Let me go on record here up front: In general I’m against death. In general, death sucks ass. It ends a life, squashes whatever potential for good might have been left, leaves zero chances for a person to learn whatever life-lessons they were supposed to learn while they were alive, or worse, to impart whatever life lessons they were supposed to impart while they were alive, and leaves family and friends “who are alive and remain,” to helplessly watch the dust swirl and feel just that much diminished.
A death due to disease sucks because the person who died probably lived out the last short days feeling like shit and unable to enjoy the time. A death due to suicide is worse, because no one knows what kind of torment the person endured before making that ultimate choice. Bill Maher quips, “Suicide is man’s way of telling God, ‘You can’t fire me! I quit!” It sounds funny, but it’s not. Fuck you, Bill Maher. It’s never funny, not fucking ever. He probably only says it because he’s not suicidal and, I think, doesn’t know what depression “looks like.” And, Bill, not that I’d ever expect you to cast a shadow on my blog, if you ARE depressed, I’m sorry, because I DO know what it looks like and I DO know what it feels like. It looks like my face in the mirror every fucking day I’m depressed, and it feels like I feel every fucking day I feel lower than lower-middle-class shit. If you ARE depressed, you’re faking it better than I can manage. Bra-fucking-vo.
I’m generally against the death penalty because I’m against death. But that doesn’t mean that if you decide my life, or someone’s I care about, is worth less than yours, and your wants outweigh other people’s rights, that I won’t sit in that jury and vote “Fry that guilty bastard!” on my slip of paper to hand to the jury fore-person. Everyone who’s talking loudly seems to be asserting that any death verdict by jury trial is bad. I’m not saying that there aren’t juries who’ve decided based on bad lawyering, bad evidence handling, smear campaigns against the accused, and the defense’s panel of “expert witnesses,” or bogus “expert witnesses” giving idiotic testimony for the state. There should be an appeals process that involves giving the evidence to a completely different group of experts for evaluation, and presenting both opinions on it to an entirely new jury by entirely different lawyers. But let justice be meted out by the survivors, not people who coddle rapists and murderers and insure their punishment is humane. A criminal’s rights should end as soon as the criminal sufficiently disrespects the rights of the victim(s). The punishment should fit the crime.
For an example of overblown punishment that doesn’t fit the crime, consider sentences for marijuana that are worse than for armed robbery or rape. What harm is there in some poor schlub buying marijuana for personal, recreational use? Is the marijuana user really hurting anyone, other than maybe him/herself? Then there should be no punishment. Let it stimulate the economy. Let them find a very mellow place to work, if they feel ambitious. I get that overdoses happen with other drugs, but I’ve never read about anyone dying from smoking too much pot.
A death due to murder isn’t ever OK; it’s ten trillion times worse than a stupid joke about suicide that offends me. But we sensationalize murderers; we give them fame instead of infamy. What we need to do is never mention their names, but keep on mentioning the names of their victims and whatever good the victims brought into the world. Erase the criminal from the collective social memory. And, erase the criminal, after the victim’s survivors feel they’ve reached a point of balance to their injustice and decide how to exact the rest.
Accidental death is sad, if it’s actually accidental and not brought on by someone else’s stupidity. But if it’s actually accidental death, not to be funny, I can live with that. The trouble is our culture of equivocation. We call selfish driving that causes a collision an “accident.” We call a selfish ass hole who causes whatever level of grief “a fellow human being who makes bad choices.” I say, fuck that. It’s not an “accident,” when it’s a deliberate action taken by one person against another. It’s not a “bad choice,” when it’s a crime. Here’s an interesting article, take a look and see how we deceive ourselves and other people, and how we are deceived.
“Accidental” death and other “accidental” crimes sound like things that could have been avoided by the victim. But they can’t, if they weren’t really “accidental.” “It was a total accident, your honor. I needed to get to my fill-in-the-blank so I drove poorly and asserted myself, and presumed the other person would yield their rightful right of way, but the other person decided to equally and opposingly assert themselves, and our cars accidentally collided.” Sounds like “he (accidentally) fell on my knife. He fell on my knife, ten times.” Doesn’t it? But of course, traffic “accidents” aren’t ever described by the defendant in honest words. Ask a drunk driver; they’ll tell you “it was entrapment. The cop was lurking near the bar or he/she would have never seen my driving choices as ‘improper.'”
“It was a total accident. I mistook that briefcase carrying all that money for my own, so I accidentally picked that up, and then, since I don’t keep a record of serial numbers on my cash, I mistook all that money for my own, so I accidentally spent that. And then, I did the same with all those credit card numbers and pins. Five hundred times. How was I supposed to know those numbers weren’t mine? Do YOU remember YOUR credit card numbers without looking?” Aww, poor thing, he made a mistake. Let’s send him home. He looks sad and repentant, but crisp and dashing in that suit and tie, and he did tell us he’d never do it again…
I sometimes wish there was a way to get out of the natural consequences of my choices. But it seems to always land squarely on me. Karma is a bitch, unless you’ve got a good lawyer or a fat bank account, or both. Karma is a bitch, because I’ve got neither. And life is a bitch, too. Because things fall apart faster than I can afford to replace them, and because things get dirty faster than I have energy to clean them. Life is a dirty, messy thing that falls apart.
Where’s the karma for the manufacturer who knew when his shit would fall apart, and for the lawyer who wrote the damned warranty for the shit that fell apart? It’s buried in piles of cash. Some people skate through life, and don’t deserve it. Other people struggle through life, and don’t deserve it.
The death penalty is right for the victim’s surviving circle. But death, otherwise, just sucks. The dust swirls around our heads. We’re left wondering what the fuck just happened. We’re left lonely. We’re left with the mess to clean up. And we’re left knowing it just wasn’t right, and we can’t actually have justice. There’s a psychic hole left in our hearts, and in our lives, and we have to figure out how to deal with that because it can’t be fixed.
Taxes are great, if they serve the purpose they’re collected for. But instead, they fatten congresspersons up into little doughboys and doughgirls, and the laws they write and the things they actually spend the money on fail to serve the greatest good. The common people are the victims, because not only are the criminals criminals, the lawyers who write the laws and spend the money are criminals, but they say it in different language, deceptive doublespeak, diminished-consequential-impact equivocation, until the common people are so confused they surrender.
In “The Princess Bride,” Inigo Montoya finally defeats his enemy after much suffering and grief. “Offer me anything I want!” And what does he want? Real justice. But because he can’t have it, he takes something just a little less than justice.
And in the end, he’s left dissatisfied because it didn’t make everything right. But at least there was one less selfish ass hole in the movie, making life harder for innocent people.
If I’m on the right side of faith, and there’s an eternity, I hope it does actually make everything just and fair and right. But I also hope there’s a fair amount of mercy available, because sometimes I’m the selfish guy. I admit I want what I want. Just not behind the wheel of my car or behind a gun or behind money, or behind doubletalk. I’m not that kind of selfish. (see what I did there?)