I was flipping through the talking heads last night and caught a loud and boisterous argument about the botched execution in Oklahoma where a particularly disgusting and vicious murderer suffered an abhorrent mistake during his medical execution. What was intended to be a relatively quick, humane, and painless execution turned into a one hour long abomination as the prisoner went in and out of consciousness, suffered excruciating pain and ultimately died from a heart attack on the gurney.
The overpaid and self-righteous commentators were suffering apoplexy over the event and one in particular was characterizing American Culture of being equally guilty of murder as the now dead prisoner.
Isn’t it amazing how, in this day and age of such advanced communications, highly sophisticated people who are supposed to be experts in their field of news reporting and social analysis, too often reveal themselves to be very dubious when it comes to understanding and using the English language. Let alone participating in a debate where it seems they are unable to separate relevant facts from emotional sideshows.
Geraldo Rivera, who has managed to keep his job as a news correspondent and analyst for nearly four decades though he continually misrepresents or distorts information,and loses control of his emotions, completely missed the point.
He was very upset because in his mind, this episode demonstrates the depravity of the death penalty. Society, he concluded, is lowering itself to the same level of immorality as the killer when it chooses to kill him instead of warehousing him for the rest of his natural life.
My problem with all of this is that what happened in Oklahoma was an accident; a human error. The medical professionals who were administering the death inducing drugs screwed up; not on purpose. Yes, the intended outcome was death, but in a humane way. The subject should be, why did this happen and can it be prevented from happening again. Is there culpable negligence, and if so, to what degree.
I don’t think the doctor(s) got up in the morning thinking, “ A Ha! Today I get revenge! I can hardly wait to see the look on this guys face when his blood pressure goes off the chart and his brain cramps! If I do this right, I can enjoy an hour-long show!”
We can have a discussion about the morality of the death penalty, but it is a different debate. This was simply a medical procedure that went wrong. It happens! Of course we hope it never will, but humans are not perfect and neither is the practice of medicine.
This was ugly, unfortunate, and nothing to be proud of. But the answer isn’t to use it as evidence of the decline of Western Civilization. I would make the case that high profile, news media professional’s misuse of language, confusing and conflating issues, and losing control of emotions when discussing important issues of the day is much more damaging to our culture in the long run.