This week in Arizona, an execution caused an inmate to writhe on the gurney, gasping for air for two hours before finally expiring. There’s debate about whether or not the man was actually in pain, but even outside of that conversation, there’s others claiming that even if he was in pain, the man deserved to be tortured for his crimes. There’s many who are even pleased at the idea that the man suffered. I’m one of those people.
But, because of the botched execution, the death penalty debate has once again reared its fat ugly white head. Is it cruel and unusual? Is it reasonable? Is killing a human being the right way to send the message that killing human beings is wrong? It’s time to ask those questions yet again.
Now, regardless of how you feel, it is undeniable that in the last 20 years the death penalty has gotten a pretty bad rap. Since the development of DNA evidence, 144 death row inmates have been exonerated. There isn’t a single study that demonstrates that the death penalty deters crime or affects recidivism rates. It costs the tax-payers more money than life sentencing, and many argue that families of victims rarely feel a sense of justice after an execution, and that their grieving process is actually delayed by waiting decades for the state to murder their relative’s killer.
But, we still need the death penalty. Why? Because it’s good and I like it. I like justice and I like seeing people die. It’s part of my faith and it’s a part of who I am as a conservative.
Often, when we talk about these botched executions, we forget the real victims: the people who were murdered by these killers in the first place. The people whose names I can never remember and whose families I have never spoken to or really expressed any sympathy for. The real victims are the people whose murders justified these executions that satisfy my conservative blood lust. They’re martyrs, really. I thank them for being murdered so I may see another human strapped to a table and injected with mystery chemicals by a marginally trained team of prison orderlies.
And often, we forget about all the positive effects of the death penalty. Sure, the death penalty does nothing in terms of actually bringing about justice, but just think about all the cool shit that wouldn’t exist without the death penalty. Think about all the great music and all the great movies. Here’s a quick rundown.
1. Ellis Unit One
Steve Earle is a treasure. Known to most as Bubbles’ AA sponsor on The Wire, Earle is an accomplished and influential singer-songwriter from Texas. Ellis Unit One is the facility that houses death row inmates set to be executed at Huntsville Correctional Facility, the oldest prison in Texas, where 500 executions have taken place since 1982. Earle is a major critic of the death penalty, and his inclusion on the soundtrack to Dead Man Walking was the introduction of many new fans to Earle’s work. If we didn’t strap people down to chairs and put a bunch of fucked up chemicals in their bodies until they were dead, a lot of people wouldn’t know about Steve Earle.
2. Ride The Lightning
The titular track from Metallica’s second album chronicles the final minutes of a death row inmate’s life as he awaits his execution in the electric chair. James Hetfield is kind of an idiot, and the song doesn’t make any declarative statement for or against the death penalty (which Hetfield himself is supportive of) but it’s a badass song on an extremely influential album. Listening to it now almost makes one wish that Metallica had been strapped to a chair and killed before they stepped in the studio to record Load. If it weren’t for the practice of attaching electrodes to a human being and cooking their brain like a fucking microwavable burrito, we wouldn’t have thrash metal.
Nebraska is considered by many to be Springsteen’s best album, and the title track is written from the perspective of Charles Starkweather, a man from Nebraska that went on a killing spree with his girlfriend and was killed in the electric chair in 1959. If it weren’t for the death penalty, we would never have Nebraska, an album which still exposes casual critics of Springsteen to the Boss’s emotional depth and genius beyond the state lines of New Jersey.
4. The Green Mile
The Green Mile is one of the most heartbreaking movies of all time, and despite the movie’s reliance on the admittedly racist trope of a magical and powerful but ultimately innocent and friendly retarded black man, it manages to pull off compelling drama without feeling contrived. If we didn’t put criminals down like stray dogs, the world would have never been exposed to the charming girth and mass of Michael Clarke Duncan.
5. Dead Man Walking
Dead Man Walking is a critically acclaimed film about a catholic nun’s relationship with a man who is waiting to die. Adapted by Tim Robbins from the book of the same name, Dead Man Walking is quarrelsome for those of us that are Christian, because the nun does not seem to revel in the man’s execution like a good Christian should. In fact, she tries to help him secure an appeal. Luckily, good wins out in the end, and watch Sean Penn cry as they pump chemicals into his stupid pompadour goatee body. If it weren’t for our Hammurabi-era outmoded sense of justice, we wouldn’t get to see that traitorous and pitiful shitlord Sean Penn die on camera.
The world’s only good religion; Christianity is the direct product of the death penalty. If Jesus had not died on the cross, there would not have been any subsequent resurrection – which is the ultimate proof of his magical powers as the son of God. The symbol of Christ – the cross – is a testament to the ultimate power of the death penalty itself, and the bible encourages us to murder those that society feels should be killed. As a Christian myself, I patiently await the return of Christ so that we may kill him again, as outlined in the scripture.
7. This Episode of The X-Files
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Critics panned The List, some going as far as saying that it was one of the worst episodes of the first couple of seasons. But for production quality alone the episode deserves more credit than it gets. That’s just my opinion, but as a fan of the show, I remember looking back on this one and feeling like they really stepped up their game to create something that looked a little bit better than everything else on primetime. The episode revolves around a man who returns from the dead after being executed to get revenge on inmates and prison staff who made his life hell, and if it weren’t for death penalty, we’d have one less episode of one of the greatest television shows of all time.
8. The Thin Blue Line
Errol Morris is the greatest documentary filmmaker of all time. Hands down. The Thin Blue Line is his best work. If it weren’t for a fucked up justice system in Texas that allowed a sociopathic piece of shit doctor to convince juries to kill 167 people, we wouldn’t have the Thin Blue Line, and we wouldn’t have Errol Morris. The film was powerful enough that it eventually freed Randall Adams, the films subject, who had been falsely convicted and sentenced to death. Unfortunately for us, we weren’t able to kill Adams, but if it weren’t for the death penalty, we wouldn’t have had this fantastic documentary, and I’ll trade one man’s life for one good movie.