I am not a proponent of the death penalty for a number of reasons. Beyond the obvious objection to taking life is the simple fact that it doesn't help deter crime in anyway. To support the death penalty for me would mean asking society to do what I could never do for myself – fire the bullet, flip the switch, drop the rope or send the drug home. Such a sifting of responsibility is something that I consider highly unethical. Still, I realize that there are people whose crimes are so heinous and whose existence on this planet is so dangerous to the rest of us that they simply can never be allowed to live in the general population. Given that our societal institutions are crumbling faster than our roads and bridges, can any of us trust our prisons – particularly privately owned prisons – to guarantee that such people never reemerge in our midst?
Having expressed all of this, it is worth noting that what occurred in Oklahoma the night before last was not even the abomination of Capital Punishment. It was instead a state sponsored science experiment conducted for the political benefit of a smug and egotistical Rightwing harpy and a retinue of followers attached to her like head lice. It was unwillingly sanctioned by a cowardly court that caved under threat of impeachment and was carried out by quasi competent prison officials, one of which was masquerading as a medical practitioner and welding an intravenous line like a stiletto with which to administer a poisonous concoction of untried drugs that would give Edgar Allan Poe night terrors. I submit that it is horror shows like this played out on the international stage, as they always are, that has eroded our moral authority in the world much more than the so-called weakness of a president who generally prefers diplomacy to combat. What gives us the right to lecture China, Syria, Russia, North Korea or anyone else on human rights violations given what was done in the Sooner State this week?
When did people like Mary Fallin, the Governor of Oklahoma, become the moral conscience of this great nation? When did mean spirited “Christians” decide that the best part of God’s love is cruelty and punishment, and when did we decide to allow them to foul our public persona and political dialogue with their vile ethical perversions and religious rot? Is it through selection or apathy that we now find the generosity of spirit and the kindness of heart which give meaning to our Exceptionalism shivering in the cold shadow cast by the metastasizing financial malignancy that allows such politicians to slither in and out of office on fear and the largess of corporations?
It has been swelling for decades this symphony of corruptions. Reaching its crescendo with the Roberts Court, everything is corruption now. Our social and political institutions, our regard for one another, our respect for ourselves, our world view have all soured and gone bad like milk left to stand out in the heat. Money is the heat source and everything is for sale. One thing I know – when money is all you want, money is all you get. It is the only value we have left.
In the early and middle part of the last century when a Capo di tutti capi like Torrio, Capone or Luciano funneled unknown sums of money into political campaigns from behind closed doors it was called racketeering, bribery and graft. Today when men like Koch, Adelson and Walton funnel unknown sums of money into political campaigns from behind closed doors it is called Citizens United, Free Speech and Dark Money. The modern day Capo runs a corporation, usually has a neck and someone else carries his gun. His consiglieres, solders and enforcers roam Statuary Hall, the corridors of Congress and state houses all over this country bullying with money - buying influence and the politicians who peddle it.
The major difference, however, between the mob boss of the last century and today’s version is that Torro, Capone and Luciano never claimed to be saving the world, defending freedom or upholding a moral society. They were just selling vice to people who wanted to buy it. When they killed they did it out of pure self interest and for the good of the organization, making no pretense to the contrary.
Like it or not, the promoting of political power has a great deal in common with the selling of vice. Maybe because the way politics is handled post Citizens United resembles vice more than ever it resembled virtue. It is my belief that the ill thought-out, couldn't-get-it-done-fast-enough, gruesome killing of a death row inmate in Oklahoma on Tuesday was largely about self interest and protecting an organization. Perhaps when we stop torturing and slaughtering the truth we will be able to do the same for one another.