23 February 2006

Put to Death

Finally someone has a fresh perspective on the death penalty. Joan Ryan wrote her column just for me today. When I heard that the anesthesiologists refused to participate in the most recently planned San Quentin execution, I thought if we just went back to hanging, this wouldn’t be an issue. I oppose the death penalty, but I find interest in the nuances of the argument. We have reduced legalized murder to a sterile spectator sport. If more people could witness the raw death of a hanging or beheading perhaps they would rethink that vote. Photos of meat processing farms made me give up meat. 19 years later those images of sad cow eyes are still effective.

This man will be put to death. (Does that come from “put to sleep,” what we tell children when the dog is euthanized? Are we children who need some buffer from the truth?) Like Ryan, I don’t care too much about his pain. I think there was some merit in eye-for-an-eye punishments, I just don’t think we should go so far as murder-for-murder. But what about the family of Terri Winchell, mourning her for 25 years? And the murderer’s family, what of them? The survivors know raw pain and can’t hide their realities behind sterile sheets, simple phrases, or legal arguments. Ever since I could find the outline of Stella's foot inside my womb, I have had her brutal murder, her tragic accident, her kidnapping- in multiple forms -play out in my untamed imagination. These waking nighmares stike at any time, raise my heart rate, embarrass me. If they were real, I would want someone other than me or her to suffer.

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