October - November 2001

Human Sacrifice

God said Abraham kill me a son
Abe said man, you must be puttin' me on

If you think I am opinionated, you have not heard me rant, reason, argue, bellow howl and scream about the death penalty. If you're "pro," and ever meet me, don't bring it up unless you're prepared to miss your flight, miss meals, and forego whole nights of sleep while I drag out documents and story after story of the horrors of what is officially called, on the certificate of death, State Homicide.

If you call yourself Christian and you support the death penalty, your position is stratospherically hypocritical: read your New Testament and call me in 50 lifetimes, or please stop pretending to worship the compassionate teacher who forgave his own executioners.

We live in a country -- the last in the so-called free world to commit State Homicide -- that executes people who committed crimes before the age of 18, that executes mentally ill patients, that convicts and executes the innocent, and whose citizens cheer outside the gates of executions. That there are anti-death penalty protests I can understand. Do we really need pro-death penalty protests? After all, a bunch of pro-death penalty activists are inside preparing a man to be killed, by them.

A room full of people watched Timothy McVeigh die on television by way of a hidden camera trained on his face as he was given the lethal injection. Some claimed that witnessing his death was not satisfying enough. These people need sex, not death. But sex, of course, is immoral. There is a connection.

There are several debates between the pro and con camps. One is whether it's cheaper to fry'em. It's not; read the budget. Another is whether death deters death; there is no evidence of this, and considerable evidence that the death penalty brutalizes society, and that murder increases around the time of high-profile executions. In the Dakotas, one of which has long been pro and the other of which has always long con, the murder rate is the same. This is hardly compelling evidence of deterrence.

We do know several things for sure, however. We know that the process takes an enormous toll on the people who have to carry it out, including the executioners and wardens. We know that the process is not fair, with people of color being far likelier to face state-sanctioned death than white ones, and men far more likely than women, and the poor far likelier than the rich, and so on. All perfectly established.

We could use our minds and surmise that for all of society to take responsibility for killing one person, or to stand idly by, turns hundreds of millions of people into murderers. That's a lot of killers.

A Libertarian law student I was friends with in Buffalo came up with what so far is the best legal argument against the death penalty I've ever heard, which is that no jurist can say for sure what death is, therefore no court has business imposing it as a punishment. We could, for example, be sentencing a mass killer to eternal bliss, or a normal killer to suffer a thousand deaths in hell.

Those who are more inclined toward philosophy will understand that there is a vast difference between revenge and justice, and we can clearly see that revenge is a tremendous motive behind capital punishment. But I feel that even this is to look on with rose-colored glasses. It is clear that the people who sell us on the death penalty are deeply enamored of its power, and of their privilege to selectively commit legal murder against classes of people they are known to despise. You and I may not think this way, but power hungry people love death because death works. It establishes their supremacy, in their own minds and in public consciousness. And hey, the former governor of Pennsylvania received a heart, lungs and liver from a death sentence inmate while he was in office.

But I think this is all still way too rosy to establish why public officials cling to this practice. And while I am not one to deny perpetrators consciousness of their own motives, I think this one may lurk in their subconscious. The reason is that the death penalty is human sacrifice, which is about the most powerful magic anyone can perform. Many of our presidents, senators and other national leaders have been involved in Masonic-type organizations (such as the Skull and Bones Society) and are aware that there are other dimensions of power besides overtly stated law and official channels of authority. There is the whole hidden dimension of power, and while most of these men are hardly adepts, some are, and many others are aspiring sorcerer's apprentices.

The death penalty is a human sacrifice ritual, however you look at it, in a society that worships death. It is a ritual, it involves a human, and since it doesn't actually accomplish anything productive in the real world, it is a sacrifice. Human sacrifice has been used throughout history by priests, leaders and men of power to appease the gods and invoke the forces of nature. In our apocalyptic society, with its Old Testament superstitions, morals and ethics, it should not be surprising that human sacrifice has surfaced in its politically and legally sanitized form.

God save us.