Surf, Turf, and Murder: The Execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner
Ronnie Lee Gardner is Shot by Firing Squad
I was gearing up to post about phenomenology and real estate, but then Utah had to go and shoot some guy for shooting some other guys, so “Bachelard Goes to Brooklyn” will have to wait.
First things first: any religious death penalty supporters out there willing to explain to me how you folks weasel your way out of obeying the Fifth/Sixth (depending on denomination) Commandment? Because while I think an omnipotent god probably has better things to do than worry about coveting, false witness, and graven images, I also feel he was really on to something with that one. I suppose the semantics of “kill” vs. “murder” provide what some see as a nice, noose-sized loophole, but if I was worried about the fate of my eternal soul, I wouldn’t take any chances on nuance.
The hypocrisy is only one of many disturbing elements of the dead-dog-and-pony-show of a public execution. Check out this slideshow at the Times, for instance. Whip past the nightmare-inducing pictures of a grinning Gary Gilmore, and focus instead on the Inquisition-esque chair the hooded victim sits on. Admire the pretty pillow on which the marksmen rest their guns. Nod wisely at the knowledge that one of the five was shooting blanks, so no one knows for sure who killed Ronnie Lee Gardner, because then they might feel bad, because killing is wrong, except when it isn’t! Got it?
No, neither do I. What sort of fucked up society serves up Surf and Turf to someone they’re about to torture? Who distributes medallions to murderers? Yes, I know that Ronnie Lee Gardner chose the firing squad over lethal injection. He also chose to murder two people — that’s why we’re killing him, remember? David Dow over at The Daily Beast sees the death penalty as voyeuristic ritual. I see it as an absurd dance of aggression and compensation, authority and fear, righteousness and hypocrisy. All the pillows and vigils and lobsters and blanks won’t change one simple fact: if murder is the worst thing humans can do, then we shouldn’t do it.
Photo: Ronnie Lee Gardner
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