A hot commodity in the news this week is the story of 53-year-old Dennis McGuire, a death row inmate from Ohio who was recently executed by lethal injection using an untested combination of drugs. Normally, a lethal injection consists of one drug: pentobarbital. However, the manufacturers of this drug (a Danish company, Lundbeck Inc.) have recently prohibited the sale of pentobarbital for use in capital punishment. Thus, Dennis McGuire was given an alternative. It was a combination of two drugs: the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone. It didn’t go well.
Nearly 20 minutes went by before McGuire finally succumbed–an uncharacteristically long time for death by lethal injection. Also uncharacteristic was the way in which he died. Witnesses to the execution, notably McGuire’s three adult children, likened his final moments to “torture”. Subsequently, the McGuire’s have announced their intention to file a federal lawsuit against the state of Ohio, alleging that the execution violated their father’s constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment:
“I watched him try to sit up against the straps on the gurney. I watched him repeatedly clench his fist. It appeared to me he was fighting for his life but suffocating. The agony and terror of watching my father suffocate to death lasted more than 19 minutes. It was the most awful moment in my life.” –Dennis McGuire, son
The firsthand account of McGuire’s death is harrowing. It’s understandably upsetting to all bleeding heart liberals who respect the right to one’s dignity in death. But it’s less upsetting when you take an objective approach. When you realize why McGuire was sentenced to death in the first place. There’s been so much noise surrounding how McGuire was put to death that people easily forget to find out why. In fact, most articles I researched concerning this issue failed to mention it at all. Primarily, because the media is trying to frame this story as a human interest piece. But to do so, is not sensitive. It’s only manipulative.
Dennis McGuire was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of Joy Stewart, a 22-year-old woman who was seven months pregnant. Because of this, I find it easy to absolve myself of any apathy toward how McGuire was killed. I understand why his children are upset. But I don’t understand how the media has suddenly taken an empathetic approach to this story.
To be clear, I’m not supporting the notion that death row inmates should suffer as they’re put to death. I believe years in prison and subsequent execution is enough of a punishment. But I also don’t feel sympathy towards this piece of shit and I’ve read enough about criminal psychology to know some people cannot be fixed. Full disclosure, I support capital punishment. My real issue is with the media, who have framed this story as if to suggest that the state of Ohio “tortured” a father of three as his children watched in horror. Yet they fail to reiterate the fact that he raped and killed a pregnant woman. Are we really supposed to feel sorry for him?
Read his son’s eyewitness account: “I watched him repeatedly clench his fist” and “he was fighting for his life” and “the agony and terror of watching my father suffocate to death.” I bet Joy Stewart felt the same way: clenching her fists, fighting for her life, experiencing agony and terror at the hands of Dennis McGuire. How can one not see the bitter irony?
There’s an old saying: “Having your cake and eating it too.” It puts this whole issue into context. In fact, it reminds me of an episode of South Park…
Now, before rolling your eyes at the juvenile idea of drawing parallels between the execution of a man and an episode of South Park, you might want to reconsider you’re perspective. If you think South Park is nothing more than foul-mouthed children making dick jokes then you’re mistaken. At times, yes. But it also offers intelligent social commentary and scathing satire, more so than anything else on television. So, indulge me for a moment.
In the episode, entitled “I’m a Little Bit Country”, the town of South Park becomes embroiled in a debate between pro-war and anti-war supporters. Thus, the children of South Park Elementary are given a school project to present their own opinions on war. In order to ace his school project, young Eric Cartman devices an elaborate plan to render himself unconscious, inducing a flashback, thus, allowing him to travel back in time to 1776 to speak with our founding fathers. (Bear with me)
His plan works. Cartman suddenly finds himself in a flashback. Independence Hall, 1776.
The founding fathers, like the people of South Park, are in the midst of debating the morality of war.
“We cannot found a country based on war!” One delegate shouts.
Another quickly replies, “We cannot found a country that is afraid to fight!”
The room quickly descends into collective chaos: “RABBLE! RABBLE! RABBLE!”
Suddenly, Benjamin Franklin enters the room. The shouting stops. Franklin says to them:
“I believe, that if we are to form a new country, we cannot be a country that appears war-hungry and violent, to the rest of the world. However, we also cannot be a country that appears weak and unwilling to fight, to the rest of the world. So, what if we form a country that appears to want both?”
A delegate responds with enthusiasm, “Yes, of course! We go to war and protest going to war at the same time!”
“Right! If the people of our new country are allowed to do whatever they wish, then some will support the war and some will protest it…” Another chimes in.
Benjamin Franklin concludes, “And that means, as a nation, we can go to war with whomever we wish but at the same time act like we didn’t want to. If we allow the people to protest what the government does, then the country will be forever blameless.”
“It’s like having your cake and eating it too.”
(Try coming up with a better analogy for America)
Those who sympathize with Dennis McGuire reflect the same idea: “Having your cake and eating it too”. They don’t actually take issue with the fact that a man is going to die. They only care about how he is going to die. As if that makes them less morally culpable.
The media is mostly to blame. They approached this story with disingenuous sensitivity. If McGuire died under normal circumstances, no one in the news would be concerned in the slightest about the fact that he died. No one would have cared if the media didn’t blow it out of proportion and try milking this story for everything it was worth. But they did. Suddenly, we’re all talking about shortages in lethal injection drugs. Whether firing squads or hanging would be more humane. Whether we should abolish capital punishment now because one convicted felon had a bad reaction to something that was supposed to kill him.
In this country, we can appear to care while not caring at all. Some Americans think that makes you a better person. But it doesn’t. It only makes you a hypocrite. Have your cake or eat it.