured He doesn't condone this sort of savagery.

Afterwards they'll retire to their hovels to ride herd over their hapless harems and puff on hookahs. Tomorrow they'll lash an adultress or topple a wall onto a homosexual, or else lop off a thief's hand. Winona Ryder's lucky she lives in LA rather than Riyadh. 400 hours of community service may be a grueling ordeal but at least she's still got all her limbs intact.

You might have heard about the Taliban's variation. Under their tyranny, citizens were obliged to shoot their kin's killers personally as thousands cheered. It's an interesting self-knowledge lesson to consider how you might react under those surreal circumstances. I myself would probably flinch, because shooting someone who is kneeling before you begging for mercy runs counter to everything I've ever been taught. Same goes for shooting anyone, period.

Tim McVeigh's last words were some gibberish about remaining the master of his destiny until the bitter end. He never repented. To his credit, I suppose, he maintained some measure of dignity. Yet turnout for his vigil proved suspiciously sparse. More people turn up to see the woebegone Detroit Tigers play. Many more candleholders will no doubt show for the Utah shootings. Might this imply some degree of selectivity on the part of death penalty opponents, as if they're willing to make exceptions sometimes? Or perhaps everyone just had prior commitments when the US rubbed out McVeigh. But either way, the fact remains that they didn't show up.

I only dwell on such contradictory things when I'm feeling down. It must be this relentless rain. The sky is so weary that it no longer rains, it just mists.

comments (10)

Yes, Anna, the mist... down... lockheed too... dwelling, accentuating the negative... must stop buck here... this weather makes me feel downright immoral... They chose death by the gun anyways, hope they don't get shot in the face, it's gross, their jaws blow off but still open and close via neural shocks, even though they dead... no opinion right now on capital punishment. Too weak these days for any opinion. Don't die on me...

by LOCKHEED at May 24, 2003 2:38 PM

Though I'm not in favor of the death penalty, I think if you're going to kill someone it should be dramatic or somewhat public, to give some gravity to the event of taking one's life. I find lethal injection way too easy and sterile. It shouldn't be clean and easy to unnecessarily take away a life. Also, if death by firing squad takes place with only one bullet (common to load one live bullet among many blanks so that no one knows who fired the lethal shot), I bet death can still take several minutes for hits that are not absolutely perfect. Might as well load all the guns with live bullets. I'm sure it's irrational - but no moreso than the decision to execut in the first place.

by Chris at May 26, 2003 5:07 PM

At least as practiced in Utah, I think it's the other way around. Four shooters have live ammo while one is given a blank. Still, I bet you just know whether or not your shot proved fatal. And I agree with Chris but for different reasons. Heinous as it is, the death "penalty" is supposed to be a deterrent to other would-be killers. A more public, less sterile spectacle might prove more effective.

by anna at May 27, 2003 7:49 AM

Council Bluffs (my home town) was a founded by mormons on their way to utah way back when. so we are one of those towns that probably has more of a connection than your average bear. the mormon thing you are talking about is the idea that if a man commits murder he is denired access to heaven unless his blood is shed upon his death. that might be why these guys requested it, if they are mormons, they would want to be shot for that reason if none other.

Frankly, I'd rather be shot than electrocuted and lethal injection and gas dont seem real enough. gas is a torture because once the two elements are droped together, the room begins to fill and the inclination of the condemned is to hold their breath for as long as possible.

injection sounds humane and it probably is, but something tells me there would still be too much time to think and strapped to a table is just no way to go. bullets would work damn quick and the pain is really more theoretical than anything because you die so fast you don't have time to feel it.

by eff at May 27, 2003 10:52 AM

Does that mean that a Mormon that kills someone and is executed still has a shot at going to heaven? (at least in their theology)

Of course I've heard that a big part of the Mormon theology is praying for you dead relatives to get them into heaven as well. Perhaps the dead killers relatives will eventually get him moved up in the celestial pecking order where he would have no chance if his blood isn't shed...

by ChuckWoolery at May 27, 2003 6:11 PM

I've always thought that firing squads had one definite thing going about them: they're cheap. Imagine how much each use of an electric chair or gas chamber must cost...

by jean at May 28, 2003 12:20 AM

Axes are pretty much useable forever.
Home Depot sells them for cheap.
Four bullets, one blank, and five guys paid
by the hour for one guy? Nah. One guy with
a big right arm and a healthy swing. He can
practice at the slaughterhouse on cows.

by quicksilver at May 28, 2003 3:39 PM

There's always the guillotine, which those sanctimonious French used on someone in 1977. Then they held up the extradition of Atomic Dog, who mowed down an abortion doctor as his kids looked one, cuz the death "penalty" was possible.

by anna at May 28, 2003 6:24 PM

I learned in world history that medieval executioners were often drunk on the job, because killing people for a living was hard on the psyche. As a consequence, they often didn't swing hard enough, missed their target, or otherwise botched up, and it would take several hacks to get the job done.

by jean at May 29, 2003 2:27 AM

Use the next guy in line.

by quicksilver at May 29, 2003 1:08 PM

comments are closed