Did you watch last night’s GOP primary debate? I almost didn’t, and I still kind of didn’t, because uh, I forgot and leave me alone, I am an adult and I can forget whatever I want whenever I want. But I did watch the last 15 minutes or so, and managed to catch what was clearly the most horrifying moment of the evening. (Congrats, me.) It was the moment when moderator Brian Williams asked candidate Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, about his record when it comes to executing death row inmates. And when I say record, I mean that literally. He holds the record. Under his watch, Texas has executed 234 death row inmates. That is so many! Brian Williams asks a perfectly reasonable question, which is whether or not Rick Perry ever suffers from any feelings of doubt over this. Perhaps, you know, in the quiet darkness of night, away from the pressures of public office, is there ever some minor quiver in Rick Perry’s soul that might suggest that he is a HUMAN FUCKING BEING, and that the full weight of being partially but meaningfully responsible for the death of 234 people, whether that, you know, makes him feel weird. Short answer: no. Nope. Cool. Cool answer. But that wasn’t even the worst part! The worst part was before Brian Williams could even get the question out, the audience erupted into ecstatic applause over the simple stating of the fact that Texas had executed 234 people. EEEEEEEK!
Uh, guys? Guys! Stop doing that! Stop applauding the death of 234 people. It’s gross. You’re being super gross right now. (I do love how Brian Williams has to qualify the statistic with “modern times.” Because you have to. Because shit is straight up Dark Ages. Whatever. Clap clap clap.)
Look, I understand that the death penalty remains a hot button issue somehow. Even democratic politicians tend to feel compelled to say that they are in favor of it, and republican politicians, forget about it. And while Brian Williams’s question about Rick Perry’s reflective doubts and sleeping patterns in the wake of his murder-spree was reasonable on the human scale of things, no one actually expects Rick Perry to hobble himself in an early primary debate by poking holes in and questioning his own record. It’s just politics, baby! Hate the player and also hate the game! (Did I get that right? It’s from the streets, right?) But even if he understandably sticks to his guns, you can understand how some of us might FIND THOSE GUNS TO BE HORRIFYING. The fact of the matter is that there is absolutely no moral defense of the death penalty. There isn’t! We as a society have determined that killing other people is the worst thing you can do, and so to punish you, we are going to do the same thing right back? Didn’t we JUST SAY it was the worst thing you can do? I’m not even arguing for the abolishment of the death penalty. I think there are far more destructive and dangerous things going on in the world at this very moment (wars, mostly, but there’s a lot of gray area full of human atrocities in there that I also dislike. Gabe Delahaye: Against Human Atrocities). If enough people continue to agree that the government should murder people as a punishment for murder, then that’s what will happen. That is called DEMOCRACY. But you can’t say that it’s the “right” thing to do. You can only say that it’s what you’re “going” to do. (This is all assuming that the people we are collectively murdering are actually guilty, which has been proven many times to have not been the case, which is a whole other can of worms. A really sad and disturbing can!*) But here’s a thought: when we do murder people and when we talk about it in public forums, how about we show some fucking respect for the severity and seriousness of what we are actually talking about and SIT ON OUR FUCKING HANDS. Applauding? Where are your manners? Were you raised in a slaughterhouse?!
A friend of mine once suggested a really good solution to the death penalty debate. We would continue to have the death penalty, but the only way it could be carried out is by putting the criminal in a room with the families of the victims, and the families of the victims have to carry out the execution. Obviously, this is a great idea. It’s a bit macabre, yes, but it has the exciting thrill of vigilante justice that made Charles Bronson a household name. Moreover, it would probably actually mean a lot fewer executions. I think if people were actually forced to come to terms with what they thought they wanted, and the violence of it, they wouldn’t want it anymore.
Of course, the most baffling thing about the death penalty issue at a GOP primary debate is the fierce defense of institutionalized murder against the backdrop of having a contest to see who goes to church more. How does THAT work? There is nothing charitable, generous, forgiving, or empathetic about the death penalty. Oh, and then there is the whole, you know, how Jesus was KILLED BY THE DEATH PENALTY thing. Come on, guys. Use your noodles. Oh well. Forget it, Jakes, it’s Christian Death Penalty Town.
In closing, I rest my case.