Having your cake (And eating it too)

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macguire

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

Family to sue over execution

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)

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His plan works. Cartman suddenly finds himself in a flashback. Independence Hall, 1776.

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The founding fathers, like the people of South Park, are in the midst of debating the morality of war.

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“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.

India Gang Rape Suspect To Be Tried As Juvenile

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India Gang Rape

On December 16th, in New Dheli, India, an unimaginable crime transpired that would shake the foundations of life in the country. A 23 year old medical student, on her way home from a movie with a friend, was assaulted and gang raped in the back of a public bus. When the suspects were done, they threw the girl and her friend onto the side of the road. She laid there unconscious–naked and bleeding–while her friend called for help. The victim was eventually airlifted to a Singapore hospital in a last-ditch effort to save her life. Unfortunately, two weeks following the attack, she succumbed to her injuries and died.

The young woman’s death sparked outrage. Indian people (specifically women) took to the streets in widespread protests across the country (a country marred by a deeply misogynistic culture). All six suspects were arrested, charged, and fast-tracked towards trial. However, recent court documents have revealed that one of the six accused is a minor. This development has delayed the trial altogether. Five of the six accused–when formally charged–will face the death sentence (execution by hanging). While the juvenile, if proven to have been underage during the crime, will face a maximum of three years in a reform facility. Three years. No prison. What is most infuriating about this particular evasion of justice is that the alleged juvenile is reported to have been the most brutal of the attackers. 

Full disclosure, I’m not a lawyer. In fact, I know very little about the law aside from what I’ve learned from listening to rap music. But this argument isn’t about the technicalities of the judicial system. It’s about stepping back and viewing this case through a completely objective lens. It should take no convincing on my part to persuade you that it is asinine to not charge a juvenile as an adult when the charges range from rape to murder. He not only willingly participated, he was allegedly more involved than anyone. Yet, due to the fact he was six months away from his 18th birthday, it circumvents any real retribution. Five other men will hang for these crimes. Why? Simply because they’re above the age of 18? It’s an egregious form of injustice.

The juvenile’s exact age has been difficult to verify, in particular, because it is common in India for children to be born at home and thus not receive birth certificates. School records obtained by the court suggest the juvenile is, in fact, a minor. However, the prosecution is now petitioning forensics for a bone test to prove he’s 18. While I appreciate the prosecution’s tenacious efforts to seek justice for a man who deserves it, I will say this for the justice system in general: that’s fucking ludicrous.

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Not to be confused with “Ludacris”

I’m aware it’s the law of the land–a minor cannot be put to death–but this conviction defies logic. Even bone tests aren’t completely accurate and can be offset by 1-2 years. So they basically diverted their efforts away from observing school records (because it was too inaccurate) to observing bone matter which is equally inaccurate.  Instead of actually convicting anyone, their focused more on finding the exact age of one suspect. Isn’t that besides the point? The other five suspects testified he was there. He’s guilty. A young woman’s life was snuffed out by rapists and murderers and yet due process has shifted towards this? A juvenile’s defense should only be invoked when deemed appropriate (e.g. A 12 year old accidently discharges a parent’s firearm, killing a younger sibling). That makes sense. However, the defense of a minor falls short when he’s a sexually active 17 year-old accused of rape and murder. I digress…

The earliest tenants of the law can be traced to Hammurabi’s Code. There is one specific law outlined in this ancient text that is perhaps most familiar to us: “An eye for an eye.” Essentially, it refers to the notion of reciprocity, which guides the moral compass of the judicial system. A punishment to fit the crime: take my eye and I’ll take yours. Simple. Luckily, civilization has evolved and we’re no longer an immoral world of nomadic barbarians, pillaging lands and poking eyes. But the phrase “an eye for an eye” is quintessential towards understanding the law at it’s core. It refers to the fine balance that underlies justice. Proper justice is both fair and reasonable. It is ‘give and take’. If you consciously take someone’s life, you deserve to be given the same fate, no matter what age.

That’s probably why Hammurabi never scribed: “An eye for an eye… unless you’re under 18.”

hammurabi

Damn you and your semantics, Hammurabi.