Utah recently approved "death by firing squad" as a capital punishment option, replacing the former procedure -- death by stabbing... which is still more humane than, say, being forced to watch the NBA All-Star Game or eat Totino's Pizza Rolls.
If I was on death row -- or, as it's sometimes called, "the Khloe Kardashion of the prison system" -- I think I'd prefer a round of bullets over lethal injection. Needles make me queasy.
I'd also be okay with the electric chair, as long as it has an outlet to recharge my cell phone. Hey, if you only have twenty minutes to live, that still gives you twenty minutes to text. If there's one last thing I need to do in the seconds left before I die, it's to invite all my Facebook friends to play Candy Crush.
The guillotine seems pretty quick and painless. Perhaps we, as a compassionate society, should bring back the guillotine. Though I'm not sure where you can still purchase a guillotine. I think they used to sell them at Radio Shack.
But here's the thing with the death penalty. (Though if it's "capital" punishment, it should probably be THE DEATH PENALTY. Lower case punishment is for misdemeanors. And our most vicious criminals deserve a comic sans font.) Americans have trouble separating the philosophy of the death penalty with the reality of our legal system.
Philosophically, I support capital punishment. Society does not need selfie sticks, non-alcoholic beer, and brutal murderers who are still breathing. The life of a serial killer is not precious. In theory, the government has the moral authority to enact the ultimate punishment. (Well, the "ultimate punishment" is an all-day 2 Broke Girls marathon. But the death penalty is probably in the top five.)
Some people argue that the state does not have an inherent right to kill people. That might be true. On the other hand, I'm not sure if the state has an inherent right to imprison people and keep them confined in a tiny cell, either. But, heck, we need to do something with these assholes. By living here, you agree to the rules and you recognize the legal authority to enact and enforce those rules. If you prefer to reside in a chaotic wasteland where anyone can do anything they want without consequence... well, then welcome to Canada.
One criticism of capital punishment is the possibility of putting to death an innocent person. And "life in prison without parole" is a fairer option. Yes, but life in prison brings with it the possibility of putting an innocent person in prison for life. And that ain't so great, either. Let's agree that innocent people should not be convicted of crimes. Yes, our court system is a mess. Fix it! But we can't base our system of punishment on the assumption that the perpetrator might be innocent. If that's the case, then prison should be nicer. Maybe paint the cell walls a fashionable lime green.
Spending years in jail is probably a harsher penalty than death. Dead people aren't consumed with the fear of getting pummeled in the prison shower by a gang of skinheads. Heck, I'm consumed by that fear... and I'm not even in prison. Death is kind of an easy way out. That's why murderers often kill themselves before they can be arrested. Death is more lenient than prison. I bet if you put a cyanide pill in front of every inmate in America, a large percentage of people would swallow it. Sort of like if you put cyanide in front of every person watching The Talk on CBS.
As justification for the death penalty, some people quote from the Bible: "an eye for an eye." Or maybe that's from Dr. Seuss. Either way, it doesn't really make a lot of sense. If a person kills and so their punishment is to be killed, then, logically, the punishment for drunk driving should be drunk driving. But I'm not sure how that would work.
In fact, there are many logical inconsistencies that surround capital punishment. Most states still offer death row inmates a "last-meal" request. Sure, you brutally tortured and murdered seven people and we're stripping you of your freedom and your possessions and your dignity and we're going to strap you into a death gurney and inject lethal poison into your veins... but, just to show there are no hard feelings, do you like French fries?
Trivia: In 2011, Texas abolished special last-meal requests after a prisoner on death row ordered a ludicrously complex meal (but didn't eat it). Wow. I think it's unfair to deny all evil monsters a special treat just because of one bad apple.
Thirty-two American states have the death penalty. Eighteen states do not. In Virginia, you can be executed for murder. But not in West Virginia. So my advice to psychopaths who are about to kill someone while standing on the Virginia/West Virginia border and who don't want to be electrocuted is to drag your victim a few feet east.
And here's another piece of advice for murderers...
It's good advice. The vast majority of inmates on death row are poor. Especially once their National Football League contracts are up.
In support of our current system, one could say, "Well, poor people are the ones committing the murders." Perhaps. And it's irrational to excuse any murder. I mean, if you're poor, you can steal a loaf of bread without killing the cashier. But I'm interested in why it's mostly the poor who are doing these horrible things. Are poor people just morally "worse?" And how would that explain Ryan Seacrest's enormous bank account?
Philosophically, I'm okay with the death penalty for murderers. But the problem is that society socially constructs the idea of "murder" in a way that puts poor people, once again, at a disadvantage.
When poor people kill someone, it's murder. When wealthy people kill someone, it's called economic freedom or it's the reality of war or it's a competitive health industry. Nobody on food stamps has ever been in charge of corporate environmental destruction. People in line at the food bank aren't the CEOs of companies caught knowingly selling dangerous and faulty products. Impoverished people don't deny health insurance claims. Profit-motivated military excursions are not the brainchild of the homeless.
There will never be an episode of CSI in which the villain runs a corporation that is- sort of legally- slowly releasing poisonous toxins into the air and in our food and water that make us sicker and sicker, subtly and over so many years that nobody really notices. But that guy is causing a lot more death than the brilliant-but-deranged janitor kidnapping college kids and surgically replacing their faces with pig snouts.
Despite what common sense might tell us, in the history of the United States, wealthy and socially powerful people have killed a hundred times, a thousand times, ten-thousand times as many people as have poor people. But powerful people don't get in trouble for their actions. And they certainly don't receive the death penalty.
People ask, in defense of capital punishment, "What if someone in your family was murdered? Would you want the perpetrator to die?" Hell, yeah! I'd want to kill him myself. On the other hand, I also support lethal injection for the bastard who cut me off in traffic yesterday. So I'm not sure I'm the best person to ask.
Luckily, most people don't have a close family member who was murdered. But I bet most people have a loved one who died before their time- from a disease or an accident or something other than old age. What if this person didn't have to die? What if, indirectly, this person's death was the result of unnatural forces, of the practices of powerful individuals? What would you like to see happen to the individuals whose greed caused your loved one to die?
In theory, the death penalty is a practical way to deal with social evil. And it also supplies food for our nation's cannibals. Unfortunately, we don't live in a theoretical society. We live in a world where people are not blind to race and economics, and where legal reality is controlled by those with power, in a way that benefits themselves.
Really, the biggest problem is not who receives the death penalty. It's who doesn't receive it. In a fair and just society, we're going to have to start executing a hell of a lot more people. Rest up, firing squads. You have a lot of work to do. Or we could just eliminate capital punishment. Whatever works best.