I listened to an episode of the podcast Criminal in the car ride on my way home from the cottage the other day. It was about a prison warden from Oregon who presided over two executions in the 90s, or 80s not really sure. What was most interesting, besides the fact that he is now an anti-execution activist, is how he framed the issue. He spoke of the traumatizing effects of carrying out an execution. Of how the state is creating murderers out of prison guards.
It is one thing to chose to kill someone but it is different to have that be a part of your job description. We have come to realize how brutal an effect this has on people in the armed forces and yet rarely is this mentioned in when we discuss execution. I am wholeheartedly opposed to execution. At first, when I was a boy pretending to have opinions of my own, it was because I live in one of the more left-leaning parts of the globe. But, now it is just too damn problematic – I know that is a bit milquetoast but it’s the truth.
I cannot wrap my head around justifying execution. There’s always another thing to think of. The frequent miscarriage of justices in the courts, the people involved, the fact that it will never undo what has been done, the cost, the PTSD, the barbarity of it. It is too difficult to ignore, too, that a society which murders its murderers does so with a hushed tone. It is never a proud day, when death is dealt by a jury and a judge.
I am reading Norman Mailer’s big book The Executioner’s Song and so I was already thinking about the topic before listening to that podcast. The book is awe-inspiring and one of the best I’ve read, though I’m only halfway through and probably being a little hyperbolic.
Perhaps the reason I responded to it is that Mailer shows how hard the central character Gary Gilmore’s fall is on the people – mainly women – around him. It crushes his girlfriend and mother. They could do nothing but see this man they loved disgrace himself and get into trouble over and over and over. It made me feel sorry for myself and the trouble I have probably given girls and my mother over the years. But anyways, it is worth the read and we should repeal the death penalty once and for all.