Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Death in Virginia

By Capt. Fogg

What do China, Saudi Arabia and Iran have in common? The practice of executing prisoners; and both China and the US have extraordinary numbers of them. It's a condition we oft times associate with tyrannies, police states and governments at odds with the will of the governed. I can't say much as to whether support for the practice owes religious fervor for the passion with which it's defended against all evidence of the inefficacy of 'deterrent' and certainly China has far less of that than do countries without a state religion or those, like the US, that have an unhealthy yearning for one. I can be quite curious when that support stretches the boundaries of what is usually called civilized behavior to the point at which one perceives fangs and claws on the representation of Justice as well as the traditional scales and blindfold.

Virginia once was an important source for the sentiments and values that represented the best of the American revolution although the worst remained an institution there for a long lifetime after the Declaration of Independence. Slavery, witch hunting, the power of religion to make law, define the moral -- and the power to kill people have been subdued in practice if not in spirit. Yet, of late, I think we can see another effort to bring it all back, like buried ancient demons in some H.P Lovecraft tale. I think the so-called Tea Party is but another manifestation of the restlessness of our resident evil and so is the plain but cold blooded lust to kill Teresa Lewis for her complicity in the murder of her husband and stepson.

It's not just that the two accomplices who carried out the crime were spared being strapped to a cross and having corrosive chemicals pumped into their veins while she has been sentenced to death: it's also that she has an IQ of between 70 and 72. If she dies in Virginia's house of death on the day after tomorrow, she will be the first woman since 1912, when Ms Virginia Christian, a black teenager was broiled to death in the electric chair -- if we can call a 17 year old girl a woman. In that enlightened state, the entity with the motto "thus ever with tyrants," the tyrannical ability to kill human beings is tempered by things like age and mental capacity, and an IQ of 70 is considered to be the borderline between incompetence and fit fodder for the sacrificial altar.

In our day of major candidates for high office rattling about witches, masturbation and the wrath of god and even little mice with human brains, is it surprising that a one or two point difference (well within the statistical noise level) can be like a bank vault door sealing off mercy, decency and respect for human life? For those eager from the lofty vantage point of a 20 or 30 point difference it may seem so, leaving those with an additional 60 or 90 to wonder about the moral quotient of those who presume to educate the public and to pass judgment upon us.

Whether or not Mrs. Lewis spends the 40 years she has left in jail or ends her existence in Virginia's sanitized charnel house, the question will arise repeatedly and inevitably, as long as we continue to confuse justice with a system of accounting and allow it to be driven by public anger and prosecutorial polemics. The mad, the imbecilic and even the innocent will continue to die and the beast will continue to rage in the heart of America and our vaunted respect for life will stink of the grave.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)


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