Gentle readers, I have tried hard to stick to just comics here in my column since I started writing it. It would seem this will be one week I head to the fringe. We all know about the massacre in Aurora, Colorado. It’s gotten plenty of people talking about what to do. Do we tighten up the process to purchase weapons? Do we not allow the sale of automatic weapons of larger size? Do we install security checkpoints at movie theaters? And of course… when the scum is convicted of this heinous crime, should we kill him?
Before I get to the last aforementioned question (which is what I’m really here to discuss), here’s my take on those other sundry queries: We can tighten up the process to purchase weapons all we want. But we’re very adept at hiding lies, and getting our hands on what we need, legal or not. We could ban the larger assault rifles too, but again, if someone wants one bad enough, they’ll get one. And in the case of Aurora, I’m sure the “Joker” in question would have been happy to murder innocent people in cold blood with any ole gun he could get his hands on. And sure, we could install any number of counter-measures and protocols to survey public areas to try to remove ourselves from harm, but don’t complain to me when it takes an additional hour to get into the movies to see the Avengers 5.
On to the matter at hand. When the last booby trap is triggered, the damage accessed, and the trial begun, I’m sure the populace will demand nothing short of a public stoning. And initially, I’d be right there with them. You see, there was a time when I considered myself a conservative. I liked the idea of having a mighty military. I liked the idea that the government should be small, and get out of my way as I build empires from lemonade stands. And most important, I wanted every last evil muthtrucker dead dead dead. I mean, why waste my tax dollars to keep a murderer, rapist, or crack dealer alive? Damnit, that money could be spent on more planes to murder the evil guys on the other side of the world! And then, I went to college, and my friends turned me on to the show The West Wing.
The show (for the first four seasons at least) was a brilliant piece of fiction, depicting a world where the war mongering Bush family didn’t lay waste to a country, and bury our already indebted country further into debt. Instead, it presented one Jed Bartlet, a snobby elitist pinko commie liberal, and his staff of equally leftist yes men. It was pretty brilliant. Aaron Sorkin knows how to sound smart, and to a college freshman who thinks he knows smart, the show sunk in with me pretty deeply.
Over time my views gradually changed. I realized that not everyone is as entitled as others, and no amount of entrepreneurial spirit can necessary negate poverty. I also realized that human life is not ours to take away from one another. No matter how absolutely rotten to the core someone is, they don’t deserve to die. Simply put, for those lost souls in the world, death is a fate too easy.
James E. Holmes is accused of committing an absolute atrocity. There’s little doubt in my mind the families of the victims wants his head on a pike. Rightfully so, mind you. But as I said above: it’s too easy a punishment. I may not wish death on any man, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want suffering. I’d gladly see my tax dollars pay to ensure Holmes is fed the absolute minimum amount of food and water to live, confined to a cell no bigger than a twin bed, with a leaky faucet and broken toilet. I want every day of his life to include a solid hour of larger, angrier inmates given free reign to pummel, poke, prod, and pound Holmes within an inch of his life. I want a team of nurses and doctors to repair him to a state of consciousness, without any pain medication. And then, I want the process to start again the next day. Until Holmes passes away from old age.
I say these things not to be a sadist. I say them because like so many of us, I am angry, confused, and bewildered as to what it takes to lose all shreds of one’s being – such that one could commit an act so flagrant and foul. In one well-plotted outburst, Homes reminded us how fragile life really is. He stole a nation’s ability to enjoy entertainment, if only for a short period.
I am not deeply religious (if at all, honestly), but I am to believe that if this, in fact, is the only go around on this rock that we have, we should all know no pain, no hunger, no fear, no doubt, no sadness more than what comes with the natural order of things. What was committed in Colorado was as far away from natural as could be.
The state of Colorado has not executed someone since 1997. It is in my hopes that Homes will not be given the easy way out for what he did. Instead, may he be left to rot in a cell, forced to eventually accept that he is one of the lowest forms of life on the planet. May he suffer long beyond the families and friends that he hurt.
I end with a pull from “Take This Sabbath Day:”
Toby: The Torah doesn’t prohibit capital punishment.
Rabbi Glassman: No.
Toby: It says, “An eye for an eye.”
Rabbi Glassman: You know what it also says? It says a rebellious child can be brought to the city gates and stoned to death. It says homosexuality is an abomination and punishable by death. It says men can be polygamous and slavery is acceptable. For all I know, that thinking reflected the best wisdom of its time, but it’s just plain wrong by any modern standard. Society has a right to protect itself, but it doesn’t have a right to be vengeful. It has a right to punish, but it doesn’t have a right to kill.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander